Sakhiseni Nxumalo
Senior journalist
3 minute read
10 May 2022

Call for action after Msunduzi security officers caught on camera assaulting vagrant

Sakhiseni Nxumalo

A Pietermaritzburg man, Mark Morcom, who witnessed a homeless man being beaten by Msunduzi Security officers a few months ago, is demanding action be taken against the officers.

A Pietermaritzburg man, Mark Morcom, who witnessed a homeless man being beaten by Msunduzi security officers a few months ago, is demanding action be taken against the officers.

Morcom said he witnessed the incident and filmed it in January this year, just outside the KZN National Botanical Garden. The man was allegedly being accused of stealing copper wiring from street lights.

Recently, the video has resurfaced and made waves on social media after Morcom said he made a formal complaint to the municipality to investigate the matter, but after four months no response has been received.

In the video, seen by The Witness, five security officers are seen physically assaulting the homeless man. Morcom said the officers first searched his belongings and later gave his belongings back to him before driving off.

“There was no arrest, no confiscations of goods, nothing. Nothing made sense as to why they beat him up so badly until blood was running off his back. I sent an official complaint to the City’s security head but I have not received any response. When they left the guy, he was lying on the side of the road, and bleeding,” he said. He added the incident was a violation of human rights.

Morcom said the attitude of security officers to homeless people is bad and some of them treat homeless people as if they were subhuman.

“When I got there, it was already happening and the homeless man was being smashed against the wall. From the time I was there, the guards spent over seven minutes assaulting that guy.

He said:

“It was so sad and I felt really bad and heartbroken. I was devastated by watching that whole incident. It was like they were beating a wild animal.”

Morcom said should no response be received from the city, he would take the matter forward to the Human Rights Commission.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Ntobeko Mkhize said the video had not been brought to the municipality’s attention. “Where residents have information of such incidents, we encourage them to come forward with the evidence so the matter receives the attention it deserves,” Mkhize told The Witness.

Mkhize said the City often receives complaints asking them to remove people living on the streets from private properties such as shop fronts, pavements and open spaces. She said the law enforcement officers attend to the calls and escort those people away from the site of the complaint. Mkhize said the municipality would continue to follow this approach as part of its regeneration programme.

Humane approach for the homeless

However, she said, the municipality adopts a humane approach when dealing with the homeless.

“While the municipality is required to enforce its by-laws that prohibit loitering and unauthorised usage of public open spaces and other infrastructures, some of these places have become shelters for the homeless.

“As the government who cares for the people, the municipality has to ensure that there is a balance between ensuring that the laws are upheld whilst also recognising the vulnerable position of the residents who are homeless or displaced,” she said.

Mkhize said as part of the municipality’s comprehensive strategy, there was a programme led by deputy mayor Mxolisi Mkhize to address the problem of homelessness.

“He has had multiple engagements with them and has even assisted some of them to reunite with their families. Mkhize has visited several buildings that can be utilised as shelters.

“This intervention will assist in rehabilitating the people living on the streets, reintegrate them into the community and reunite them with their families,” added Mkhize.