Durban - Security has been beefed up at the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT) city campus after whoonga addicts were blamed for a spike in attacks and muggings on students in the area.
DUT’s senior director of corporate affairs, Alan Khan, said last week they were deeply concerned by the overall risk to students, staff and visitors at the city campus.
Khan said they had been negotiating with eThekwini Municipality about securing reliable, safe parking close to the city campus because many students had been robbed of their belongings after walking out of the grounds.
“The Durban University of Technology has bolstered its security presence in the area (around the campus) and, in particular, at the entrances and exits to the campus,” Khan said.
“We have also introduced a security response vehicle at the city campus; however, we are still reliant on the SAPS and the metro police patrolling the immediate vicinity of the city campus, as students walk to their residences on the Berea as well as to the bus and taxi ranks in the vicinity,” Khan said.
Some students have resorted to asking the campus security guards to walk them off the grounds to the furthest point from where the addicts have settled.
Students said they feared the vagrants and whoonga addicts who had moved to nearby Botha Park in King Dinuzulu (Berea) Road from under the M4 South bridge and Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment) a few months ago.
Nomfundo Xolo, a journalism B-Tech student at the campus, said she had been in a number of confrontations with the vagrants who occupy the park, but had emerged unscathed.
Xolo said she was almost the victim of a mugging on Tuesday but was able to ward off her attackers with a can of pepper-spray her mother had given her before she came to Durban to further her studies.
She said she was with a friend less than 200 metres from the campus when she was followed by about four men.
“One of them came from behind and tried to grab me on my neck, but I took (my spray) out my bag and sprayed it on them,” she said.
“They ran away without our valuables.”
However, not every student has self-defence weapons and some have fallen prey to crime.
Pinky Radebe, an interior design student, was mugged by four vagrants after leaving campus on the evening of Friday, June 6.
Paralysed by fear, the 27-year-old said she had been unable to scream for help.
“One of them grabbed my arm and twisted it while the other one took my bag and went through it. They demanded I give them my money and whatever else I had after they found the two phones in my bag. But I didn’t have anything else of value on me and that’s when they ran off,” she said.
The park has been at the centre of a number of recent clashes.
On Monday, angry residents of the Dalton Road Hostel, in Umbilo, attacked vagrants and whoonga addicts whom they have blamed for spiralling crime in the city.
“Although I would not say it was the hostel dwellers that attacked them, but they do not get along with those boys,” said a tuck shop owner at the hostel who identified herself as MaMthembu.
“We don’t want them anywhere near this area, and they have since not come around,” she said.
Last month, two people were shot during a vigilante attack by Mayville residents who went to retrieve stolen property.
The residents had abducted a man they had found at 3am in Mayville. The man admitted to the Daily News that he had been doing “bad things”.
After allegedly beating the man, the vigilantes had gone to the park to retrieve their goods. During an altercation, two people were shot.
Police arrested the alleged vigilantes.