“WE ARE HUMAN TOO”
By: Nomvula Ndlovu and Thobele Nzama
The homeless inhibitors of Durban’s so-called “Whoonga Park” say that the municipality’s Clean My City Programme is a great initiative but it robbed them of their human dignity as they were not asked to evacuate the park but were rather chased away by the police.
As a result of the constant fleeing from the police, the park dwellers tend to jump over the fence, into the railway and two of them recently were hit by a train, killing them instantly. Street cleaner, Issac Mazibuko, said that as a cleaner he has been a witness to a lot of incidents that have happened around the park. “Two of the homeless inhibitors while running away from the police jumped into the railway and were hit by a train last week. They are very scared of the police, they have also come to me asking me where they should go as they are constantly harassed by the police,” Mazibuko said.
Mazibuko was speaking about the fear that the inhibitors have of the police, as according to them, they are constantly harassed by the police for “no apparent reason”. One of the inhibitors, Lindiwe Gumede, said, “I understand that the park is known for its dealings of whoonga, but the police just chase and arrest us. They usually do so without reason, what’s worse is the fact that when you get to the police station, they don’t tell you what you are in for, they charge you for anything. The police arrest whoever, whenever, no questions asked,” she complained.
The city identifies the park as a hotspot for crime and for that reason the police have a mandate to be around the area to keep a close eye to ensure that no one is robbed of their belongings, as the police stations nearby have experienced a high number of complaints from the members of the public.
Since the clean-up and the deployment of city security guards, the crime levels and reports of crime in the area have experienced a significant decrease, this is according to constable Jobe Sithole at the police station, corner of Warwick Junction and Dr. Pixley ka Seme street. “The removal of those inhibitors from the “Whoonga Park” has seen to decrease in the number of crime reports of that area. The intention is to separate them from each other, the city has also hired people to secure places that are considered hotspots. Civilians can easily identify them as they were green t-shirts,” Sithole said.
A mechanic at the long distance taxi rank, opposite the park, Nkosinathi Khumalo said that even though the park has been evacuated, they are still fearful of the park inhibitors as they have stolen from them. While Alex Bedas, an inhibitor expressed that he wishes the city allocates them a place to stay. “There have been three deaths so far and it’s not fair of how we are treated,” he said.
On the 2nd of May 2013, Durban Mayor James Nxumalo launched the “Clean my City” programme. The aim of the initiative was not to only clean the city but to also clear up the areas suspected of being whoonga trades and crime hotspots. It is also part of the Municipality’s response to service delivery and social challenges identified in certain parts of the city.
Durban officials alongside Nxumalo, put on their cleaning overalls and went to clean up the “Whoonga Park” on Friday 3 May. The park is known for whoonga trades and the surrounding area has a high crime rate. City Manager, Sibusiso Sithole, told JournalismIziko news that the “whoonga” park needs more than just a physical clean-up but the municipality as a whole needs to work with social development to address the drug problem that causes the homeless to not have a problem with the filth that they live in.