Drug peddlers take over downtown CBD

2017-02-15 06:02
PHOTO: nokuthula khanyile Vagrants camp along Hoosen Haffejee Street.

PHOTO: nokuthula khanyile Vagrants camp along Hoosen Haffejee Street.

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RESIDENTS and business owners say they are being terrorised by a group of alleged “whoonga-users” who have set up camp along Hoosen Haffejee Street (Berg Street) and the downtown CBD.

The business owners say the group of vagrants and drug peddlers moved from eMatsheni Beer Hall in Retief Street after it was closed by Msunduzi Municipality in December last year.

Residents say they are constantly being robbed and their cars broken into.

“We have businesses very close to where these people are situated. It’s really not safe, [and] safety is the biggest concern. We do not feel safe crossing the road and we don’t feel safe getting to work in the morning or when we leave in the evening,” said a resident.

The residents and business owners are asking the Msunduzi Municipality to intervene.

“They smoke whoonga and other drugs in broad daylight and it is affecting us and scaring our clients away. No one wants to visit this side of town anymore, it’s chaotic and the sad thing is the municipality and the police are doing little to resolve this matter,” said a business owner.

Another resident, who did not want to be named and lives in a block of flats on Hoosen Haffejee Street, said when she is alone she cannot even go to the toilet.

“We are living in fear. They are outside our flat 24 hours a day where they have built shacks - we don’t feel safe to go out anymore.

“Our doors are always locked because we do not know what level of crime they are capable of committing to get their next fix. They do not have jobs so to get the money they steal.”

The resident said this is also a serious health hazard because their children are inhaling the whoonga that is being smoked outside.

“Why is the municipality not doing anything? Are they waiting for someone to die before they resolve this issue? This cannot go on any longer; the city must put an end to them living here.

“Even people using the Sweetwaters taxi rank are getting robbed of their belongings every day. Vagrants rob people and run to where they know they cannot be found.”

When the Maritzburg Echo arrived in Hoosen Haffejee Street on Tuesday fires were burning and the vagrants, who were standing in groups, were visibly high.

A commuter who uses the Sweetwaters taxi rank said the vagrants also occupy the public toilets in Retief Street.

“I got the shock of my life last Saturday when I got to the toilet and they were there. I think they sit and wait for people inside the toilet so they can rob them. Our town is not safe anymore. Berg Street has become a no-go area. The authorities need to come up with a plan around this issue.”

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the city is working on a plan to combat the issue.

“The criminality issue is the issue of the police, it must be reported to them. With regards to the illegal shacks that are being erected, the municipality will deal with the perpetrator accordingly.”

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