The National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA) note with concern and sadness recent media reports about the vandalising of Sol Plaatje’s grave at West End Cemetery, in Kimberly.
As Africans, we observe and respect the sanctity of the resting places of the interred and often visit such sites for spiritual intercessions with the deceased. Thus, we view as abomination the desecration of such sacred places by faceless vandals with no conscience.
Accordingly, we call upon the society to recommit to the right and respect to life even at the final resting places of the deceased who once shared their lives with us as fellow citizens, family, relatives, friends, colleagues and so forth.
Similarly, we condemn in strongest terms the growing trend of wonton attacks on cemeteries in some parts of the country and call upon societal vigilance against such barbaric acts.
We also enjoin municipal authorities to exercise powers bestowed on them for the safeguarding of such sites as well as the prosecution of those responsible for trespassing and malicious damage to them.
As an organised writers’ formation for the protection and advancement of the interests of literary practitioners, NWASA note that Plaatje was a premier writer, historian and politician who was honoured, by government, for his contribution to the liberation struggle declaring his grave a national monument as well as provincial heritage site in 1997. This is the second grave in the history of South Africa to be accorded such status.
We also observe with grief that this is the second time that Plaatje’s resting place was tampered with. In 2019, the Plaatje family regarded as act of disrespect and desecration when the Northern Cape government cordoned the grave with a galvanized welded enclosure, without the family’s consent, ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to the cemetery in order to lay a wreath as part of the centenary of the African National Congress (ANC) of which Plaatje was its first Secretary-General. Ironically and in retrospect, the recent vandalism seems to validate the provincial government’s good intention of protecting the site from possible invasion.