durban kids

the panic!

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culled from the TIMES:

Metro police deny charges of street children abuse

This week youngsters from nine to 19 told the Sunday Times how metro policemen rounded them up daily and dumped them on the city's outskirts, often on busy freeways or at unregistered shelters.

Child rights workers say there are more than 400 children living on the city's streets. "They tell us we must go back where we came from. They say Durban is dirty because of us," said a 13-year-old boy.

Said a 19-year-old girl: "They take us and drop us at Umgababa, Umgeni Road, Pietermaritzburg freeway and Hammarsdale. Sometimes they leave us on the road and we walk back to Durban.

"If us girls don't want to go to jail, they (police) say we must sleep with them so they can release us."

A 16-year-old girl said: "Sometimes they take our blankets, our clothes and our money. They spray us with tear gas."

But metro police spokesman Superintendent Joyce Khuzwayo denied the removals were World Cup-related, saying police acted on complaints from the community.

She declined to comment on the abuse allegations but said they would be investigated.

Local NGO Umthombo said the police's methods were inhumane.

The organisation said the welfare of the children was more important than Durban's image.

CEO Tom Hewitt said: "Street children are not a safety and security issue, but a social development issue. Police put children in the back of trucks with adults and gang members. It exposes the kids to more trauma."

He said removing children for the World Cup was not about child protection but about cleaning up the streets.

Khuzwayo said Umthombo and the municipality's Safer Cities project were supposed to "take charge of the children. The police are involved because of all the complaints from the community. They (children) sleep under verandahs, they steal, they mess up the place and sniff glue."

This week the Sunday Times visited a shelter in Hammarsdale, near Pietermaritzburg, where many of the children say they were dumped.

A nine-year-old boy said he had been brought there by metro police. There were no social workers or caregivers and the child was found alone under a tree. He said he had not been fed that day.

Owner Nobhule Dladla, who funds the centre alone, said police and social welfare brought homeless adults and street kids to her centre because there were no available shelters in Durban.

She said police wanted to clean up for the World Cup.

Martin Xaba, head of Safer Cities in Durban, said: "Safer Cities has not instructed the police to round up children but we facilitate the removal of these children through the proper procedures, together with the social welfare department and eThekwini Health."

« Last Edit: March 10, 2010, 09:44:36 AM by the panic! »


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