Police are sweeping the urchins, who eke out a living on Durban's streets, into shelters in a controversial move which is becoming a tradition during international events in the city.
During the Non-Aligned Movement conference last year, street children claimed the meeting brought them misery and hardship as they had to hide from police who were hunting them down. Some said they were bundled into far-flung outlying areas and had to walk back to Durban to return to their street corners.
"The fact that we remove them from the street means that we want to create an impression to the visitors that they don't exist, when we know clearly that they do," a social worker told the Daily News yesterday. "Removing them from the streets does not solve the problem; instead it inflicts more pain on the already bruised children whom society has failed."
A city police spokesman, Vincent Ngubane, denied that there was any link between the sweep and the conference. "It is an operation to take them from the streets to the shelters and to reunite them with their families," he said.
Other tight security measures are being put in place ahead of the arrival of the 54 heads of state and government and hundreds of foreign delegates for the summit.
Some 2,300 members of the security forces have been deployed, and some streets closed to both vehicles and pedestrians. All vehicles and hotels used by the visiting VIPS will be subjected to anti-terrorism checks.Reuse content