Municipality neglecting Winburg concentration camp cemetry - AfriForum

Organisation to go to court to compel Masilonyana Municipality to comply with legal obligations

AfriForum and Masilonyana Municipality in court soon re Winburg Concentration Camp Cemetery

AfriForum is set to meet the municipality of Masilonyana in court soon to address the municipality's failure to comply with its legal obligations that will ensure the conservation and future of Winburg's Concentration Camp Cemetery.  In July 2012, AfriForum brought a court application against the municipality in order to deal with the latter's improper management of the cemetery's vicinity.  The municipality has just given notice of its intention to oppose the application.

According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum and cultural historian, the problems at the cemetery were brought to the attention of AfriForum by, amongst others, the Heritage Foundation (Erfenisstigting) and members of the Winburg branch of AfriForum.  There are three main issues that are endangering the accessibility, state and future of this site:

The town's lack of a waste management policy, as prescribed by law, results in waste being dumped all over and around the site.  Not only are the graves of Boer women and children (concentration camp victims of the Anglo Boer War), as well as some British war graves covered in building rubble, household litter and even dead animals, but a health threat is also being created for residential developments in the vicinity.

The road to the site is in a very bad state.  The site is of great cultural-historical significance, but can only be reached by tourists and historians with great difficulty and personal danger.  In the rain season the situation worsens.

Illegal quarrying right next to the cemetery is exacerbating the danger of erosion.  Some graves already have been damaged and have to be repaired constantly by the Heritage Foundation, but while the quarrying goes ahead, the damage will not come to an end.

Before AfriForum brought the application, the municipality had ignored several requests by the Heritage Foundation, as well as urgent directives by the Free State Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.  The situation has also been complicated by the fact that the municipality has had several managers during this time.  Under these circumstances, legal action is the only option left to ensure that this site which is of great cultural-historical significance to South Africa and Great Britain, will not be lost.

 "Nationally less and less is being done by local, provincial and national authorities to conserve existing heritage sites.  We hope this case will serve as precedent for other authorities, reminding them of their legal obligation to conserve the South African cultural heritage," Bailey said.  A court date will be announced soon.


Statement issued by Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO: AfriForum, August 12 2012

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter