Municipality investigating allegations of theft at xenophobia camp

2015-05-14 19:04
Cyril Vezi at the Chatsworth camp set up to house those fleeing xenophobic violence.

Cyril Vezi at the Chatsworth camp set up to house those fleeing xenophobic violence. (Jonathan Erasmus)

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Durban - Video footage which shows workers from eThekwini Municipality’s Durban Solid Waste unit allegedly removing items from a storage tent at a xenophobia transit camp in Chatsworth is now part of a theft investigation.

The video footage, allegedly shot by a woman living at the temporary shelter and which has gone viral, shows workers, clad in orange pants and white t-shirts, exiting one of the green tents and loading items into a green bin. A worker from DSW is seen opening the bin for his colleague to load the items.

The footage is not clear enough to see what exactly is being loaded into the green bin.

A woman who spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity said she watched helplessly as the men allegedly loaded non-perishable items like peanut butter, toilet paper, soap, canned food, and baby formula.

“They arrived at 08:00 in one truck. There were about four or five guys in total and two guys came out of the truck and they were pretending like they were collecting refuse.

“They went into the storage tent and started loading baby formula, nappies, canned food, tissues, sugar, peanut butter into the rubbish bin,” she claimed.

“We asked them where and why they were taking the stuff but they did not answer. At the time we did not take them seriously until one of the women overheard them say they are taking the stuff and translated what was happening," the mother of five from the Democratic Republic of Congo said.

“That is when there was a standoff between us and them,” said the 43 year-old. She admitted that the men at the camp closed the gate and refused to let the workers leave the premises.

“We are devastated and disappointed because there are mothers with babies here. It’s sad that they would steal from us. We are helpless and stuck in this situation. It feels like we are in prison,” she said.

Police tells different story

KZN SAPS spokesperson Jay Naicker told News24 a different story on Wednesday. Naicker said the SAPS in Chatsworth reported that workers from Department of Solid Waste arrived at the refugee camp to remove refuse.

“The foreigners at the camp refused to allow the workers from DSW to leave the camp. The foreigners allege that the workers had stolen nappies from the site.”

He said Durban Public Order Police were sent to stabilise and monitor the situation.

“No case was opened and no arrests were made,” said Naicker.

When questioned about the video footage and the allegations that the driver had been arrested Naicker said, “It is not true, no one was arrested yesterday [Thursday].”

eThekwini Municipality’s Head of Communication Tozi Mthethwa said the municpality was investigating an alleged theft incident that occurred when workers from DSW were removing expired food and waste at the camp.

“The commotion started because it was assumed that the food and other items were being stolen. Expired food has to be cleared from the site for hygienic purposes,” said Mthethwa saying that the food was being kept in one tent.

“However, internal processes are underway to investigate the matter fully,” said Mthethwa.

The camp is the last remaining camp housing foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal. “Government is not able to provide a definite date when the remaining shelter will be closed at this stage.

“To date three shelters in the province have been closed and thousands of displaced African immigrants have either been reintegrated back to their communities or countries of origin, which is a clear indication that the reintegration process is yielding positive results,” said Mthethwa.

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