Vagrant dead, nine hurt in Durban ‘warzone’

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Dennis Hurley Street in the Durban CBD faces the harbour. Photographer: Gcina Ndwalane

Durban - An attempt by city authorities to force vagrants out of the CBD, resulted in one person being shot dead and nine others - including an 11-year-old orphan - being wounded.

The homeless were allegedly shot by security guards on Denis Hurley (Queen) Street on Saturday night. They claim they are being targeted by the guards, hired by the eThekwini Municipality.

However, the municipality said it had no knowledge of the shooting. Spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, said they viewed the allegations as serious and would investigate further.

Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed the shooting, but not the death. They were still investigating.

A 17-year-old girl told the Daily News she was sleeping under a bridge near the church on Dennis Hurley Street, when she was awoken by the commotion. When she got up, she said she got hit by an object, which “felt like a stone”, on the back of her leg. I discovered that it was a rubber bullet which had struck my leg and then I was shot on my hand with a real bullet,” she said. She described the scene as chaotic as people were being beaten with sjamboks and being shot by rubber bullets and live ammunition.

One of her friends, Siya Gumede, was shot in the back of the head, allegedly by the security guards. He died at the scene.

“I was confused, obviously still bewildered and trying to understand what was happening around me, but then we started running, fearing for our lives,” she said.

The teenager claimed the guards had also shot an 11-year-old girl with live ammunition and rubber bullets. “She was taken to the hospital. She has no parents and nobody to take care of her, so we are still concerned about her and hope she recovers from this.”

She said they (homeless people) were regularly harassed by security guards and even robbed of their meagre possessions. “They usually take and distribute whatever valuable items taken from us among themselves.”

Simphiwe Mathaba, 24, who also woke up to the commotion, said he was shot on the leg as he was trying to get up.

“I am still confused by everything that has happened. One minute I was asleep on the pavement only be woken up, then I get shot at,” he said.

Mathaba was discharged on Sunday but there’s no word on the condition of another victim, a 16-year-old who was also taken to hospital.

Durban lawyer, Shabnum Mohamed, who lives close by to the scene, said she heard the sound of what appeared to be shots from her flat but brushed it off as fireworks – until she heard sirens.

“The scene looked like a war zone. The bodies were just there on the ground,” Mohamed said.

She claimed the attacks on the homeless were an attempt by city authorities to force them out of the CBD.

The homeless said they had been living “peacefully” in the area until the deployment of the security guards two months ago. They said they now have to sleep with one eye open.

“The police have never been brutal to us. They tell us to move from certain places and we still return, but they aren’t brutal,” said Siya Xolo, who had been living on the streets for nearly 10 years.

Those spoken to have implicated two security companies for the attacks on them, saying they had experienced similar attacks at the so-called “Whoonga Park” near Albert Park.

Daily News


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