Homeless groups ‘evicted’

2017-08-10 06:01
Photo: andile sitholeHomeless on Wick Street (from left) Luchan Naidoo, Leester Govender and Sanele Khumalo.

Photo: andile sitholeHomeless on Wick Street (from left) Luchan Naidoo, Leester Govender and Sanele Khumalo.

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TWO groups of homeless people, who were sleeping outside the old building that was allegedly used by prostitutes in Wick Street, were “evicted” last week.

This came after eThekwini Municipality, the Ward 106 councillor and relevant departments adopted a “zero tolerance” stance on vagrants in a bid to clean up the Verulam CBD.

The operation started in Durban where homeless people invaded a portion of land near the Berea railway line.

Prior to the eviction, the Weekly visited the two groups in Wick Street on July 11, after numerous complaints were received from residents about people sleeping outside the old building.

Sanele Khumalo (23) from Maoti area is a car guard in Wick Street.

He told the Weekly he left home “because there were family issues forcing me to leave home”.

“I came to Verulam last year and have been sleeping on the streets for a year and half now. I work as a car guard and make R70 a day. We used to live inside the Sabana Supermarket before it was closed off. Life is difficult on the street, and I really need to get proper shelter.”

In one group was a 12-year-old boy whose identity is known to the Weekly, but cannot be revealed as he is a minor. He told the Weekly that he left home last year to look for “greener pastures”.

Leester Govender (24) also a car guard in Verulam said he came to Verulam last year from Isipingo.

Govender said he was struggling to get a job in the CBD and was forced to work as a car guard.

“Life is difficult for us. We have to brave the cold the whole night. We rely on donations that people give us, but sometimes not one person gives us food. It’s hard to get a job in my circumstances. When I go out to look for work people think I am a criminal, and no one is willing to give me a job. We get water from nearby shops.”

Luchan Naidoo (29), also a car guard, said he earns R10 a day.

“When we are asleep people steal our belongings. I want to leave this place because we can’t live like thugs.”

Ward 106 councillor Johnson Chetty said: “For a while now [these] people have been sleeping on the streets. What started off as a small group ended up being two groups of 10 people.

“These people are unemployed. When I investigated further, there was a couple with a little baby sleeping with them. We suspect these people came from various places in Verulam including Parkgate, Waterloo and Redcliffe.

“I received calls from shop owners in and around the vicinity saying there were unhappy because their customers felt insecure about the people sleeping on the street.

“Residents complained, so I then sought the assistance of the Metro Police. I co-operated with Captain Veronica Mtshali and we facilitated an indaba between SAPS Colonel Mbhanjwa, Metro Police and the acting manager at Social Development, Mr Khwela.

“We had two social workers from the Verulam Child and Family Welfare Society. We met on July 14 at Metro Police offices and decided to conduct an operation on July 17. On Monday evening, with the relevant departments, a meeting was held at the site.

“We then profiled the people sleeping in the street and created a database.”

Metro Police gave them a warning and told them to leave.

“I also warned them that the Durban Solid Waste was going to come and confiscate their belongings should they not move.

“The question being asked is why are we not sympathetic about these people.My answer is very clear, when you break the by-laws of the municipality you have to face the consequences.

“When we interviewed them, it emerged that they came from stable and well established families and chose to eliminate themselves from their families due to their drug addiction.

“What is very alarming coming from the residents is the matter of prostitution. What I had asked the community was that they must stop making the lives of these people comfortable.

“I was reliably informed by a Metro officer, that she saw a vagrant selling a donated blanket. We want to uphold the by-laws of the municipality.”

A statement from eThekwini Municipality read: “To maintain law and order in the city as well as ensure by-law compliance, eThekwini Municipality’s Metro Police officers conducted an operation to remove vagrants who had invaded the Berea railway line. The operation was done in partnership with the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies and was part of the daily law enforcement operations.

“During these operations, Metro Police prioritises high ‘crime and grime’ areas, including decaying central city areas where petty crime and vagrancy is prevalent.

“More than 30 vagrants, who had taken occupation of the railway line were successfully removed.

The area was then cleared of all objects that posed a danger to trains and commuters.”

Metro Police spokesperson, acting senior Superintendent Sibonelo Mchunu said the raid was part of the officers’ ongoing law enforcement operations.

“We are committed to ensure that the city remains clean, safe and conducive for all citizens to enjoy. Living next to the railway line poses serious danger for both the vagrants, infrastructure and train commuters. That is why we had to act fast and remove the vagrants from the site.” The law enforcement operations, which began in the early hours and continued throughout the day are in response to calls by residents for more Metro Police presence and by-law enforcement. These include noise complaints, complaints about vagrants loitering and sleeping outside places of business as well as people urinating in public.”
Captain Veronica Mtshali said: “Metro Police were part of the team that was working on the matter. The families [in Wick Street] were told to leave.”

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