HWANGE: The community here is worried over the increase in the theft of “Wankie Bricks” from graves at the Madumabisa cemetery.
The bricks renowned for their strength are being stolen in numbers amid suspicions they are sold to home builders in the town and surrounding villages.
Last April, there was another outcry in the nearby Dinde area, about 30km southeast of the town under Chief Nekatambe when Chinese miners from Beifa Investments, were accused of drilling holes in graves while prospecting for coal.
Police launched investigations after three men, one of them wearing an anti-riot police uniform, visited a community cemetery in Katambe village and dug three graves.
No arrests have been made.
In the latest incident, residents of Hwange have expressed concern over the disrespect for the dead and violating graves after a number were destroyed and the unknown suspects stole Wankie Bricks.
Wankie Bricks are a special type of shiny light brownish building material manufactured by Hwange Colliery Company decades ago, with the inscription “Wankie Bricks” on its side.
It is strong and was used as a face brick or to build high-temperature ovens, and was sold at a higher price than an ordinary one.
Some graves were built using these quality bricks and are being targeted by thieves.
The rise in thefts of the Wankie Bricks also comes as illegal brick moulding in the coal mining town especially in Empumalanga and truck stop areas has stopped as law enforcement agents have intensified their patrols there.
Residents said they were worried over the lack of respect for the dead displayed by the grave looters.
“Some people are stealing bricks from the graveyard thereby violating the graves. These old bricks are still shiny and strong and we suspect they have a booming market,” said one resident.
A Methodist Church in Madumabisa near the Kamandama disaster mine was also destroyed and the suspects looted the Wankie Bricks used to construct the place of worship.
Some relatives of those buried at the Madumabisa cemetery reportedly found tombstones thrown away from the graves, but with bricks missing.
“Community and church leaders are concerned about the issue and have urged authorities to take immediate action,” said one resident.
Police and the Hwange Town Board officials were not available for comment.