Residents worry about Voodoo graves

25 November 2011 - 01:58 By CHARL DU PLESSIS
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Popular nightclub The Voodoo Lounge might offer more voodoo than residents of northern Johannesburg suburb Linksfield can stomach.

The club has been built on the edge of council land where Johannesburg buried victims of highly contagious diseases during the first half of the 1900s.

Residents, who already resent the noise from the club, now fear that recent digging and further development might unearth the graves of people and animals that died of ills such as black plague, smallpox, syphilis and anthrax.

According to the City of Johannesburg website, about 7000 people are buried in the historic cemetery, originally bought by the Transvaal Republican Government in 1895.

Metal markers to indicate graves have been stolen, fuelling fears that development might expose corpses and spark a health crisis.

The Gauteng department of infrastructure development has confirmed that an investigation has been launched because the area in which The Voodoo Lounge was built is zoned as agricultural.

Department spokesman Philemon Motshwaedi said the department had not authorised building plans for the club or its sewerage connections.

Club owner Amanda Wixstrom denied that the business was operating illegally but hung up when asked about the zoning.

Wixstrom's former husband, James, who started the restaurant-club, claims everything he built was approved by the then department of public works.

Professor Lucille Bloomberg, of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, confirmed that cattle that had died of anthrax, a virus highly resistant to environmental decay, were buried in the area.

But she said there was no health risk: "Testing at the site showed there is no problem."

Chad Thomas, of IRS Forensic Investigations, which was appointed to facilitate an investigation, said questions had been raised about how a club and restaurant had been opened on the property, and how it had come to be granted a liquor licence.