Cops clash over whoonga addicts

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IOL  NT Whoonga 8 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Hundreds of whoonga addicts were living on a piece of open ground opposite the Durban University of Technology. City officials launched a clean-up initiative that saw addicts and vagrants removed from an Umbilo park. File picture: Geoff Brink

Durban - Metro police are “dumping” whoonga addicts and vagrants on the outskirts of eThekwini, putting the lives of officers who conduct the operations in danger.

A human rights expert argues that the city had no right to move vagrants and addicts.

There have been fresh calls for the operations to be halted after two incidents in the last two days.

In the first, in the early hours of Monday, eight metro police members were injured when their vehicle was pelted with stones by vagrants they had dropped in Umbumbulu.

The metro police minibus overturned when it veered off a gravel road. Six of the officers have been discharged from hospital while two remain in a critical condition.

In the second incident, also on Monday, metro police officers were confronted by SAPS members as they were about to “illegally” dump about 50 people in Umzinto.

Municipal spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa confirmed both incidents, but insisted that the men were being transported “as per their request”. Mthethwa said Scottburgh police stopped the metro police vehicle because they wanted to know why they were taking the vagrants to their area. She said the metro police were allowed to proceed “after verification”.

This was disputed by a metro officer who was part of the unit’s convoy.

The officer, who asked not to be identified, said they were stopped by a Scottburgh police vehicle just before the Umkomaas off-ramp. He confirmed that they were about to “dump” about 50 vagrants and whoonga addicts in Umzinto.

He said the Scottburgh policeman was “irate”, and complained that they were dumping people “in their area”, forcing them to “inherit a Durban problem”.

A 20-minute argument allegedly ensued.

“The Scottburgh station commander got to the scene and tried to calm the situation,” said the metro officer.

Metro police’s operation commander was called to the police station, where the commanders were locked in a lengthy meeting after which the metro police were instructed to return to Durban with their load.

The metro officer said some colleagues were concerned about the “dangerous” operation.

SAPS spokesman Jay Naicker confirmed that Scottburgh police had stopped a metro police vehicle after receiving an anonymous call.

Mbumbulu councillor Godfrey Maphumulo said whoonga addicts and vagrants had also been “dumped” in his area about a week ago.

“The explanation given was that they were returning them to their homes, although they were left on the side of the road,” he said.

Maphumulo said none of the people brought to his area were from there.

The executive director of the Human Rights Institute of SA, Corlett Letlojane, said the government had no right to move the vagrants and addicts.

“The vagrants should be charged with drug possession or for breaking municipal by-laws; you cannot just remove them for no reason.”

Letlojane said if vagrants were taken and dropped off in random locations, with no proper recourse or help in place, they would keep coming back.

“This is also going to aggravate the areas they are being dropped off in and actually perpetuate the problem.

“Their human dignity has been violated and the government needs to do better than this. They need to deal with the problem openly and democratically,” said Letlojane.

Mdu Nkosi of the IFP said,

“I know they have to enforce by-laws but there are no by-laws that say people should be dumped in certain areas.”

Nhlanhla Nyanda, SA Municipal Workers Union regional secretary, said: “Someone must be held accountable.”

Indications were there was no communication between metro police and SAPS in the operation, he said.

Additional reporting Lauren Rawlins

The Mercury



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