Durban - Metro police have vowed to take “strong action” against their own members for illegally rounding up vagrants from the CBD and dumping them along the South Coast.
In the latest of several such incidents, about 40 vagrants were loaded on to metro police vans and trucks at about 1am on Tuesday and taken against their will to uMgababa.
In protest, the vagrants marched to the eMkhomazi (Umkomaas) police station, where they demanded to be taken back to Durban. Some were seen walking back to Durban along the freeway.
But metro police chiefs are denying their members have been instructed to relocate the vagrants. Metro police spokes-man, Senior Superintendent Eugene Msomi, said the force would take serious action against the officers involved.
“Dumping people out of the city is not part of our operation. When we deal with vagrants we deal with them like human beings,” he said on Tuesday. “We cannot take people and dump them in the middle of the night. We will be taking strong action against those officers once a formal complaint has been laid,” he said.
Metro police vehicles were fitted with tracking devices and once a complaint has been laid, it would be possible to identify the officers involved.
“This is illegal, people should report this behaviour… this is not trying to help the public. Once people come forward, we will get details and track them down.”
Vagrants and the metro police have been playing a game of cat and mouse for weeks.
One of the vagrants, Mvelo Goldstone, a city car guard, said they had been assaulted and pushed into the back of a truck before being moved to the South Coast town in the middle of the night.
“Metro police came and took us and they threw us in the truck. They took our belongings and put them in a bin. We saw them taking black people only and leaving the white people. The white and Indian police left us; it was the black policemen who did this.”
Goldstone said he had decided to go to the police station for safety reasons and because “people might think we are here to steal”.
He said some had taken a train back to Durban, while others were walking back.
A Daily News team saw several of them walking along the N2 on Tuesday.
Another vagrant, Sizwe Mahlaba, claimed he had been dumped on the South Coast at least four times.
An eMkhomazi police official who is familiar with the matter said: “There is a problem in Durban, we understand that but the way that they (metro police) are approaching the issue is wrong.
“It is a safety concern for the people of Umkomaas. We have our own issues to deal with right now.”
The official, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said it was the fourth time vagrants had been dumped there and said it was “no way to treat a human being”.
Community activist Selvan Chetty of the Solidarity Peace Trust said the dumping was a “violation of human rights”.
“I am outraged by the behaviour of the metro police. They are embarrassing Durban and the government.
“It is unacceptable that an arm of government is doing this,” he said.
“When this sort of thing hits the media it affects all of us,” he said.
He would assist the vagrants to lay charges against the metro police as a “precedent” needed to be set.
Quinton Yeates, manager of the uMgababa Shell Ultra City, said the dumping could have negative consequences, as vagrants were likely to steal to get money to go back to Durban.
Metro police could also be opening themselves up to kidnapping charges, an irate South Coast resident said.
Meanwhile, metro police arrested 20 street beggars at intersections around the CBD on Sunday. Msomi said it was illegal to beg in the city and that the metro police were enforcing by-laws.
The arrested beggars were checked for criminal records and would be rehabilitated or taken back to their families, he said.