Pietermaritzburg - Whoonga addicts and vagrants in Pietermaritzburg have been brutally beaten and chased out of part of the city centre.Residents of Masukwana Street Hostel brandishing traditional weapons allegedly attacked the vagrants in Hoosen Haffejee and Masukwana streets on Wednesday night. The hostel dwellers had reportedly been angry about increased crime in the area since the notorious Ematsheni Beer Hall — where the addicts used to live — was demolished.The drama unfolded from about 7pm on Wednesday evening.Njabulo Nzama (17), who was attacked, said the mob of about 100 men were armed with knobkieries, bricks, sticks and iron rods.“They just started assaulting us. About eight people were hitting me with sticks and sjamboks at once. I asked what I did and they said they were tired of whoonga addicts. They said we are the main cause of crime in town and the only way to get rid of us was to beat us,” Nzama said.He said his beating lasted more than five minutes and he was left with sjambok marks on his face and a broken arm.Nzama said the mob attacked everyone in sight and police did not intervene. “There are CCTV cameras everywhere here. You can’t tell me that police didn’t see we were being attacked? “They treat us like animals. I have never committed a single crime. I work as a car guard to make ends meet.”Mthobisi Dumakude (29), who was left with a gaping head wound and a broken arm, said he was surprised by the attacks because he survived by selling cardboard. “I don’t know what I did. If they know the people who are committing crime they must deal with them directly and not attack everyone.”Dumakude said members of the angry mob said the only way to remove them off the streets was forcefully.“They kept saying I had stolen a cellphone and I must give it back. I was crying and I thought I was going to die. Luckily I managed to escape.”The vagrants said they tried to find refuge at the Loop Street police station, but officers chased them away.“How can the police chase us away when we were being attacked? Are they not supposed to protect us? It’s clear that they knew about this plan. They should have helped us because what those people did is unlawful.”Some of the vagrants admitted they were addicted to whoonga. “We want to stop but we have nowhere to go. The mayor [Themba Njilo] was here earlier this year and he made empty promises ... even today no one has come up with a plan to assist us.”A resident at the hostel, who asked not to be identified, said the issue with whoonga addicts had reached boiling point. “The crime in Masukwane is bad. We have people who work night shifts and they can’t even leave the hostel without being robbed by knife-wielding addicts. “We live in fear and the city’s inaction on the matter is worrying.”The hostel dweller said they will continue in their efforts to eradicate the scourge of whoonga because the City is failing to do so.Also read: City’s rehab centre plan for vagrant addicts met with scepticismPietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said no police had responded to the incident. “We have no record of a formal complaint from any of the people that were attacked. We encourage them to come and lay assault charges so the perpetrators can be arrested,” Ngobese said.Last week, city spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the City has had a number of talks with the departments of Health, Social Development and Community Safety to move vagrants to a rehabilitation facility.