Whoonga addicts suspected as business goes up in flames

2015-06-02 11:15
Firefighters work to subdue a fire that broke out in a building on Hoosen Haffejee Street. It is suspected that the fire was started by Whoonga addicts.

Firefighters work to subdue a fire that broke out in a building on Hoosen Haffejee Street. It is suspected that the fire was started by Whoonga addicts. (Jonathan Burton)

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WHOONGA addicts are suspected to have been the cause of a fire which gutted the top floor of a hardware and paint store ­yesterday.

The fire department were called to the Auto and General Supplies building in Hoosen Haffejee (Berg) Street after it caught alight at around 7 am yesterday.

Naeem Aniff, son of business owner Sham Aniff, said he believes Whoonga addicts started a fire in the back of their building which may have caused old stock to catch alight. “We have a problem with Whoonga [smokers] who use an old, demolished building next door to smoke. At night we believe they stay in certain rooms of our buildings and start fires to keep warm,” said Naeem, adding that due to the building reaching as far back as Pietermaritz Street, the Whoonga smokers have found easy access to the nearby businesses.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Nqobile Madonda confirmed that vagrants entered the building and started a fire.

The top floor in the double-storey building which was “totally gutted” housed old paint stock and empty containers.

A firefighter was rushed to Mediclinic Hospital after he sustained heat stress resulting in heat exhaustion.

“We are just grateful that all our stock and highly flammable products weren’t ignited and that no one was seriously injured. We really need the municipality and police to step up and remove these addicts to prevent any serious accidents. All our businesses are affected by these Whoonga addicts,” said Naeem. He said the building next door to Auto and General Supplies caught alight two weeks ago but was extinguished before any serious damage occurred. “It is not just our business that is affected. Everyone on this road has complained about Whoonga addicts entering their buildings or yards at night. They drink at the eMatsheni Beer Hall down the road and then come to the broken-down building,” he said.

The owner of Morne Panel Beaters in ­Hoosen Haffejee Street, Morne Amod, said Whoonga addicts have caused “endless problems” for businesses in the last month.

Amod said he caught men allegedly ­stealing electricity cables and performed a citizen’s arrest. “I caught the guys in the act. We haven’t had electricity for about a week because of them and when I caught them and called the cops, they [police] never arrived,” said Amod.

He said another addict allegedly broke into a customer’s car and stole a radiator.

“These drug addicts don’t only steal our things but our customers’ as well. They run into the beer hall and then there is no trace of them. This is our business and our money so we all need to take a stand,” he said.

Amod said some of the Whoonga addicts made a hole in the fences separating the businesses and gain access through it at night. “That is when they light the fires and sleep. It is a big problem for us now and we just don’t know what to do,” he said.

Madonda said the municipality received information on vagrants “demolishing” buildings in Hoosen Haffejee Street.

“According to the information that I have, vagrants have been demolishing these buildings for building materials. We attended a fire two weeks ago behind this premises and the suspected cause of the fire was that vagrants had set it alight,” she said.

She said the issue of street children, ­vagrants and Whoonga addicts is being looked at by a joint task team.

Police did not respond by the time of ­going to print.

ADDICTION recovery expert and ­councillor Jarred Cronje says Whoonga is fast becoming a “new devastating drug” in the province.

Whoonga is a cocktail drug made of dagga, antiretrovirals, rat poison and heroin.

“It is a cheap and easy drug that costs between R20 and R30. It’s rolled and made into a joint and smoked like ­marijuana,” Cronje said.

He said the use of the drug has ­become a “huge problem” in KwaZulu- Natal and Gauteng. The drug is know as “nyoape” in Gauteng.

“People become hooked from the first time they use it and addicts can go to any length to get the drug. There have been some cases where ­addicts even mugged Aids patients for their ARVs,” he said.

Cronje said Whoonga has a ­distinctive smell of vinegar.

“Those who can smell dagga and vinegar should know that someone is smoking Whoonga nearby. They should call the police immediately,” he said

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