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Yes, there are submerged graves beneath the Vaal Dam [photos]

Recently, Facebook flagged several posts as false after it was claimed that a portion of South Africa’s second-largest dam, the Vaal Dam in Gauteng, was built on top of a cemetery and that some graves were visible.

Yes, there are submerged graves beneath the Vaal Dam [photos]

It’s true. There are graves beneath the Vaal Dam.

Recently, Facebook flagged several posts as false after it was claimed that a portion of South Africa’s second-largest dam, the Vaal Dam in Gauteng, was built on top of a cemetery and that some graves were visible.

 

Photos depicting graves at the Vaal Dam quickly began surfacing online; much to the shock and horror of residents in Gauteng, whose main water source is the Vaal.

VAAL DAM CEMETERY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Overview of the submerged cemetery on Grooteiland, Vaal Dam. Photo: GSSA, dated 29 April 2005
Overview of the submerged cemetery on Grooteiland, Vaal Dam. Photo: GSSA, dated 29 April 2005
Overview of the submerged cemetery on Grooteiland, Vaal Dam. Photo: GSSA, dated 4 November 2016
Overview of the submerged cemetery on Grooteiland, Vaal Dam. Photo: GSSA, dated 4 November 2016

Facebook user Theo Makhaphela shared four photos earlier this month, captioning the post:

“As the levels of the Vaal dam are dropping old Graves are starting to be visible. So that dam was built on top of Graves. So in essence, we have been drinking dead people water here in Gauteng”.

Theo Makhaphela
Image via Facebook: Theo Makhaphela
Image via Facebook: Theo Makhaphela

“An estimated 80 million people worldwide have been displaced by large dams, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, part of the Norwegian Refugee Council but based in Geneva, Switzerland”.

Image via Facebook: Theo Makhaphela
Image via Facebook: Theo Makhaphela
Image via Facebook: Theo Makhaphela
Image via Facebook: Theo Makhaphela

VAAL DAM GRAVESITE RECORDS

As it turns out, it’s not a false claim after all. Africa Check investigated the claim and confirmed that yes, there are indeed graves beneath the Vaal. These gravestones are occasionally visible when the water level drops.

Gravestone of Jacobus Johannes Meyer. 1886-1893. Photo: GSSA, dated 4 November 2016
Gravestone of Jacobus Johannes Meyer. 1886-1893. Photo: GSSA, dated 4 November 2016

Africa Check also explains that the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA) keeps records of gravesites. GSSA data shows that “the graves are located on a roughly three-kilometre-long island in the Vaal Dam”.

Moreover, the image above shows a grave belonging to one Jacobus Johannes Meyer, who lived between 1861 and 1893. Another shows Jacobus Frederik Janse van Vuuren, who died ten years before the dam was built.

EXACT LOCATION AT VAAL DAM NOT KNOWN

We sourced most of the photos from the GSSA. We’ve also included the photos shared on Facebook, although the exact location of where these images were taken is not known.

However, some Facebook users claim the images were taken in 2016. Meanwhile, others took to the comment sections of the various posts, claiming the photos were taken recently.

Photo: GSSA, dated 4 November 2016
Photo: GSSA, dated 4 November 2016

However, Africa Check notes:

“The dam was at only 26.3% capacity on 6 November 2016, just two days after the timestamp on most of the eGSSA photos. Photos posted on Facebook in early November 2020 would have been taken when the dam was at around 30% capacity“.

Furthermore, Keegan Leech from Africa Check adds that it is “difficult to say for certain whether the graves were submerged by the original 1938 dam. But it is likely”.

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