Street sleeprs say they’re happy, won’t leave

2011-09-16 00:00

VAGRANTS in and around the Hibiscus Coast Municipality (HCM) are on the rise with many of them occupying pavements.

Among them are Goodness Mhlongo (62) and Florence Radebe (66), who have set up their joint dwelling under a billboard on Waterson Street in Marburg.

“We are happy here and we don’t want any social welfare to come and visit us,” Radebe said.

Both women cover themselves with plastic bags to combat the wind and rain.

“Winter is very cold here, but I have my blanket to keep me warm. We also light a fire so we are fine,” Radebe added.

Both women have family but say they prefer to live independent lives on the street.

Mhlongo said that she is a grown woman and can take care of herself. “I don’t need the government money or anything from my family. I will survive on my own.”

Adamant that they will not be moved, Radebe said, “Since we have been here no one has taken anything from us. They will not touch us. I will arrest them myself.”

However, owners and managers of nearby shops said that the women are fairly harmless, but they want them to be moved.

Farahaan Moolla, manager of Marburg Hyperspares directly opposite where Mhlongo and Radebe live, said, “They have been here for years and our boss has reported it but nothing has been done.”

Moolla says that the women often take water from their premises and stuff paper into their gates to prevent them from locking so they can access water after hours.

Another worker in the area who wanted to remain unnamed said, “Their living condition is terrible and is a breeding ground for germs. It is a health hazard especially because food is sold here. The place is very untidy.

“The pavement had been tarred recently but their portion hasn’t been because they refused to move for the workers,” the source said, adding that the fires they light are also a danger to the cars parked there.

HCM spokesperson Simon Soboyisa said that they were not aware of Mhlongo and Radebe.

“No one knew of these two people, however, I can confirm that there is generally a problem with vagrants in and around HCM and it seems to be escalating.”

He said they have alerted Protection Services, who are responsible for moving vagrants off the street. “Unfortunately there is no organisation or state or facility willing to accept them. Also, SAPS don’t want to involve themselves with such problems and these people are back on the streets a few days after we move them.”

Soboyisa said the municipality is looking into find long-term solutions to this problem.

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