Ematsheni evicted vagrants squat in nearby taxi rank

2017-01-03 10:21
Since the closure of the Ematsheni Beer hall last week a crowd of hostile vagrants and traders took up residence in a nearby taxi rank where they go about their business while fretful business owners and commuters say they cannot operate under these conditions.

Since the closure of the Ematsheni Beer hall last week a crowd of hostile vagrants and traders took up residence in a nearby taxi rank where they go about their business while fretful business owners and commuters say they cannot operate under these conditions. (File)

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Irate traders and vagrants that were recently evicted from the Ematsheni beer hall have occupied a nearby taxi rank.

Since the closure of the Ematsheni Beer hall last week a crowd of hostile vagrants and traders took up residence in a nearby taxi rank where they go about their business while fretful business owners and commuters say they cannot operate under these conditions.  

The Ematsheni taxi rank resembles a gloomy drug dealing dungeon with only a handful of commuters and shoppers moving swiftly in and out of the rank while clutching their belongings as hundreds of vagrants lurk nearby. The Witness saw men operating what appeared to be a drug ring in full public view. Aggressive vagrants closed ranks and hurled threats of physical violence at a Witness reporter while she was speaking to a business owner inside the taxi rank. The business owner had to resort to closing his shop and escorted the reporter out of the building under the watchful eye of security guards when the angry vagrants gathered outside the shop.

Osgar Mohamed who owns a Check Save supermarket franchise in the lower CBD near the taxi rank, described the situation as a “ticking time bomb”.

“The situation here is a social riot waiting to happen. You can see that these people are very hostile and quite soon the taxi owners could take matters into their own hands. The municipality should have had a solid action plan before evicting all those people from the beer hall,” said Mohamed.

Mohamed added that the situation was also bad for business. “The stench is unbearable and it’s affecting business because customers are obviously afraid to come in because of all the whoonga addicts and dealers lurking around. People are scared,” he said. “It is not safe for anyone here,” he added.

Most of the shops inside the taxi rank were closed and another was operating from behind a closed burglar gate. Owner Shohisduslam Jabed of the Tastia Supermarket said the municipality had to resolve the issue soon. “We can’t carry on like this. These people sleep here outside the shop and there are many of them, about 300 sometimes. They scare away customers and we can’t even open the burglar gate because we are afraid they will come in and steal all our stock,” said Jabed.

Pietermaritzburg SAPS spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said the police were not aware of the evicted vagrants’ whereabouts and were not concerned as the police did not have any issues with “individuals” but with the illegal occupation of municipal property. “As SAPS we have achieved our goal in terms of the operation to remove illegal occupants from a municipal building and until the taxi rank owners lodge a formal complaint it is not within our jurisdiction to interfere with what happens on private property,” said Ngobese adding that homelessness was a social issue that needed to be addressed by the department of social development.

Some traders who said not everyone that occupied the beer hall was a criminal are adamant that the eviction was unfair and have since been left desperate and destitute.

Gugu Hlezi a trader who said she had been trading at the beer hall for almost 20 years before last week’s eviction said she does not know how she is going to survive without her prime source of income. “We could not even celebrate New Year’s this past weekend because we have no money and my children have to go to school soon. Where are we going to get all that money if we can’t trade? We have been in this business for years and we don’t know any other work,” said Hlezi.

Lulu Nene who said her fridge was still locked inside the beer hall echoed Hlezi’s sentiments. “Really, I don’t know what they expect us to do. They should have at least given us notice before evicting us. How could they just chase us out like dogs, where are we supposed to go?” she said. Nene said the traders planned to go to the City Hall to meet with the mayor today regarding the issue.

Msunduzi Municipality was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print. Efforts to contact the KZN Taxi Association were unsuccessful on Monday.

 

 

  

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ematsheni beer hall

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