Uproar over cleaning of Mtapa Cemetery graves 


GWERU-A section of Gweru residents with relatives buried at Mtapa Cemetery expressed dismay over residents who spruced up the cemetery without giving them notice. 
The relatives said it is taboo for a stranger to clean up the graves, and some suspect the graves could have been tampered with. Another section suspects that some of the cleaners could have performed rituals on the graves. 
Concerned Gweru residents under the Zimbabwe National Organization of Associations Residents Trust (ZINOART) spruced up the cemetery last week. 
Innocent Vengesai, whose relative lies at the cemetery, said the clean-up exercise was noble, but thinks relatives were supposed to be notified.
He said it is taboo for strangers to go and clean up a cemetery.
“As residents, we are equally worried by the failure of the local authority to maintain Mtapa Cemetery. We are more worried by the latest development, where we heard that an association went on to clean up the cemetery without our knowledge. 
“The City of Gweru was supposed to write invitations so that those interested, particularly those with relatives buried in the cemetery can come and join the clean-up exercise. As you are aware it is taboo for strangers to go on and spruce up a cemetery. We should have been notified instead of learning about the clean-up campaign through newspapers,” he said. 
Another resident Ishmael Munetsi said people perform traditional rituals at grave sites, and it was dangerous for the city of Gweru to allow the residents to conduct the clean-up exercise without notifying relatives of the deceased. 
“I come from Chipinge and we have our ways of protecting our loved ones. We could have performed our rituals before the cleaning-up exercise. Cemeteries are sacred places that should not be tampered with, however, next time, the City of Gweru should announce the clean-up in time so that we join in,” he said. 
Efforts to get a comment from Gweru City spokesperson, Vimbai Chingwaramusee were futile by the time of going to the Press.
Mtapa cemetery, which has more than 16 000 graves, had become an eyesore with overgrown tall grass and bushes. It was used for open defecation by vendors from the nearby Mtapa market. It was also being used as a love nest by sex workers.
The 12-hectare cemetery was established in 1892 and is a final resting place for many Gweru residents. Before Independence, it was a resting home for whites only. The first black person was buried in 1982.
It has 66 Commonwealth War graves, 34 from World War 1 and 32 from World War 2. The cemetery has a section for Muslims.

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