It’s slowly back to business in Gugulethu

2010-12-12 13:24

The murder of 28-year-old honeymooning ­Swedish national Anni Dewani last month and the ­international headlines that followed have ­given ­Gugulethu a reputation as a hot spot for ­violent crime.

Businesses, particularly those relying on ­tourists, have seen a sharp decline in trade. But tourists have been trickling back into Gugulethu’s ­restaurants, shebeens and B&Bs since the latest revelations.

Lindiwe B&B is situated on the NY12, the street on which the Dewanis were hijacked prior to ­Anni’s murder. It is a popular spot for tourists wanting to spend a night in a township.

Manager Mzwandile Andrew said shortly after news of Dewani’s death was broadcast around the world, the cancellations came flooding in, ­resulting in about R50?000 in lost revenue.

But Andrew said as it became clear that the ­killers were not from Gugulethu, bookings picked up again and now business was almost back to normal.

Highly popular Mzoli’s Meat Place, which the Dewanis are believed to have been planning to visit when they drove into the township that night, also took a knock.

Dozens of locals and tourists from countries such as Canada, the US and Australia cancelled their bookings, said spokesperson Max Nqunqa.

“It was a knock for the business. We were on our knees until recently. For a week or two, ­business was not usual, although we tried to ­explain to the customers the incident could have happened anywhere,” he said.
But things were beginning to pick up again.

Andrew blamed the blow to business on tourism bodies, which he said issued statements saying that townships were dangerous “no-go ­areas”. The danger now associated with Gugulethu following Dewani’s murder is unfair, say ­residents, who point out that the hijacking could have ­occurred anywhere in South Africa.

In fact, long-time residents say, Gugulethu is ­safer than other townships in the Cape. Although statistics verify this, Gugulethu is nowhere near ­crime-free. There have been more than 1?000 ­murders and nearly 4?000 robberies with aggravating circumstances over the past five years (see sidebar).

Jazz musician Porgy Claas (45) has lived in ­Gugulethu all his life.

He said Gugulethu used to be dangerous in the 1990s as gangs fought each other over turf, but that was no longer the case. The problem now was schoolboys ­taking drugs and alcohol, and getting involved in criminal activity.

Claas said: “Gugulethu is safe. Tourists and ­outsiders should not worry about their safety. They must just be wys (cautious).

“Last week I had about 100 white people who were here for a jazz gig and they were roaming the streets freely, unaccompanied. They felt safe and were not bothered in any way.”

However, while Gugulethu may not deserve a reputation as a murder hot spot, it holds the same dangers as any township with high unemployment and poverty. It just happens to be the one in Cape Town with the best night life.

With spots such as Mzoli’s, Maphindi’s Tavern, the Yellow Door jazz club and a host of shebeens, many ­people from outside Gugulethu go to the ­township to socialise, making it a township ­melting pot of sorts, with all the trappings ­involved.

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