It’s neighbour vs neighbour

2014-01-24 00:00

A NASTY neighbourhood row has erupted in the usually quiet Steele Road in Pelham, as allegations fly, reprisals are feared and derogatory slogans are spraypainted.

The peace of the neighbourhood has been shattered following allegations that a brothel is operating there, resulting in counterclaims of racism and mean-spiritedness.

Two sources who spoke to The Witness on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the suspected brothel is a rented house — its owners now live in Durban — located a short driving distance from the Alexandra police station.

However, Sibongiseni Mbatha, who rents the house, denied yesterday that he was operating a brothel. He said he found the allegations offensive and considered them slanderous to him and those living in the house.

Sources said the owners had intended the house to be a bed and breakfast, but the costs were too high and they resorted to renting it out.

“The situation has got worse; it’s actually a public disturbance now,” said one of the sources.

“It’s a very nice house. The owners … had renovated it and subdivided it into smaller sections, and each bedroom has its own bathroom.

“There are women who live there; over the past two months I have seen the same women staying there.”

The source said over the past few months, their quality of life had decreased as more men allegedly frequent the area, looking for sex.

“This is a very nice area … now there are men of all races coming here. They used to park inside and would be in for a short time and ... leave.

“But now they park in the street, blocking our driveways. We are woken up by rowdy noises and taxis picking up or dropping off women in the early hours of the morning, and we’ve found condoms in our driveway.”

Another source said she found a group of men blocking her driveway and drinking liquor this past weekend. When she told them to move, she alleged they retaliated by vandalising her property, spray painting “drug house” on her perimeter wall. She reported the incident to police, who registered a complaint.

“At night, there could be 15 cars parked in the street… I’ve often woken up to find condoms in my driveway.

“It’s just fancy cars coming down here and women ... jumping into those cars, so what are we supposed to think is happening there? It’s only women who live in that house, so why do we have so many men driving around here?

“I am a runner, and I live alone. I am worried about safety as there are now so many men out on this road.”

The owner of the house — who identified herself only as Sally and refused repeated attempts to get her surname — said they were unaware of the allegations. “I cannot say yes or no to the allegations. We will have to go and speak to him [Mbatha] and we will take it from there.”

Mbatha showed The Witness the yard of the house and the signage he took down after it was vandalised when someone spray-painted “sex” on the guesthouse sign.

He said he rented the house in July last year and has been running it as a commune, housing female students who work part-time and workers who study part-time.

He said eight people normally live there.

“Students live here and they have boyfriends who come by to visit them. I cannot stop them. Because there is a problem with public transport, they often use the metered taxis.”

He said he believed the complaints were motivated by racism. “I am one of only two black people living in this area. Some people just do not want to see black people succeed. If the people who complained did not intend to see me fail, they would have come to me or gone to the police rather than go to the newspaper.

“If I was running a brothel, there would have been a burly guard or high walls and security cameras, but anyone can jump over this fence,” he said.

The residents said they had reported the allegations to the police, but no case had been opened.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said they were not aware of the allegations and would monitor the area.

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