LIMPOPO – The 58-year-old unemployed man, who has been looking after the graves and the grounds at Ga-Malakea Cemetery since 2000, embarked on an ambitious project to build a wall around the graveyard two months ago.
“I have made it my mission to ensure the graves and the grounds are properly maintained and this graveyard becomes a place where everyone can find peace in and respectfully share. I don’t get paid and I am doing what I am doing because I love my community,” he explained.
Sono said he volunteered to look after the cemetery after visiting other graveyards in the area and realising they were clean and well maintained.
“In our cemetery, grass and shrubs grew tall between the graves and the grounds were not properly maintained. When I started clearing the bushes and cutting down trees, some people thought I had lost my mind,” he remembered.
His volunteer work eventually attracted national journalists and his story was published in a national newspaper and later featured in a television programme.
“After my story appeared in newspapers, I went to the local municipality and told them what I was doing. I wanted them to help me with resources to continue to keep the cemetery clean but they told me they were responsible for maintaining urban cemeteries, not rural graveyards.
“Since then, I have been coming here every day of the week to clear the bushes and maintain the grounds. I have lost count on the number of snakes I encountered here. I believe in ancestors and that if we don’t look after their resting place, they will be angry with us,” he said.
Sono added he decided to build a wall and gate around the cemetery so the local induna and the village committees can have control over who enters the graveyard.
“I have seen cattle moving into the cemetery and pushing down the tombstones while some criminals hide here at night and attack people coming from work. Once we complete the wall and its gate, the induna will be given a key and anyone who wants to visit the cemetery will ask for permission,” he said.
Sono has mobilised local households to contribute R10 per month towards the construction project and has created temporary employment opportunities for 10 villagers who help him build the great wall.
“The money is not enough to buy all the bricks and cement we need which is why I am calling on all politicians and businesspeople who come from Dan and Mokgolobotho villages to make a donation towards the project. This project will benefit the whole community,” he said.
Anyone who wants to make a donation towards the project can call Sono at 072 823 8696.