PMB’s cesspit of crime

2014-12-08 00:00

CRIME, filth, poverty, drugs and violence: these are some of the things that lurk in the shadows of what can be noted as Pietermaritzburg’s worst building.

The Witness took a tour of the Matsheni Beer Hall on the corner of Retief and Hoosen Haffejee (Berg) streets.

Members of the Community Policing Forum, Business Fighting Crime and municipal security were faced with towering heaps of rubbish from the surrounding vendors piled in the middle of what used to be a parking lot. The stench of decaying meat and urine soaked the air surrounding the trash.

They had to look to the floor to avoid the faeces stains spread throughout the parking lot and the pool of urine and other waste that had formed near the toilets behind the beer hall.

Chairperson of the Matsheni Committee Dumisani Mdlangathi said that the municipality has forgotten the building in terms of basic service delivery.

“Municipal waste trucks only come in once a week but too much [waste] accumulates in that time. The toilets don’t work.

“There is no electricity; vendors must connect illegally. The gates are broken so thugs, criminals and vagrants come in at night and do their own thing,” Mdlangathi said.

Another huge problem is the crime in that vicinity. Drugs, prostitution, muggings and rape aren’t confined to the shadows; but take place in open sight in and around the hall. Inside, there are a number of little shops surrounding circular concrete seating areas in the middle. Red-eyed vagrants sleep on the shops’ roofs, defecating on themselves and on the floor. This in the midst of food stalls less than a metre away.

Without electricity, the sun glimmering through the windows of the gloomy hall sheds light onto the drugs like “woonga”, “rock” and marijuana openly sold in the corners.

According to Mdlangathi, criminal activity is caused by “the youngsters who come here to rob” during the day, but worse things go on at night when all the shops are closed. Thieves wait for shoppers to walk past the entrance of the hall, grab their parcels and run through the building, disappearing through the crowds.

Pietermaritzburg Community Policing Forum chairperson Claire Crawley said statistics show more than half of the crime in the entire CBD happens just in the vicinity of Matsheni.

“I am horrified by the unhygienic filth these people work in. There is a major need for a clean-up and a renovation. We will as a committee plan a way forward,” Crawley said.

The hall is the property of the municipality.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said they would investigate the matter.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

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