Community Municipal News

Private and public organisations join forces to clear Graskop Cemetery

Frieda Paton 

Graskop Conservancy organised a successful drive during which various organisations and private individuals tackled the huge job of clearing the graveyard in Graskop which had, to a great extent, been overtaken by Mother Nature.

The local municipality in Graskop has been unable to properly maintain the town’s large graveyard which has been in use since the early 1900s. In organising the clean-up initiative Graskop Conservancy enlisted the help of a number of organisations for manpower and equipment, and to sponsor fuel for the machinery and refreshments for the helpers.

James Motankisi, Graskop Town Manager, expressed his appreciation for the initiative by members of the community who realised that the municipality did not have the necessary resources. “The town belongs to all of us. What makes me happy is that they are trying to lead by example, saying that we can only be successful with the involvement of all the stakeholders in town,” he said. He also explained that, now that the major work had been done, the municipality would try to maintain the graveyard, but might need further assistance from time-to-time as, for example, it only had two brush cutters.

Large parts of the graveyard were totally overgrown with, not only with grasses but also with Blackwood trees, Black Wattle and dense shrubbery. Many of the graves were completely hidden and could not be reached at all. The team even discovered an area where no-one had previously realised that there were graves. For Samantha van Niekerk, Chairperson of the Conservancy, one of the highlights of the initiative was when two ladies expressed their appreciation for being able to visit the grave of their loved ones. They had been too afraid to do so for a long while.

The first day of hard work took place on 13 October with a team of around 60 helpers from Thaba Chweu Municipality, the High Altitude Team, SABA bush warriors, Pilgrim’s Rest Museum Services, Pilgrim’s Rest Environmental Centre, members of Graskop Conservancy and also some individual volunteers. Due to the amount of work needed there was a second day of clearing on 22 October. Unfortunately, fewer people were able to join in although there were still over 30 helpers. On this day some indigenous decorative plants were also planted to brighten the entrances to the graveyard.

Van Niekerk expressed her thanks for all who participated and for the sponsors of fuel for both the equipment and the workers, including Graskop Spar, The Vine Restaurant and Graskop Garage.

Going forward, Graskop Conservancy is planning four activities per month – two in Graskop and two in Pilgrim’s Rest. The activities will alternate between picking up litter on tourism routes and clearing vegetation where needed. The next campaign will be on November 10 to clear the new graveyard next to Schoonplaas in Pilgrim’s Rest. If you are unable to assist with the work please consider a donation of fuel, food and drink for the helpers or plants. You can contact Samantha van Niekerk on 082 444 5648.

Image captions:

Jaco Kloppers from SABA Bush Warriors shows with plant material which was removed to reveal graves.

Hettie Ligthelm pointing out Azalea’s planted at the entrance to the graveyard

Members of the high altitude team busy clearing in the “lost graves” section


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