Drinking in company of the dead

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By Matheus Hamutenya

KEETMANSHOOP – The old cemetery in the Keetmanshoop suburb of Tseigblaagte – the poorest suburb of the town – has been turned into a drinking hotspot for the destitute.

With no proper fencing, the graveyard has become easily accessible and a good place for people especially the youth to hang out over weekends.

In the afternoons people sit with bottles of alcohol under the graveyard trees as they try to escape the scorching sun.

Andre Blaauw, the Acting Technical Manager of the Keetmanshoop Municipality told New Era that the municipality has tried maintaining the burial place but people keep breaking it apart and because it’s no longer in use it is no longer a municipal priority.

He said the municipality had several community meetings where it requested people not to vandalise any municipal properties but all was in vain as vandalism is still high.

“Even if you put up a fence now, it will be gone by tomorrow, vandalism is a big problem we face,” he emphasized.
He said the municipality is currently looking at putting structures in place at the cemetery that will not be easily vandalized.
Blaauw noted that it’s becoming difficult to come up with new developments because all is being destroyed by vandals.

According to him anything that the municipality puts up that has metal in it will be vandalized and stolen for the purpose of selling to scrap yards, adding that the municipality has of late resorted to using plastic manhole covers because the metal ones keep vanishing.

When New Era visited the cemetery on Saturday night groups of people were seated on tombstones sharing alcohol, with a few visibly drunk people posing for pictures.

The cemetery, which is surrounded by bars and houses is often also used as a shortcut as people walk through it to the other side rather than go around.

The scene of bottles is normal and police sirens seem to be the only thing that make people realise it’s a burial place and not a bar as they scatter upon hearing or seeing police cars.

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