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.
Vagrant ‘hacked’ and found dead in river, three others severely hurt
“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.