Residents and relatives of deceased people buried at Mtapa Cemetery have expressed disappointment at the use of fire to clear tall grass and bushes that infested the city’s largest and prime graveyard.
The burning of grass in the cemetery took place on Monday following a story in The Mirror exposing astounding neglect of what used to be one of the most well kempt final resting places in the country.
Relatives complained against the use of fire to clear grass as that damages the delicate stonework on graves, destroys flowers, creates cracks and makes the cemetery black and ugly.
The 12-hectare cemetery which is a stone throw away from the CBD has 16 000 graves including some of the most prominent and historical figures of the city and province.
Gweru City Public Relations Officer Vimbai Chingwaramusee said it was not council that set fire on the graveyard and she accused some residents of doing so. She described the graveyard as a sacred place that needs to be respected and added that council would only cut grass as a method of maintaining the cemetery.
“As a local authority, we cut grass to ensure that the cemetery is clean all the time.
“Going forward as a local authority we are trying to find measures to ensure that the cemetery is secured at all costs,” said Chingwaramusee.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) director Cornelia Selipiwe, however, disputed Chingwaramusee’s statement and accused the local authority of having always used fire to clear its graveyards.
“Council should clear grass and bushes by using hoes and other environmental friendly methods. The local authority has in the past always set fire on cemeteries and this cannot suddenly be a method they shun now. It must be them who set the fire on the cemetery.
“Every year during this season, they burn grass in the cemeteries and this shows that they don’t care about the residents. Council workers who pick up litter also burn it in the cemetery,” he said.
A disgruntled resident Ishmael Zengeya of Ascot Infill said the quality of managers at Gweru City Council is reflected by their failure in all areas of service delivery.
“The City has neglected all cemeteries for a long time and if you want to see the quality of management at our council come to Mtapa Cemetery and take a look into its failure to address service delivery issues.
“The cemetery has been burnt, if it was being maintained there was not going to be a fire. The fire has destroyed flowers in the cemetery and there is a possibility of tombstones being damaged.
“As residents we feel that we are being robbed by the local authority which charges grave fees and fails to maintain the cemeteries,” he said.
Graves for adults cost US$70, while those for children cost US$35, making it the most expensive public cemetery in the Midlands capital.
The perimeter wall has long fallen down and sex workers have been using the graveyard with their clients for long, while residents dump rubbish there.
Mtapa Cemetery was established in 1892 and before Independence, it was home for whites only. The cemetery has a section for Muslims
The First black man at the cemetery was buried on April 2, 1982.

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