Theoretically this blogpost should be called Juliwe Township Cemetery, because that is really the area where the cemetery now is. I probably found this seemingly forgotten cemetery while looking for something in my streetfinder; it is amazing how much information there can be found if you really read one of those things. At the time I had not moved to Roodepoort yet (2008), so my first visit, by necessity was a short one, squeezed in when I was in the area. This post really combines two separate visits that I made, the first being on 17/02/2008, and the second on 26/11/2011.
There is not a lot to see, at first glimpse you would think that this is just another overgrown park that somehow slipped between the cracks of legoland housing estate developers, but actually it is a proper constituted cemetery, complete with berms and gravestones if you know where to look.
It is not fenced and is crisscrossed with paths used by locals as shortcuts. How many are aware that this is a cemetery? no idea, but it certainly does not look like one.
Wind forward to 2011, and I revisited the cemetery to see whether I could find any graves for submission to eggsa. And this time I found something I had missed before, or possibly it had been erected between 2008 and 2011.
As mentioned previously, this cemetery used to be part of what was then known as Juliwe Township, also known as Roodepoort West. The inhabitants of the township were forcibly removed to Dobsonville in Soweto between 1955 and 1964 while the cemetery and it’s inhabitants remained behind.
The mining town of Roodepoort turned into a city and today commercial property is standing on the land where the township used to be. I have no idea how large an area the township covered, but in the newspaper articles from 2013 about land claims by the former inhabitants it seems as if it possibly encompassed the area where Westgate is now.
Sadly the cemetery has suffered from neglect, and it conveniently slipped between the cracks as the Group Areas Act came into being, and was eventually surrounded by houses and commercial development and gradually became less recognisable as a cemetery. On my visit in 2011 the grass was much shorter and I was able to photograph 24 headstones with names on them.
I have an article about the cemetery and township, and according to that, a report from June 1959 records 2 000 adult graves in which 3 000 bodies had been interred, along with 2 635 infant graves. The cemetery was closed around about 1958. There was even talk of exhuming the bodies and reburying them in a mass grave, but fortunately that did not happen. However, the newly resettled township residents would not be able to visit the graves in Horizon View because of the Group Areas Act.
And so the cemetery ended up more as a piece of veldt than anything else, a 6 foot wall that was supposed to be built did not happen and while there was a partly newish concrete palisade fence around a portion of the cemetery the rest of it was only “fenced” with knee high tar poles.
In 2013 it was announced that land claims were going to be lodged on behalf of former residents, although whether that ever happened or not I cannot say, All that is left is this plot of land with its scattered graves and the memories of those who are still alive who lived here. Sadly the remaining gravestones have been vandalised and people still use this as a shortcut or a place to play a game of soccer or walk the dogs. Most are probably oblivious to the graves underneath them, and somehow I doubt whether they actually care,
I had been fortunate that I did find the right person who had some history for me to read, and I was able to see the plaque and gain a better understanding of this space. I do expect though that in 10 years time nothing much will have changed here, and this small green space will still exist in Roodepoort, and only a plaque will advise of those who lived and are buried here.
Do records exist? I believe they do, but how complete they are I cannot say. Given that there are berms it should theoretically be possible to trace a grave, but that is based on records existing. I did not return there again, and probably never will, but I am glad that I was able to capture those few headstones and leave some sort of record so that tomorrow there will be something for future researchers to find, because frankly, at the moment there is very little.
Juliwe Cemetery has been granted blue plaque status
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