Frustrated business owners want city to shut down crime-ridden beer hall Business owners want beer hall to be shut down

2016-12-28 06:01
PHOTO: Ian carbutt Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese inspects the eMatsheni Beer Hall in Retief Street. Business owners in the area have complained about escalating crime that they believe comes from criminals squatting inside the hall.

PHOTO: Ian carbutt Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese inspects the eMatsheni Beer Hall in Retief Street. Business owners in the area have complained about escalating crime that they believe comes from criminals squatting inside the hall.

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DESPITE propositions to shut down Pietermaritzburg’s “crime den”, the eMatsheni Beer Hall in Retief Street remains fully functional.

Store owners said the infamous hall is now “infested” with people they believe to be whoonga addicts.

A frustrated business owner, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said that his business has been suffering lately due to the increase of “whoonga smokers” and destitute people squatting in the hall.

“Just last week, some of my supplies displayed outside were stolen by the whoonga addicts. Not so long ago, they came into my shop and stole my phone which was on the counter,” he said.

“These guys are extremely dangerous and they would do anything to get money to buy their next fix”.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said there is not much that police can do.

“We cannot chase the people out of the beer hall as the property belongs to the municipality. All we can do is police the area and encourage people to report any robberies to us,” Ngobese said.

He said police constantly monitor the area via patrols as well as cameras positioned on the streets.

A street vendor, who has been trading in the area for over nine years, said they live in constant fear.

“I want them [drug addicts] gone. The municipality and police must group them together and go throw them far away where they cannot find their way back,” said the angry woman.

“There are young girls in there, girls as young as 12 years old. They smoke whoonga and become street cats.”

She suggested the Msunduzi Municipality should clear out the beer hall and rent the space to vendors.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the municipality’s plans to shut down the hall are still under way.

“Unfortunately, we cannot just wake up and go shut the place down. It is a long process and we are following procedures,” said Mafumbatha.

She said all those who fall victim to crime in the vicinity should report it to the police.

“When people are mugged or attacked, it becomes a crime element and has nothing to do with the municipality. People must bear with us and report crime-related problems to the police,” she said.

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