Church leaders have condemned the desecration of Zinyengere Cemetery in the dormitory town of Epworth by sand poachers.
Reports indicate that several graves at the site have been exhumed, with the human remains thrown into the nearby Jacha stream by the sand poachers.
Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) superintendent for Epworth Circuit, Reverend Josias Mudenda, said:
I have gone to the graveyard many times to bury fellow church members, only to see what is happening there. It is an eyesore.
The Bible even says graveyards are sacred places. In the Bible, Nehemiah said he could not rest while the place of his fathers’ graves lies waste and the gates are consumed by fire, showing the respect he had for the dead.
I believe that graves should be walled and gated. The local authority needs to work with the community to protect this site.
The sand poachers are said to be led by a man only known as Christopher.
Meanwhile, Isaac Chirimba, a senior resident of Epworth, criticised the sand poachers for disrespecting the dead. He said:
These youths are very disrespectful. What they are doing is taboo. Invading a graveyard to earn a few dollars is unacceptable in our society.
Last month, we went to the cemetery to bury a relative and discovered that some of the graves were missing, much to our surprise.
We were shocked when we found a skull and bones scattered all over the place.
Another senior citizen, Gogo Hilda Sithole, said the sand poachers have access to the graveyard after vandalising a perimeter wall that had been erected at the cemetery by locals. She said:
Epworth is my home. I have been here with my family since 1960. We used to bury children in this place you now see as plain ground. There is nothing to show that there were graves there.
This is all the work of sand poachers, who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Epworth Local Board secretary Wilton Mhanda conceded that sand poachers were a menace but said the issue has been blown out of proportion. He said:
Yes, there are sand poachers, but the situation is exaggerated. We usually conduct raids and culprits are brought to book.
ZRP community liaison officer for Epworth, Sergeant Maliana Davis, said they were not aware of any cemetery invasion by sand poachers. She said:
As Epworth ZRP, we are committed to duty. The last time council engaged us was, when some people were constructing houses in the cemetery. We worked together well on the matter.
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