REPORT ON A WATCHING BRIEF RELATED TO POSSIBLE GRAVES AT A GRAVEYARD ON THE PROPERTY OF SCAW METALS, GERMISTON, CITY OF EKURHULENI, GAUTENG PROVINCE
In December 2016, Archaetnos cc was requested by Scaw Metals to assess a grave site which is inside their property and where future development is being planned. The aim was to advise and make recommendations in this regard. A Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) was not conducted, since the site was already known. However the same principles as that of an HIA was implemented.
The site is located in Germiston, within the City of Ekurhuleni. This is in the Gauteng Province.
Usually there are two options when dealing with graves. The first option would be to fence the graves in and have a management plan drafted for the sustainable preservation thereof. This should be written by a heritage expert. This usually is done when the graves are in no danger of being damaged, but where there will be a secondary impact due to the activities of the development.
The second option is to exhume the mortal remains and then to have it relocated. This usually is done when the graves are in the area to be directly affected by the development activities. For this a specific procedure should be followed which includes social consultation. For graves younger than 60 years only an undertaker is needed. For those older than 60 years and unknown graves an undertaker and archaeologist is needed. Permits should be obtained from the Burial Grounds and Graves unit of SAHRA.
Option 1 was chosen by the developer as interim measure and hence the watching brief was implemented. Scaw Metals indicated that they wish to preserve the site in situ. However there is uncertainty about the exact size thereof. This needed to be established and the risk involved in encountering more graves had to be assessed. The result of the assessment was that a Watching Brief was recommended to test for the possible existence of further graves. This would assist in determining the size of the area to be fenced in and kept clear from the development.
The recommendations were approved by the BGG Unit of SAHRA and a permit for this purpose was issued. The work on site commenced on 6 and 7 September 2017.
No further remains of graves, i.e. grave pits, human skeletal material or grave dressings were identified. It therefore is concluded that the visible graves are the only ones present on site.
The following is recommended:
- Since the developer indicated that they wish to preserve the graves’ in situ, this should be allowed. However, this may be only a temporary measure.
- It has been established that apart from the graves visible on site, it seems that there are no other graves. The boundary indicated by the archaeologist (4 GPS co-ordinates) therefore suffice as boundary for the site.
- From here a buffer zone of 10 m should suffice and a permanent fence should be erected here.
- Dust monitoring should be done on the grave site once the construction on site commences. A dust pollution specialist should be consulted in this regard.
- A management plan needs to be drafted for the grave site. This entails the permanent establishment of a buffer zone, permanent fencing and the implementation of the sustainable preservation measures indicated in the plan. Such a management plan will entail detailed information regarding the preservation of the site as well as the protocols for descendants who wish to visit the graves.
- The management plans should be approved by SAHRA.
- However, the developer may still decide to go for Option 2, the exhumation and relocation of the graves, especially should it be felt that the development may encroach too much on the site.
- Should this be the case, a motivation to this effect should be written to SAHRA for approval after which the grave relocation process can be implemented.
- After implementation of the mitigation measures proposed, the development on site may continue.
- It needs to be emphasized that there will always be a chance that more skeletal remains or other archaeological material may be unearthed during construction activities. In such a case work at the area where such remains have been found, should cease immediately and the area should be demarcated. An archaeologist on stand-by (via telephone) should immediately be contacted to investigate such matters as soon as it occurs. It should also be reported to SAHRA. Construction on another section of the site may however continue while this is in progress.