Musings About Covid19

It was inevitable that I would eventually blog some stuff about the pandemic facing the world, after all we are all about to live through it and suffer the consequences that will follow. For the record I fall into the 50-59 year old age group so that alone puts me in a moderately dangerous space. However, the proliferation of fake news and sheer rubbish being churned out by the media makes it really difficult to know where you stand. The fact remains that the only way you will know if you will survive is to actually have the virus. Unfortunately the end result of the media onslaught is triggering panic buying, paranoia, and shifty eyes at anybody that sneezes, coughs or shows any sign of a cold, sinus, allergies or dust related sneezing. At some point lynch mobs may just run around with pitchforks and flaming torches; it is entirely possible that people will loose their sense of reason and level headedness, and you know what happens when they do!

Our local supermarkets have empty shelves in the bogroll, soap, surface wipes, pasta, hand wash, paracetamol and a few other items as people stockpile like crazy. I bet the bottled water will sell out too, and before you know it no baked beans or instant noodles will be available. Pitchforks and flaming torches may soon be in short supply too. The company where I work has been posting NHS warnings and information in the building and are gearing up for the possible absence of staff who have to self isolate. So far the schools have not been closed but if they are this can impact on businesses too as staff may end up having to stay at home to look after children that would ordinarily be at school. Like it not many businesses will have to remain open as we rely on them for amongst others food deliveries, refuse removal, post, electricity and of course healthcare. The UK borders have not been closed as yet, but it is early days still and anything can happen. Naturally if a celeb tests positive you can bet that it will be splashed all over social media and millions will try to do the same because that is the nature of the fickle celeb and influencer worshippers.  The guidelines issued by my local surgery however may read as restrictive but in reality it is more or less what we go through anyway when we need to see a doctor. 

Back in South Africa there are supposedly 24 confirmed cases so far (202 as at 20/03/2020), but it is difficult to know what the true rate is because already there are rumblings that this is a Western middle class disease and not a poor African disease. Trust me, there are political brownie points to be made with something like this. As we head into a new week we will have to keep an eye on the news to see what plans will be cancelled and what cities will close down. I spotted an excellent post on facebook this afternoon and would like to ask the question that the original poster asked:

I am still booked for London on the 25th but whether the embassy will be open or not is another question, ask me again next week.  There is one smidgen of good news to bear in mind though: at least it isn’t Anthrax! 

DRW © 2020. First created 14/02/2020

Rietfontein just wont go away.

Last year I was fortunate enough to do a lot of grave hunting in the Rietfontein area, and blogged about it on a number of occasions. For those that are not aware of it, this small piece of Johannesburg is the site of at least 4 cemeteries associated with the Rietfontein Infectious Diseases Hospital.

 

It is a very pristine and unchanged environment which is only really marred by people who use it as a dump site. There are also in excess of 7000 people buried on the site. I was able to catalogue 3 individual burial areas with headstones, but was unable to really know the extent of the burial areas, or where the other burial areas were situated. From what I read there was a Jewish Cemetery, a Plague Cemetery and a burial area where diseased animals were buried.  My last visit was in late November last year, and I recall that I did feel that all it really took was the wrong person at the wrong time with the wrong motive. 

 
The irony is that squatters will not even settle on this piece of land, so it must have something to hide? 
 
However, I did receive a link today that pointed to somebody who was going to develop on this site. There was mention of two schools, a community and youth centre, low cost housing, a police station and so forth. All, at no cost to the government. Assuming the link doesn’t go down you can read about it here . I can hear myself saying “I told you so” all the way in the UK! (Link still active 03/2016)
 
I won’t comment further, except to say that when they turn the soil I want to be very far away. I don’t know what the life of pathogens is like in soil, but I don’t think I would like to find out, because the people who are buried at Rietfontein did not die of old age, and it wasn’t called an infectious diseases hospital because they didn’t have another name for it. 
 
Let us see how far this goes. I bet that quite a few people are smiling all the way to the bank already. 
 
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated and links repaired 09/03/2016

Rietfontein: the last word.

To say that Rietfontein and its cemeteries has been an obsession these past few weeks would be telling the truth. What started out as a excursion to photograph a few graves turned into a whole series of discoveries. 

My recent excursion, on Sunday 27th November, was to find the cemetery on the eastern bank of the river. Poor weather made me wary of taking a walk, but in the end the day turned out to be quite pleasant, if not a bit hot and steamy. I was not too sure of where the cem was, but was working off information off Google Earth, as well as what Dave had told me. Finding the river was easy enough, it pops out from under the highway and rambles more or less parallel with the highway until it reaches a bridge which I then had to cross to be on the highway (eastern bank) side of the river. 

Once over that bridge I then had to cross a small stream a bit further on that flowed into the river before coming to the area where the cemetery was supposed to be. Early Google Earth images revealed that this was a grove of trees prior to the March 2004 image. Since then the trees were cut down and fires had burnt the stumps down to small black projections that can easily be mistaken for headstones. The area was flat with an embankment on one side and the river on the other.  In the distance was Sizwe Hospital, Edenvale Hospital and Modderfontein Road. 
 
Headstones were scarce, and finding them was very difficult as most were toppled and hidden in the grass. Sometimes there was only a slab or the remains of a headstone. I could only pick up five identifiable headstones, with roughly 8 grave remains, there were probably a few mounds present too. These graves dated from about the turn of the century, the oldest seemed to be 1898. Given their position in relation to the hospitals and river I suspect these may be from the original Rietfontein farm. 
 
Having taken my pics I head up towards the hospital to investigate two structures that we originally thought were 2 crematoria. However, on closer inspection it seems that they were probably incinerators.
 
My next target was the “terraces”. There are two sets of these, one is a very large area and is between the end of the hospital and Linksfield Road. My original thoughts were that these may be related to erosion control, but the fact that it is rumoured that between 7000 and 10000 people are buried in this area leads credence to this being one of two possible mass graves site. From the ground there is not much to see to prove or disprove anything, 
One of the terraces, looking South East
My verdict is “inconclusive”, but that is just because I cannot see any physical evidence of  this being a gravesite. I investigated the other terrace which is below what we call “Rietfontein 4/4” and returned to the burnt log that I mentioned in the previous blog post about that area. Again the only  comment I can make is “inconclusive”. However, if I look at the Google Earth images of the hospital I see similar terraces inside the grounds, and this makes me return to my original hypothesis about them being some sort of erosion control.
I then returned to try ascertain the extent of Rietfontein 4;  in my previous investigation I had found that this African section was roughly within a square block of trees, but there was no real way to know how many graves were here. There are at least 30 graves with headstones,  which extend for quite a long distance down the hill towards the terraces.
Looking North from the corner of Rietfontein 4
Looking North from the corner of Rietfontein 4
What I did discover was possibly the Southern boundary of the cemetery; a row of quartz stones were propped equidistant in at least 3 rows. This was not a natural occurrence, but it did give me some indication of  where the cems starts, and where it ends.  Numbers? I don’t know. There is no real way of knowing. An early GE image revealed what looked like rows within this area, and they extend in a northerly direction and based on that I can surmise that this area alone may hold as many as a 1000 graves.  Some of the graves date from the 20’s to 50’s, although the upper boundary of this area did reveal one previously unseen stone which was dated 1906, and had the number 49 on it. 
There is also one very tantalising marker there, a small simple rusty cross with “Mabena” stamped into it. In my reading I had seen metal markers mentioned, but so far this was the only one I had actually seen in any of cemeteries in this site. We have to thank the those idiots who stole the markers for ruining any chance that there may have been of knowing how many are buried here. 
 
 
The records I have from a possible headstone transcription for what we now call “Rietfontein 2” revealed that there were 8 identifiable headstones and 4 unidentified ones (one of which was toppled), 12 graves are not accounted for (no headstone found), of which we can allocate 4 of the toppled stones to, which means there are still at least 8 graves still unfound in the area of Rietfontein 2. They have probably been  buried under builders rubble.
 
That pretty much wound up Rietfontein, and until such time as we can find more information there isn’t much to do except wait for Winter when the grass is short, or a fire which which will reveal a lot about what is buried in the undergrowth. It has been an interesting journey,  and I feel that at least now we know more about the cemeteries here, and can at least name some of the people that came to rest here, probably killed by diseases that today we can combat. 
There are more questions though, but I don’t think the answers are within our reach.  There is no doubt that this is a very pretty unspoilt area, but who knows what is buried underneath the grass there, all it really takes is for an unscrupulous developer and a bulldozer to ruin it forever. 
 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 26/03/2016