Mob kills man in an­other at­tack on the city’s street dwellers

The Witness - - FRONT - SISEKELO KHUMALO, VIN­CENT MADLOPHA and CHELSEA PIETERSE

A VA­GRANT has been killed after a group of around 100 men — be­lieved to be res­i­dents of the Ma­suk­wana Street Hos­tel — at­tacked whoonga ad­dicts on Wed­nes­day night.

Po­lice have opened a case of mur­der and three cases of at­tempted mur­der fol­low­ing the at­tack on street dwellers in the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg CBD on Wed­nes­day.

The at­tack fol­lows an­other am­bush on whoonga ad­dicts and va­grants two weeks ago where sev­eral were beaten, al­legedly by the hos­tel res­i­dents.

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.

Siyabonga Ngcobo, a Pi­eter­mar­itzburg street dweller who was at­tacked on Wed­nes­day and left with in­juries to his face and a sus­pected bro­ken an­kle, said he was sleep­ing peace­fully at a ro­bot on Berg Street when a group of men bran­dish­ing weapons sur­rounded him.

“They shouted, ‘he is one of those whoonga ad­dicts’ and then they started beat­ing me up,” said Ngcobo.

“I couldn’t fight back. I was de­fence­less and I lay there hop­ing they wouldn’t kill me. They left me un­con­scious prob­a­bly think­ing I had died from my in­juries,” he re­counted.

“Al­most half of the hos­tel was out on the street.

“About 150 men split up into sep­a­rate groups and spread out on dif­fer­ent streets within the city.

“It was clear they were on a mis­sion to beat up any va­grant they saw on the street,” he said.

Ngcobo said the men had at­tacked and killed an­other va­grant, known as Sandile.

Ngcobo said Sandile had only been on the streets for about two weeks be­fore the at­tack.

Sandile was known to friends as “Sah” and had told other street dwellers that he was from Eland­skop.

Ngcobo said Sandile, whose sur­name was not known to them, had a job wash­ing cars and taxis on East Street.

“HE [Sandile] was smok­ing next to the river [near the taxi rank in the CBD] and they were drawn to him by the light com­ing from what he was smok­ing. They beat him up and threw him in the wa­ter while he was still breath­ing.”

A po­lice source said the body was re­cov­ered from the river yes­ter­day morn­ing. The source said the man, who ap­peared to be in his early thir­ties, had se­vere lac­er­a­tions to the back of the head and it ap­peared as if he had been “hacked”. Three other va­grants were also se­verely in­jured dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s at­tack and have been hos­pi­talised.

An­other street dweller, Won­der Dlamini (27), said he was also at­tacked dur­ing Wed­nes­day night’s in­ci­dent.

Dlamini said he first no­ticed the at­tack­ers when a num­ber of va­grants came run­ning down East Street, be­ing chased by the hos­tel res­i­dents.

“Some of us were able to es­cape but un­for­tu­nately oth­ers were badly in­jured and one died and was thrown into the river,” said Dlamini.

He said the men had “promised” to come back the fol­low­ing night and at­tack the va­grants again. “They say that we are crim­i­nals and should go back to where we came from,” said Dlamini.

“It’s not all of us who make a liv­ing out of crime; some of us sell cig­a­rettes, juice and card­board for a liv­ing.

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg po­lice spokesper­son Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngob­ese said the mat­ter was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

PHOTO: CHELSEA PIETERSE

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg street dweller Siyabonga Ngcobo tells his story.

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