East Street mob beats up man showing signs of mental illness

2009-09-02 00:00

A MAN believed to be mentally ill was beaten up by a mob in the Pietermaritzburg city centre yesterday after he allegedly harassed members of the public in East Street. He was taken into protective custody and is receiving treatment in hospital for severe injuries,

The Health Department has appealed for calm.

In two recent incidents, allegedly mentally unstable men have attacked or killed innocent passers-by — Nompumelelo Ndlovu was bludgeoned to death three weeks ago and on Monday a woman was stabbed and two other people were assaulted.

The attacks have led to a public outcry over people’s safety in the city centre and the inadequate care available to people with serious mental problems.

The Witness spoke to members of the public about their concerns.

Gerri Ellis said she was once attacked and saw her friend being attacked. “I was walking on Longmarket Street when this man just came to me and slapped me in the face. I was more embarrassed than shocked when he slapped me in front of people.” She said she had to run away as people just watched and did nothing.

A vendor in Church Street, Thembi Mpisane, said there are more mentally ill people in the city than before. “I have been selling from this street for more than five years and I have noticed there are more of these people than before and they are becoming more vicious every day.” Mpisane said she has witnessed several attacks.

Thembeka Zuma said she felt helpless and angry when she was attacked. “We were walking on Church Street with a friend and this man slapped me so hard I was dazed. When I looked at him he laughed out loud and walked away. It’s about time these people are removed from our streets. They are posing a danger to society.”

Hazel Chetty said mentally ill people who need care and protection. “I feel sorry for these people. No human being should live like this; they eat from rubbish bins; they have no shelter or clothes. I always ask myself what happened to their families — what is the government doing? It is even worse when they turn violent and attack us; you may find that he does not even know what he did.”

In yesterday’s incident, members of the public assaulted a 30-year-old mentally ill man. The police came to his rescue and he was taken to hospital.

The Health Department has called for calm. “We appeal to the public to be patient with mentally ill people because they are not well. Instead of assaulting them, they must call the police and we will also get involved.”

The department admits patients to a general hospital or clinic for a 72-hour observation and may refer them to a mental institution.

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