Moving Durban vagrants causes stir

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THE MERCURY

During a walkabout of Durbans Albert Park, which is known as a haven for whoonga users, mayor James Nxumalo, left, and the citys executive committee, told the crowd steps would be taken to bring drug use under control. File photo: Puri Devjee

Durban - The ethekwini Municipality’s “Clean My City” programme, which includes removing vagrants and drug peddlers from Albert Park and the so-called “Whoonga Park” near Durban’s CBD, has been criticised for creating problems in a nearby suburb.

Ward councillor for Glenwood, the DA’s Nicole Graham, said on Thursday she had seen an increase in crime reports from residents over the past three weeks.

Graham was speaking to the Daily News hours after scores of vagrants were chased away from the two problem areas. Some of them had been sleeping under bridges and the ramps on and off the M4.

The city had carried out raids on Wednesday and Thursday. Some of the vagrants claimed their possessions, including mattresses, had been burned.

While escaping the metro police, many ran up Che Guevara (Moore) Road.

On Friday morning about 20 metro police officers raided Whoonga Park in Victoria Embankment, removing about 120 vagrants.

There was no resistance from the vagrants who then walked towards Glenwood.

 

Graham said the forced removal was not the solution as crime, particularly petty crime, had increased in Glenwood where the vagrants had fled.

“There had been too many activities down at the Albert Park areas with police chasing them and they have now moved from Whoonga Park to Glenwood,” she said.

“I understand the concerns of metro police to have to move those people from there (but) if they are dealing with the problem, don’t just chase people away,” she said.

“It must be dealt with comprehensively. There is no use dispersing them from Albert Park. We are dealing with a social concern here.”

Graham said the city did not have any of its Urban Management Zone security guards in Glenwood and Umbilo, so vagrants were now using the two suburbs as hideouts.

The chairman of the Glenwood Community Watch, Guy Perrins, echoed Graham’s words.

He said there were about 300 vagrants sleeping on pavements in the Umbilo and lower Glenwood areas.

“Our sector has been severely affected,” said Perrins.

He said his members had to conduct patrols every day and night. “We are exposing ourselves to risks.”

Perrins said the problem should be addressed using a “collective approach”.

“We are dealing with a symptom, which is crime, and the authorities should look into the cause.”

Metro police spokesman, Superintendent Eugene Msomi, said when vagrants were moved from one place, others would arrive from elsewhere including other cities.

“We do have a problem. I don’t think in the end we will eradicate the problem of these guys. It’s an issue that is everywhere,” he said.

“Every single day we have to remove these people. It’s a very difficult, delicate job.”

Msomi said he was happy that the municipality was doing something to address the problem by establishing rehabilitation centres for drug addicts.

Mayor James Nxumalo promised to clear Albert Park and Whoonga Park of vagrants by June, after seeing the areas had become a haven for drug traffickers and users.

He also announced plans for rehabilitation centres, including one in Mansel Road.

Some of the vagrants who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said they liked the idea of rehabilitation centres.

Others, however, said they were more concerned about the way they were being treated by the police.

“They came again this morning and chased us away,” said one vagrant, who used to live in Whoonga Park.

“They come almost every day. They would tell us to go away from this place and when we move to other places they chase us away from there too. I don’t like staying here but because I don’t have a place to stay I have no other choice.”

One man said he was from KwaMashu, but that it was better to be in the city to make a living than the township.

He said he worked as a taxi assistant in the CBD.

“Others are just here for fun and drugs. They are coming from townships because drugs are not always available there,” he said.

“Here, there is merchant (drug dealer) 24/7.”

Another former Whoonga Park inhabitant, who identified himself only as Madlokovu, said if there were a place arranged for them, he would be happy to move..

“Some of us would stay in those places…,” he said.

A young woman said, “Most of us don’t sleep here.

“We only come during the day to smoke and at night we go to different places where we can hide.”

Daily News


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