Howick’s havens of vice

2015-10-15 11:07
uMngeni Ward 2 councillor Janis Holmes points out the damage to a property at 30 Morling Street, Howick, which has been described as a crime haven.

uMngeni Ward 2 councillor Janis Holmes points out the damage to a property at 30 Morling Street, Howick, which has been described as a crime haven. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - Stinking of faeces and littered with condoms and rubbish, three dilapidated Howick properties declared national monuments have been described as havens of vice by neighbouring residents. 

Owned by the Public Works Department, the properties — located at 26 and 30 Morling Street, and 45 Bell Street — have become a major cause of concern for residents due to increasing criminal activity in their immediate vicinity.

Responsibility for the buildings has shifted between the department, the uMngeni Municipality and the police over “several years”, they said.

However, with no immediate plans in place for their rehabilitation, neighbouring residents have suffered a plague of break-ins and thefts from their properties, allegedly at the hands of criminals who have made the buildings their homes.

According to Howick Ward 2 councillor Janis Holmes, the roofs on the two properties in Morling Street, which are opposite the Howick police station, were removed at her request to prevent vagrants from sleeping there.

The Witness visited the homes, which have been proclaimed national monuments for their heritage, and found the floors strewn with faeces, torn clothes, filthy mattresses and condoms.

The walls were charred from vagrants lighting fires inside rooms, and the window frames and everything else of value had been stripped off.

Holmes said the criminals hiding in the buildings posed a threat to people walking home as Morling Street was a pedestrian route from the taxi rank.

According to department spokesperson Thamsanqa Mchunu, an exchange agreement was recently signed with the uMngeni Municipality, in terms of which the plots owned by the department would be exchanged for municipal properties the department wants.

The municipality’s Thando Mgaga said they planned to extend the structure at 30 Morling Street to function as a taxi rank. “Hopefully the dilapidated and vandalised buildings will be demolished in the near future to cater for the much needed facility, as the present scenario related to the current taxi rank [which is informal] cannot continue,” he said.

Still a complete structure, the property at 45 Bell Street was found littered with faeces and trash, and was also stripped of anything of value.

A resident in a neighbouring street said they often had property stolen from their yard. When they gave chase, the thieves disappeared into the abandoned property and could not be tracked.

“There have been several break-ins and thefts of property from yards in this area, and in every case the thieves flee into the house at number 45. We are too scared to chase after them there because there are no lights,” the resident said.

According to Mchunu, the department was negotiating with the police to occupy the property. The police’s Gay Ebrahim said Howick police officers regularly patrolled and visited the premises “to discourage any form of criminality being conducted from there”

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