Neglected people roam the city streets

2014-02-19 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has attributed the increase in people alleged to be mentally disturbed roaming the streets to a lack of family support.

This as the man dubbed the “crazy ninja” was released by doctors and an allegedly mentally disturbed woman who brandished a knife in the CBD was left to wander off by police.

The department was reacting to questions by The Witness after the woman wielded a knife and stripped off her clothes in the city centre this week.

Health Department spokesperson Sebe Zwane said it was important for departments like the police and Social Development, communities, community leaders and families of the affected individuals to work together to curb such incidents.

She said families who suspect that a member may be mentally disturbed should immediately report them to their health care facilities for appropriate assessment and intervention.

Zwane stressed that it was very important for families to play a key role, otherwise society is left faced with individuals roaming the streets as a result of neglect.

Members of the public and shop owners at the corner of Thomas and Church streets, who became concerned for their safety, called the police on Monday when an allegedly mentally disturbed woman started screaming and took off her clothes while wielding a knife. The angry woman was crying, “I don’t know why they hate me so much and I think they are happy when I am roaming the streets like this”.

Asked why she took out a knife, she said she was angry with her brothers who had chased her away. She did not want to give her name or say where she lived. “I don’t have a home,” she said, before police arrived to confiscate the bread knife she was carrying in her bag.

The agitated woman asked police why they were taking her knife which she uses to cut potatoes. The police ignored her. She then packed up her belongings and walked away.

People at the scene asked why police had not taken her to a place of safety where she could be assessed properly.

A police source said the police who confiscated her knife should have taken her to Northdale Hospital for assessment. “It was lazy and irresponsible police work to leave her roaming the streets.”

He said police did not follow the correct procedure as they did not like taking mentally disturbed people to hospital because the process can take an entire day.

“They placed the public and the woman in danger by leaving her roaming the streets,” he said.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane appeared not to know the outcome and responded saying police were called to attend a case of an allegedly mentally ill woman who was brandishing a knife but when they got there she was nowhere to be found.

However The Witness was present and saw two officers confiscating the knife, and leaving her to roam the streets.

He said the suspect in the incident on February 4, where a man in Church Street attacked members of the public wielding nunchucks and breaking a police van’s window and damaging a private vehicle with a knobkierie, had been discharged from Northdale Hospital by doctors.

“The case was not enrolled as statements were not available at the time the docket was taken to court,” he said.

Zwane said police were currently compiling the necessary statements and once the investigation is completed, the docket will be taken back to the prosecutor for a decision. It is not known if police know the man’s whereabouts.

He said regarding the incident on February 12, where an allegedly mentally ill man went on the rampage in Scottsville damaging vehicles, police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property and assault. “The allegedly mentally ill person was taken to Northdale Hospital for observation. Police are still awaiting a report from the doctors at the hospital regarding his condition before the case can be presented to the prosecutor at court,” said Zwane.

He advised people who came across any person they believed to be mentally ill not to approach the person or antagonise him or her and to immediately contact their local police station or 10111.

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