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City’s oldest cemetery to be re-dedicated

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As the cemetery is situated within the mining right area of KEM-JV, the company initiated a project of cleaning and renovating the cemetery

Picture: AP Photo/Laurie Kellman

THE REHABILITATED Dutoitspan Cemetery in Kimberley will be re-dedicated on Wednesday, September 26, to coincide with Heritage Month.

Spokesperson for Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), Gert Klopper, pointed out yesterday that the Dutoitspan Cemetery, sometimes erroneously referred to as the “Chinese cemetery”, was Kimberley’s oldest official cemetery.

“It is likely though that there might be older individual graves, or possibly clusters of graves, which are now long gone from memory and sight.”

Klopper added that the condition of the cemetery had, over the years, deteriorated and “it had reached a general state of disrepair that is not indicative of the historical significance of this site”.

“Signs of vandalism and desecration of graves was widespread throughout the cemetery and with the recent 2017 rains it became overgrown with trees, shrubs and grass, several being invasive.”

As the cemetery is situated within the mining right area of KEM-JV, the company initiated a project of cleaning and renovating the cemetery.

“This project, which started at the beginning of June 2017, serves as the company’s way of having a voice for those who are long gone and who made a huge contribution during their time of living in the Kimberley area.”

KEM-JV is the joint venture initiative that consists of the combined workings of the underground mine purchased by Petra Diamonds and the treatment of the Tailings Mineral Resources that Petra Diamonds acquired from De Beers in partnership with Ekapa Mining during 2016.

“The rehabilitation of the Dutoitspan Cemetery has now been completed, and a re-dedication ceremony is being planned for Wednesday, September 26.”

According to Steve Lunderstedt in Kimberley Calls and Recalls, the first official cemeteries in Kimberley were Dutoitspan (whites, coloured and Indians) and Bultfontein (blacks) cemeteries. The Dutoitspan Cemetery dates from 1870 – the first interment.

Several prominent Kimberley people are buried in the cemetery including Neville Pickering, his brother William Pickering (DBCM secretary and director), Ethel Pickering (who fired the first shell from Long Cecil), Lt-Colonel Thomas Peakman, EF Morris (the first member of the Diamond Fields Horse to be buried in the cemetery), Henry Alfred Ward (the first owner of the Wesselton mine), the Magistrate Kearney Bradshaw (who died after his horse fell on him), and Dr Patrick Graham (one of the earliest medical practitioners).

Sister Henrietta Stockdale was also interred here before reinterment at the Anglican Cathedral.

Some of those who died during the siege of Kimberley are also buried here, while members of the Cape Corps who died from the Spanish flu in 1918 have their own special area. Also within the boundaries of the cemetery are a walled Moslem section and an enclosed Jewish burial area.