Category Archives: Carvin Goildstone

Independent on Saturday: Showdown at City Hall

Campaigners chase Sutcliffe in car park

July 12, 2008 Edition 1


Metro Police yesterday arrested and forcibly removed more than 190 foreign refugees who had camped at the back entrance of Durban City Hall for two days.

The group, which was made up predominantly of children with their mothers, had been trying to get some sort of assistance from the council but after a last warning to disperse, some began handing themselves over to police. Others were forcibly removed and all were taken away in Metro Police vans.

Police took them to Durban Central Police Station and then later to Albert Park.

Metro Police spokesman Snr Supt Thozamile Tyala said the people were taken to Albert Park because the city hall was not “conducive for refugees”.

“There are no toilets and where they stay there should be toilets. It is inhumane and a disadvantage for them if there is no shelter and no toilets,” he said.

When asked if Albert Park had toilets and shelter, Tyala said he did not know.

The refugee group were camped at the city hall after they had been evicted from a Broad Street shelter by the landlord after the city council made it clear that they would no longer pay for the group’s accommodation.

Yesterday, the group were still eating lunch when police in riot helmets and armed with guns moved in and told them that if they did not disperse in 10 minutes they would forcibly remove them. While some went willingly, clutching their children, others fought and refused to be taken away.

The parking lot where the refugees had camped is used by eThekwini councillors, the mayor, senior officials and city manager Michael Sutcliffe.

When Sutcliffe emerged from the city hall and headed for his car, three women from the Durban Action Against Xenophobia organisation chased him and prevented him from driving away.

Manjke du Toit, Eva Jackson and Alice Thomson stood behind Sutcliffe’s Toyota Fortuner and refused to allow him to reverse. When Sutcliffe proceeded to reverse, the women put out their hands and despite being bumped by Sutcliffe’s reversing vehicle, continued to stand in the way. Sutcliffe then stopped and had an exchange with Du Toit, Thomson and Jackson. After a while some of the refugee children also stood behind his car.

Police intervened and asked the children to move.

Several councillors from across party lines who came through the parking lot said the problem was not a council problem but a national government concern because the people were not South Africans.

Police at the scene yesterday tried to threaten refugees that they would call Home Affairs and check their status if they did not move.

Refugees are reluctant to go back to the local communities because of the way some have been treated on returning.

John Bin Mukambilwa of the Democratic Republic of Congo said when he returned he was stabbed. He showed The Independent on Saturday stab wounds on his back and side from the attack.

Tyala said he believed Metro Police handled the refugees correctly but those who felt they were violated should come forward.