Vandals strip historical cenotaph of brass plaques

Lt Col Chris Craig-Mackie and Col Pat Acutt show the damage to the Cenotaph. PHOTO: Roy Reed

THE vandalism of engraved metal sheets (plaques) in the cenotaph area at Francis Farewell Square by the Durban City Hall, has shocked members of the military services ahead of the Remembrance Day commemoration on 12 November.

Godfrey Giles, national president of the SA Legion of Military Veterans said the team doing a site visit ahead of Remembrance Day found the area vandalised, and plaques removed from the walls.

“It’s crazy and shows no one respects the symbols of remembrance of people who fought for freedom, it is unbelievable,” said Giles.

He said some of the plaques had been found at a scrap merchant and eight people had been arrested.

“Some of them were cut up and damaged, so we are not sure what will happen. It is too early at this stage for the municipality to decide on action and we are not sure if we will have these plaques repaired or whether we will have to replace everything,” he said.

Giles said fortunately there were photos of the plaques, so there was a record of what was recorded on them. “This is craft work from the 1920s, it is a really sad day. We have a huge problem on our hands,” he said.

Plaques were stolen from the Cenotaph in central Durban. PHOTO: Roy Reed

EThekwini Municipality’s head of communications, Tozi Mthethwa, said the City was attending to the matter ahead of the Remembrance Day Service on 12 November and was exploring solutions which included wider closed-circuit television reach in Francis Farewell Square as well as the possible replacement of brass plaques with another less valuable material. “People caught defacing the statues may be prosecuted for malicious damage to municipal property,” she said.

Mthethwa said acts of vandalism taking place in communities could not be addressed by the municipality and police alone, but required vigilance by community members.

“We must not look away when we know that our relatives, neighbours and friends are involved in damaging Council property. Malicious damage to municipal property must be reported to the South African Police Service,” she said.

The community is invited to the Remembrance Day service on Sunday, 12 November at the Cenotaph at 10am for 10.30am.

Don’t forget Poppy Day collections at local shopping centres on Saturday, 11 November. Participating centres are Musgrave Centre, Windermere Centre, Queensmead Mall and Glenwood Village Market.

Plaques were damaged at the Cenotaph in central Durban. PHOTO: Roy Reed

  AUTHOR
Lauren Walford
Journalist

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