SAVE OUR CITY FROM BEGGARS
By: Khethukuthula Lembethe
The growing number of vagrants and homeless people on the streets of Durban is alarming and has become a concern for many residences in the Berea area.
Colleen Van Rensburg, a member of the campaign SAVE OUR BEREA, has strong feelings about this issue.
“I understand that when towns are planned a lot of thought, and expertise, goes into assigning spaces. Spaces allocated to residential properties, to schools, and places of worship, spaces for roads and pavements. Lovely big open spaces like parks, where people can relax under the trees and children can play on the swings and see saws. Parking spaces, so that vehicles can park close to areas where people want to be. Robots are put at busy intersections to make it clear which stream of traffic has right of way,” van Rensburg said.
Residential areas and cities are planned by the experts and are meant to make communal living in the cities enjoyable, safe and practical.
Van Resnburg feels that something has gone drastically wrong with this model.
“Being at a robot has become an extremely unpleasant affair for our motorists. Firstly you dare not have your window open. Gesturing beggars, many with ‘Afflicted Limb Syndrome’, converge on your car, especially if you are a woman driving alone. They hobble in and out of the traffic, and often land up in front of cars which are unable to drive forward when the robot goes green. Many people report that they bang on their windows, women are often sworn at. Some of them bash their bags of rubbish against the side of a vehicle when ignored or told to go away,” van Rensburg stated.
This has been an issue on Berea and Glenwood streets for quite some time now and the residences fear these vagrants are becoming aggressive.
Parks around the city are a haven for them, and the trees and shrubs provide shelter for them and their nefarious activities. Those same parks that were planned to provide a safe and peaceful place in nature for the general public.
“As more and more vagrants have flocked to Berea, we have more housebreakings, muggings, cars being stolen, and car windows smashed. Empty buildings quickly become stripped of anything that can be carried away and are then inhabited by them,” said Van Rensburg.
Glenwood and Berea residents have surely noticed the growth of vagrants on their streets.
Judy Bowland said, “These beggars are the root of most of the crime in our area.”
Michael Francis on the other hand sincerely disagrees, “The beggars are not criminals or deserving of scorn – many are disabled, handicapped or desperate and trying not to live a life of crime – don’t give to them for whatever reason but don’t denigrate their existence or expect police to harass them. They are not the root of crime on the Berea – it is poverty, inequality and bad policing.”
Alison Gasparini feels that most are victims of the system created by unjust laws, “They were given a sub-standard education and many are on the streets because they are dirt poor and are supporting younger siblings. Offer them a job. Don’t expect government to care,” said Gasparini.
“Don’t give beggars money. Don’t give them anything. You are not helping in the long term, this, however, is a short term measure. What we need to be asking; is why Ethekwini Municipality is not upholding and enforcing our bylaws,” said van Rensburg.
Deputy Head of Architecture, Jonathan Edkins said that there are initiatives in place and gave statistics that convey that the Metro Police is doing something to remove vagrants.
27 vagrants were removed from William’s Road, 17 vagrants removed from Umbilo Road, 16 vagrants removed from New Market Street and 15 vagrants removed from Moore Road recently.