Vagrancy an ordeal in Durban

In a desperate drive for a safer city, Metropolitan police rounded up a group of addicts from Durban city centre and deported them through different areas in July. Believed to have caused so much trouble and suffering in the city centre, these people were to be reunited with their families and those found responsible for any crimes were arrested.

Life on the streets of Durban is not what it seems, it is no question that some vagrants are drug addicts and dangerous to the community, however the matter of fact is that they are just as human.  The things these people experience everyday it’s a nightmare, although they are referred to as homeless people not every one of them is homeless.

With whatever reason, homeless people find home on the streets when they leave their real homes, they all have different stories to tell about how they ended up there. Gallivanting around these streets has impact not only on their lives but everyone around them, safety is not guaranteed and the environment is unhealthy and congested.

As one of the hundreds of people who lived at Whoonga Park, King Dinuzulu gardens Nompumelelo tells a tale of how a vigilante of about 40 people flocked the Park and attacked them before they were forcefully evacuated by the municipality and metro police. The alleged furious mob from Dalton Hostel came with sharp weapons, knobkerries and hockey sticks and began pounding everyone at the park.

“It was early night on a Sunday and everyone was back from the streets, I heard people’s voices screaming and shouting “run” and I stood up to take a glimpse. That’s when I knew we were being attacked and ran for my life without knowing a full detail of what’s happening.” said Nompumelelo Buthelezi of whoonga park.

Whenever people see addicts being attacked, they scream and shout with cheer as if they are animals. It is no secret that they are parasites as they refer themselves, the things they do to the community shows an act of immorality.  However the question remains, does that make them less of human beings? No they are a bunch of souls trapped in a life threatening disease called addiction.

Travelling through various streets of Durban, every corner has vagrants dwelling in it. Among them are young children aged between 10 to 15 years old with tattered clothes and intoxicated from the use of chemicals such as glue. Tata Nelson Mandela used to say that children are the future, however the sad reality is that future seems impossible for these children since some of them are being raped, brutally killed or sold to prostitution at a very young age.

According to Nombuso Mhlongo, 3rd year Child and Youth Development student at Durban University of Technology, the matter of homeless people on the streets is an enormous issue that needs intervention of the community together with the government.

“There are number of factors that drive people away from home, both old and young. Environmental and belonging factors are the most common, scores of people in the streets of Durban are from well-known townships like Umlazi and KwaMashu where crime rate is great.” She said.

Among them are those who are coming from broken families and had ran away from home because of different forms of abuse, others are those who simply can’t adhere to parents’ rules and end up running away from home to seek independency, she added.

Streets of Durban are not only packed with South African vagrants, there are a number of refugees from other nationalities such as Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Nigeria in which among them are illegal immigrants. 

It is quite clear that moving these wanderers from one place to another is not by far a solution for the municipality, they were first moved from Albert Park early this year and ended up on King Dinizulu Gardens.

The eThekwini Municipality is hoping for a drug free and safer city by the year 2024, however it has been only one month since the removal of vagrants but the streets of Durban are yet again occupied by addicts.

Zethu Ngcobo (21) said that the municipality needs to come up with a new strategy of dealing with vagrancy in the city because fanning them out and dumping them at different areas certainly doesn’t work.

“I am certain that there is a better way of dealing with these people without violating their rights because as much as they are addicts they are still humans, however they cannot occupy the parks because parks are meant for recreation.” She said.

Vagrancy needs to be dealt with before more damage is done especially since most of these people are drug addicts and resort to crime to feed their habit.