MOURNERS visiting cemeteries for burials have to be extra vigilant to avoid double grief as thieves are now targeting funeral-goers by stealing from their parked cars while attending their loved ones’ final farewell.
The warning comes after two men from North End were on Monday afternoon brutally assaulted by a mob of angry mourners after they caught them red-handed stealing from their cars while they were attending a relative’s burial service at Athlone Extension Cemetery.
The unidentified thieves who were apprehended before they could make good their escape had stolen purses, cellphones and groceries from the mourners’ parked cars.
Investigations by B-Metro after the incident revealed that there was a drastic increase in burglaries at city cemeteries where thieves were wreaking havoc stealing items from parked cars.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) recently raised concern at the increasing crime at cemeteries during burials, with thieves said to be targeting parked vehicles.
Speaking during a council meeting, Ward 7 councillor Shadreck Sibanda said he had noted an increase in theft during burials.
“I have noted that there has been an increase in theft from cars, especially at cemeteries. I want to know if the chair has heard those issues and what can be done to stop such cases,” said Clr Sibanda.
Ward 9 councillor Donaldson Mabutho supported him while arguing that there was a need by the local authority to deploy council security officers to guard mourners’ cars at cemeteries.
A North End resident Elton Mashamba expressed dismay that such things could happen before describing thieves who steal from grieving families as the “lowest of the low people”.
“These thieves are really heartless as they have no respect for the dead and their relatives. After being caught these lowest of the low people should be severely punished. Just imagine they are stealing from people who are already under sad emotional circumstances.
“I think security should also be tight at these cemeteries whereby municipal security officers will be watching for suspicious people,” suggested Mashamba.
A victim, Agnes Ndlovu (52), from Sauerstown said she lost cash, two cellphones, door keys to her house and bank debit cards which were in her purse which was stolen from her car last month while burying a family member at Athlone Cemetery.
“It’s so hard. Last month thieves broke into my car while attending the burial service of a relative at Athlone Extension and disappeared with my purse containing cash amounting to US$80, two cellphones, door keys to my house, bank debit cards and other essentials which were inside,” she said.
Nicole Mhlanga from Mzilikazi suburb said thefts at city cemeteries were now causing people to feel too insecure to mourn in peace.
“A cemetery is a sacred place where people should feel protected but these cruel thieves who are breaking into mourners’ cars are discounting the serene atmosphere which is supposed to be enjoyed at these final resting places,” she said.
A Bulawayo City Council security officer who preferred anonymity citing bureaucracy confirmed that a number of mourners had contacted him and his colleagues in relation to anti-social behaviour at the Athlone Cemetery.
“Every time we conduct our routine checks we notice that mourners, many of them being women, leave their purses in their cars. In most cases people don’t lock their cars, so purses are an easy grab. Mourners always think no one is going to steal since it’s a cemetery.
“We always advise them to take their purses with them. This is because while everyone is occupied, thieves exploit the opportunity and break into parked cars.
“Although it is our duty as municipal security officers to take the safety and security of cemeteries very seriously, the problem is that during normal business hours cemeteries are open to the public and that’s why it is also difficult to apprehend these criminals,” said the security officer.
The security officer, however, insisted that the problem could be easily avoided if people attending burials locked their vehicles.