eThekwini agrees to act on Albert Park vagrants

2014-02-12 00:00

ETHEKWINI Municipality executive committee (Exco) members yesterday unanimously agreed on an urgent intervention to rid Albert Park of young vagrants.

The park is “home” to more than 300 vagrants aged between 14 and 35.

Yesterday morning, Exco members inspected the area where some of the vagrants were still asleep under the bridge. More of a concern is the drug usage in the park, Mayor James Nxumalo said.

The Albert Park community believes that dilapidated and neglected buildings were the root cause of the problem in the area. Carl Heinz Uys of the Albert Park Community Crime Prevention Association said the buildings, lack of police visibility and dirty streets provided a home to drug dealers.

On seeing Nxumalo and his team, including the Metro police, the vagrants became agitated, but after assurances that they were not in trouble, they calmed down and gave reasons why they were there.

Those who spoke to The Witness gave different reasons for leaving home, ranging from broken families to becoming beggars as the breadwinners at home.

A 15-year-old girl from Cato Ridge was sent away to the Bluff allegedly by her step-father.

She has been sleeping under the bridge since last year, and is now five months pregnant.

“He said I must stay with my sister. He gave no reason and my mother didn’t object to that,” the girl said, whose name is withheld because she is a minor.

“She is sick most of the time. I chose to come here because I feel lonely at my sister’s place,” she said.

Asked about the pregnancy, she said the father of the child is in Zululand.

Not all of the youths were chased away from home. Mzi Innocent Mhlongo (24) left home in Ulundi in 1999 to attend school at Lindelani High. He never went back after dropping out in Grade 11.

“It would have been difficult to go back home because my grandmother had since died.

“I have no one else to support me. This is not the life I wanted, but I guess it’s too late to make things right now,” said Mhlongo.

He said on rainy days they slept under the bridges nearest to the park.

Back in council chambers after the tour, Nxumalo mandated Dr Musa Gumede, deputy city manager, to set up a multi-disciplinary task team that will take a holistic approach in dealing with the park issue.

Next Tuesday Gumede is expected to give feedback to council and identify all those who are to be involved in the drive to remove the vagrants from the park. They will then convene a meeting with the homeless at a later date to decide their fate.

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