Durban - Some street people have accused Durban metro police officers of harassing and assaulting them, allegedly without reason.
“We don’t trouble them, we don’t even ask them for money or food but they beat us up and ask us to leave,” said SK, who begs on the corner of Problem Mkhize and Sandile Thusi roads.
He claimed to have lost his warm jacket the last time the officers allegedly assaulted him and left him bleeding and unable to stand or walk.
“I lay there trying to catch my breath when one of these pharas (druggies mostly living on the streets) stole my jacket, but I know who it was,” he said.
He said it was a regular thing for the police officers to assault “children” living on the streets.
“They call us omangcola (dirty people) and say we break into people’s cars to get money for whoonga, but I swear I’m not a thief,” said the teenager who has been on the streets for at least three years.
He said he sniffed glue and not whoonga so he did not need much money to buy it. His friend Sgwili, which ironically means rich man in Zulu, said officers allegedly assaulted him while he sat and ate on the pavement, and also kicked his food away before directing their boots to him, recently.
“They said I must go home and stop trying to fool drivers by acting like I’m sick, but I really broke my leg last year so it still hurts when I stand for long because my crutches were stolen,” he said,
Sgwili said he was from Mandeni, on the North Coast, and came to Durban with his friend Nathi to see ships.
“I don’t know what happened to Nathi. He was taken by police during the raid last year,” he said.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said those who had suffered any form of violence from metro police were urged to report matters to their nearest police station. The city’s Nuisances and Behaviour in Public By-law states: “No person may approach any pedestrian or a person inside a motor vehicle on any public road or public road intersection or any other public place for the purposes of begging from such pedestrian or person in a motor vehicle.”
Mthethwa said more than 3000 people were facing charges for begging on the streets, along the beachfront and various intersections around the city.