Talent Ngubane, originally from Pietermaritzburg, said he had been on the streets of Durban for more than 10 years.
“It is hard to be out here, but we are hustling to survive every day. Our only concern is being woken up in the early mornings, sometimes in the middle of the night, by metro police. They take away our belongings including our blankets and our bags with identity documents inside. We understand they are doing their job but taking away the things that are important to us is wrong,” said Ngubane.
Ngubane, 28, said they knew they should not sleep on the streets, but they don’t have any other place to go because they could not afford shelters.
Speaking yesterday at a work readiness seminar welcoming 200 new officers to the Durban Metro, police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said he had no knowledge of such actions. He said they carried out clean-up operations daily.
“People are not allowed to sleep on the pavements, in front of the shops. We are addressing the issue in terms of the clean-up operations. Every three hours there is a clean-up operation happening. We see cardboard and all kinds of things that are not supposed to be lying around and we take them away,” said Sewparsad.
“With regards to those who lost their IDs, no such cases have been brought forward. People must come and report to my office immediately when their belongings get taken away. We urge the homeless to find alternatives for shelter, they should not be sleeping on the streets,” said Sewparsad.
“Our officers are not and should not be taking anybody’s belongings or blankets, they should be moved with their belongings. They can only take the blankets and whatever is left unattended as part of the clean-up operation. We advise people to give donations to the organisations that will distribute them on their behalf, rather than to give it to someone who will leave it lying around,” said Sewparsad.
Raymond Perrier, director of the Denis Hurley Centre, said eThekwini Municipality knew about this practice and it was constantly reported but they did nothing about it.
“Durban has about 2000 homeless people who sleep on the streets and they are constantly at risk of having their rights violated by metro police, SAPS or private security companies. They go to particular areas in the middle of the night and wake people up and tell them they should not be sleeping there, which is true. They then take their personal belongings which they are not entitled to do - it is legally wrong,” Perrier said.
Perrier, who is also chairperson of eThekwini task team on homelessness, said they had raised this issue before with acting Mayor Fawzia Peer.
“She said if the metro police are taking the homeless people’s belongings, they must have a reason to do so. After those words, nothing was done about it,” said Perrier.The Independent on Saturday