Response to vagrant relocation

2016-03-02 06:00

OUR offices were inundated with inquiries following a Daily News editorial under heading “Fresh plan to move bridge vagrants and addicts” going viral on social media on Tuesday 23 February.

The article's heading and content stand to quote Transnet Freight Rail spokesperson Clement Maphaba, as revealing the relocation of drug addicts and vagrants, currently congregating under the Anton Lembede Street bridge in Durban, to Illovo south of Durban.

This as an apparent "bold plan by authorities to clamp down on lawlessness", and then following an alleged meeting between eThekwini Municipality, Durban Metro Police and SAPS.

While none of the suggested stakeholders were able to confirm recent progress, our investigation revealed:

• Dating back to 2013/4 - in seeking a possible resolve for what is an ongoing problem - relocation was one of the topics discussed between Transnet, Metro Police, SAPS, Safer Cities, Department Social development (DSD) and the Dennis Hurley Centre.

• The planning also includes bi-weekly operations wherein people are not only apprehended and charged, but social challenges such as reunification with families, drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation and medical care is identified and addressed.

• One of the 2013/4 recommendations included relocating screened individuals to council's Sakhithemba halfway facility in lower Illovo - at the time, under lease to the YMCA.

• At the time our office immediately questioned the viability and practical implementation of such a recommendation based upon various factors that included:

• Being that there was no budgetary allocation, we recommended that it rather be leased to a local NPO for local upliftment projects when the YMCA contract ended in 2014.

• We further warned against further vandalism of the facility - this in light of council' absence to properly secure the asset at cost to the ratepayer;

Both our plight and warnings were however, ignored to the point where it would require substantial investment from the city (and/or other stakeholders) to renovate and render the vandalised facility even remotely in acceptable condition to facilitate any same or similar project as alluded by Mr Maphaba.

- Cllr André Beetge
Ward 97

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