Traders expose guards

2015-08-04 12:16
The guard appears to check the money before driving off.

The guard appears to check the money before driving off. (Supplied)

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FUMING traders in the city centre have joined hands to expose ­corruption, saying they are “fed up” with being treated badly by municipal security guards after refusing to pay bribes to them.

One businessman captured ­numerous videos that purport to show the guards accepting bribes from­ ­informal traders and harassing those who do not pay them.

The shop owner, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, claims illegal informal traders pay the officers to allow them to continue selling their wares on the streets.

“We are absolutely fed up with this treatment. We pay taxes and rates and are legal traders, yet we are treated badly because we don’t want to pay them bribes. We feel victimised for doing the right thing,” said the businessman.

One video shows an informal trader approaching a municipal officer near his official vehicle and appearing to hand over cash to him. The officer appears to count the money before getting into the vehicle and driving off.

“This is just one of the many times we caught them out. This has been happening for years, but we have kept quiet. Now it is getting out of hand and something needs to be done,” said the man.

He said informal traders flooded the city’s streets and traded illegally, while legal businesses paid almost R25 000 for rent each month and were taxed.

He added that he was fined last week when his truck parked illegally to ­offload goods.

“Yes, I admit we were wrong to park there, but what else can we do? The informal traders flood the streets and pavements, and even the loading zones. We have nowhere else to park and ­offload goods. We get fined when the people who are doing illegal things are left alone.”

An informal trader on Pietermaritz Street said he “went through all the right channels” to trade on the street and has an area marked out for him. However, he claims he is constantly ­harassed because he refuses to pay the municipal officers.

“I sell legal cigarettes while people around me sell the illegal stuff. ­Municipal security always come to me specifically and ask me questions about the things I sell, while they just walk past the other people who sell illegally,” said the stall owner.

A nearby shop owner captured ­another video when municipal security ransacked the bags of a stall owner who refused to pay a bribe, before ­“confiscating” his cigarettes.

“If they were illegal, which they are not, and they confiscated the goods, then they would have had to give him [the stall owner] a receipt for what they were confiscating … But they basically stole this man’s cigarettes because they didn’t give him a receipt,” said the businessman who captured the video.

The stall owner said he felt “further traumatised” when the officers came to him “drunk as hell” last Saturday and said they would fight him if he did not give up his goods.

“We are losing confidence in the ­municipality. It seems like they are more concerned for the people selling on the street than those who pay taxes and rates,” said another shop owner on Retief Street.

The woman, who also asked not to be named, said she had been trading for the past 12 years, but all calls to the municipality fell on deaf ears.

“We have complained about the ­litter and dirt in the area. We place all our dirt in bin bags, but the informal traders dump rotting tomatoes in the gutter and clog the drains. We have ­requested that a skip be placed outside, but no one from the municipality has responded,” said the woman.

Msunduzi acting spokesperson Madeleine Jackson said no report of bribery and fraud had been reported to them. She urged those who witnessed such crimes to report them via the ­municipality’s fraud hotline.

“Once that information has been ­received, this will be dealt with in relation to municipal internal processes.

“The municipality does not support fraud and corruption, hence the ­hotline,” said Jackson.

She added that they would launch a campaign to re-register all street ­traders. “We will re-issue new trading licences and identify or terminate those that are trading illegally.”

Jackson added that the municipality had a database of all registered traders, and legal traders should carry an ­identification card with them

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  bribery

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