Addicts’ CBD reign of terror

2017-01-30 10:23
A group of vagrants gather on Hoosen Haffejee Street on Friday.

A group of vagrants gather on Hoosen Haffejee Street on Friday. (Thabang Mathebula)

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Some business owners near the Ematsheni Beer Hall in the Pietermaritzburg CBD have threatened to take the law into their own hands against the vagrants who are now camping outside their businesses.

Following the closure of the notorious beer hall, the whoonga-smoking vagrants who used to live there are now scattered around the CBD, camping in large crowds outside businesses and openly smoking and trading in whoonga.

Business owners are on edge, fearing they could be targeted by the groups of vagrants.

They have pleaded for the authorities to intervene, but say neither the police nor the municipality responded to their calls for help on Friday.

They believe the police and the municipality should take full responsibility for what the area has turned into, especially after evicting the vagrants from the beer hall.

“What did they expect? The vagrants would obviously not just let this go without a fight. What the police and municipality should be doing now is increasing their visibility here and monitoring the area,” said one business owner.

The business owners warned that if things get out of hand, they will be compelled to take the law into their own hands.

They said the area seems to have been hijacked by the vagrants.

The nearby taxi rank has also become a sanctuary for whoonga smokers and sellers.

The people working around the area say they live in fear for their lives, and believe the number of muggings has increased.

When Weekend Witness visited the area on Friday, a day after the vagrants clashed with police and municipal security who tried to move them away from the taxi rank, the defiant whoonga smokers had turned the area into a hive of whoonga smoking and trading.

A business owner who did not want to be named said they are now losing customers because people don’t want to walk around there, fearing they will be mugged.

“Muggings happens on our watch; they don’t hide this at all.

“Neither the municipality nor the police will assist us but if we take matters into our own hands, they come here running. We can’t continue to run our business in fear like this.

“When we arrived this morning, we found about 80 to 120 whoonga smokers right on our doorstep, with the yard full of cigarette stompies on the floor.

“We called the municipality and the police and no one has arrived. When we called Loop Street [Pietermaritzburg Police Station] police in the morning, they gave us the cellphone number of a police officer whose phone was off,” said the business owner.

He added that they witnessed a man being mugged of his cellphone in the morning.

Provincial police spokesperson Thulani Zwane said the police will increase their visibility in the area to ensure that people are safe.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ematsheni beer hall

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