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Durban - Violent clashes erupted on Monday night after vagrants and whoonga addicts were blamed for spiralling crime in the city.
Angry residents of the Dalton Road Hostel, in Umbilo – armed with sticks, knobkerries and whips – walked to Botha Park in King Dinuzulu (Berea) Road where they allegedly attacked vagrants and whoonga addicts.
Metro police at the scene said the mob of about 30 people took the whoonga addicts and vagrants by surprise.
Many fled into Julius Nyerere (Warwick) Avenue while other ran up Dr Pixley KaSeme (West) Street and Che Guevara (Moore) Road, police said.
Head of the Bulwer Community Safety Forum, Heather Hayward Rorick, said she was at a shop in Davenport when she heard screaming.
On investigation she saw a mob chasing a group of men.
“They had batons, sticks with nails on them and bricks in their hands.
They were attacking anyone on the road, even shoppers,” Hayward Rorick said. “People were dropping like flies. Some guys ran into the shop.
The mob followed them. My son and I rushed for safety. I saw my life flash in front of me.”
She said she began screaming and the mob ran off.
A resident (who did not want to be named) and lives in a block of flats opposite the park said that he was on his balcony when he saw the mob armed with sticks and bush knives chasing the vagrants.
He said that motorists hid in their cars as the vagrants ran on to the road and tried to seek refuge at nearby taxi ranks.
“People were screaming in pain and running for their lives. Those that were slow were beaten very badly,” he said.
“We are not happy with situation at the park. The city must put an end to them living here.”
He claimed there were more than three incidents of robbery and theft a day along Berea Road, near the park.
“The vagrants rob people and run into the park where they know they cannot be found.”
He said even their church service on Sunday’s were targeted. Cars are broken into and women were robbed of their jewellery, he said.
Hayward Rorick said some of the vagrants were in the process of uplifting their lives through the council outreach programmes. “Some of them are not whoonga addicts. Authorities must do something. They cannot allow this to happen again,” she said.
When the Daily News arrived at the Park last night, fires were burning.
The mob had set alight the vagrants clothing and belongings. Some of the vagrants used the fire to keep warm.
Several injured people lay on the kerb outside Botha Park and had to be carried to waiting ambulances by their friends.
Paramedics attended to several injured people lying on the streets.
A spokesperson for the Dalton Hostel could not be reached for comment.
A policeman from the Umbilo police station who was at the scene said many incidents of crime around the park went unreported. This made the deployment of extra police difficult.