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Saturday, 5 July 2008

Durban metrocops abuse street children



July 4 2008 - Durban.

The UK-based children's charity Street Action’s co-director Joe Walker (joe@streetaction.org. contact tel. +27 (0)713490851) reports that he and his wife this week recorded and witnessed at first-hand the abusive way in which Durban's street children are being treated by the metropolitan police force. The metro-cops arrived in a large transport van and a refuse truck, and burnt all of the children's belongings while the kids were down at the beach washing.


Walker warns that 'the city (of Durban) was skating on thin ice by courting potentially negative media coverage of its stance towards street children.' And children's charities in South Africa also expressed concern that this clearly routine metro-police brutality towards the street children in Durban 'will continue in the run-up tot the 2010 FIFA World Cup football tournaments'.

In 2007 the Daily News had also reported an incident where an attorney saw metro-police officials burning street children's belongings.

This week, Joe Walker and his wife, Annabelle, woke at about 7.15am in a flat in the Grosvenor Court building, overlooking the former Military Museum on Snell Parade in Durban, to be confronted by the sight of billowing smoke and terrified children.

http://www.dailynews.co.za/?fSectionId=&fArticleId=vn20080703111426827C863186

Joe writes on their website: ‘Early on the morning of July 1 we saw how the Durban beach front 's street children's home on the hill was raided by the metro-police. The children were down on the beach washing when the metro-police arrived with a huge police van (to arrest or round-up) and a refuse truck to get rid of all their possessions.

See all their webcam pictures:
http://www.flippingstarving.com/streetaction/more_news5.htm?fSectionId=&fArticleId=vn20080703111426827C863186

"The street children were arriving back (from the beach) only to find their possessions taken, burned and the police being extremely threatening towards them. One of the policemen had a huge sjambok (whip) and one of the children was allegedly kicked by another (metro-police officer).

"I just happened to be looking out of my window from my apartment, so I ran down to where the children were and attempted to challenge the police about their actions. They were extremely abusive to the children and myself and threatened to arrest me several times if I didn’t move on. The children's possessions were all taken and burned. They now have no change of clothes and blankets and the winter nights are getting really cold’.

"My wife was documenting the events with her camera cellphone from the flat, and filmed the burning of the children's clothes and other belongings by the police officials.

"Since we arrived in KwaZulu-Natal I have chatted to those particular street kids on a number of occasions, so I tried to intervene and request that the police extinguish the fire. The three police officials were extremely menacing, and threatened me with imprisonment.

"'These kids are the main cause of crime and drugs in this area,' one of them bellowed," Walker told the Daily News in Durban. He said however that this behaviour was in stark contract to the good working relationship with the SA Police Service and the local health department which their South African partner organisation, Umthombo Street Children. "They are committed to working with Umthombo and other partners to developing an understanding of the issue the children face on the street.

"However, this is not the same story when it comes to Durban’s metro-police where children’s rights continue to be abused and ignored,' he writes on his website.

‘Early this morning (1 July) the beach-front home of the children was raided by the metro police. The children were down on the beach washing when the metro police arrived with a huge police van (to arrest or round-up the children) and a refuge truck to get rid of all their possessions.

"The street children were arriving back from the beach only to find their possessions taken, burned and the police being extremely threatening towards them. One of the policemen had a huge shambok (whip) and one of the children was allegedly kicked by another.

"I happened to be looking out of my window from my apartment, so I ran down to where the children were and attempted to challenge the police about their actions. They were extremely abusive to the children and myself and threatened to arrest me several times if I didn’t move on.
"The children's possessions were all taken and burned. They now have no change of clothes and blankets and the winter nights are getting really cold’.

"Apart from the aggression shown by the (metro-)police officials, the fact that they arrived with both a police van and a large police transport vehicle makes it plain that if I hadn't interceded, the children would have been forcibly removed from the area and dumped somewhere outside Durban, as they say has happened many times in the past," he said.

"It feels like these round-ups are being sanctioned from on high. We will definitely be putting the images we captured on our website. The Durban Metro Police need to realise that they are violating children's constitutional rights. These are serious actions that will inevitably be exposed in the international media."

Later in the morning, several of the street children gravitated back to the site of Tuesday's confrontation. They were clean and clear-eyed, but obviously very nervous. "We are scared, but we don't know where else to go," said a 16-year-old girl to Daily News journalist Vivian Attwood.
The Metro Police's spokesman senior superintendent Thokamile Tyala said 'the incident had not been brought to his attention, but that an investigation would be launched.'

Joan van Niekerk, national director of Childline, said she was "absolutely appalled by the allegations". "This is the second fairly serious incidence of police brutality towards children that has been reported to Childline in 2008," she added. "The first, in the North West, required the intervention of the Child Law Centre in Pretoria."

Van Niekerk said that Tuesday's incident underlined the extent to which vulnerable children on the street were "not seen as human beings but another genus altogether".

Tom Hewitt, chief executive officer of the Umthombo Street Children advocacy organisation, said: "Metro Police seem to be operating unilaterally." He also confirmed that the SA Police Service have been cooperating with their organisation and adopted a much more humanitarian approach.

http://www.dailynews.co.za/?fSectionId=&fArticleId=vn20080703111426827C863186

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