Brixton is a cemetery with a grand past but its future needs to be secured. Here is a cemetery in severe trouble. Brixton is a good place to observe that Johannesburg has problems with its current social dynamics and local governance.
There is evidence of people living rough in the cemetery beneath bushes and under low hung branches, or nudging up against old tombstones. At the gate one man has created a home. There is evidence of human faeces in a few places, the ivy is overgrown and verges are untrimmed. The fence along Caroline Street has disappeared while funerary stone vases have been upended and turned into seating for braais. Bronze lettering on tombstones has been prized off and taken for recycling. There are many broken and damaged tombstones. Statuary of angels has fallen to the ground or if propped up repositioned on another grave. Monumental masonry has lost significant bits. Names on graves have disappeared. Everywhere there is litter and filth. Subsidence on some graves has not been attended to. In summary, here is a traditional mysterious old Johannesburg cemetery that has fallen into decay and total neglect. The result is that people can only visit in groups.
Lucille Davie reported as long ago as 2002 on the problems of Brixton cemetery: “Today (2002) Brixton Cemetery reflects a different kind of history - defacement and toppled headstones, mostly the work of vandals. Some graves have also experienced subsidence, causing headstones to fall over.” Now some 15 years later Brixton shows even worse neglect, decay and evidence of homeless people inhabiting the place. It has been an uphill battle for City Parks, Zoo and the Cemetery Department.
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has written to the authorities in the hope of action.