Undercover cops on patrol

2017-02-09 09:37
Alleged whoonga smokers squatting outside Vather’s garage opposite the Ematsheni taxi rank.

Alleged whoonga smokers squatting outside Vather’s garage opposite the Ematsheni taxi rank. (Thabang Mathebula)

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Criminals will soon have nowhere to hide when a contingent of undercover police officers take to the streets in the CBD in a bid to stamp out crime.

The focus will be on the Ematsheni area, which is now occupied by vagrants and alleged whoonga smokers.

Following their eviction from the Ematsheni beer hall in December last year the vagrants have opted to occupy the pavements outside buildings along Hoosen Haffejee Street in the Ematsheni area, upsetting local residents and business owners. It is alleged that the vagrants smoke, sell and buy whoonga and other drugs in plain sight.

A man who has been living in a building on Hoosen Haffejee Street for over 70 years said he has never seen the streets in such an appalling condition. “There are over 100 people who litter, smoke, deal and urinate on the street,” he said.

The man added that the street used to smell of jacaranda flowers before the vagrants moved there. “Now all that we can smell is urine and even faeces,” he said.

A number of local business owners and their customers have also complained about the presence of the vagrants, saying they are making the area unsafe.

Vather’s Garage, which is located on Hoosen Haffejee Street opposite the Ematsheni taxi rank, has decided to erect a metal fence and a gate in a bid to keep out the vagrants. A week ago The Witness photographed a crowd of vagrants who gathered on the pavement outside the garage.

Ameen Aniff, the owner of Auto and General Supplies, which is also located on Hoosen Haffejee Street, said the presence of the vagrants is making his customers uncomfortable.

“Our customers fear that they will get robbed,” Aniff said.

In an interview with The Witness this week, the uMgungundlovu South cluster police commander Major-General Phumelele Makhoba said the issue of the Ematsheni area is being addressed.

“In dealing with the people in the Ematsheni area we should consider freedom of association as well as freedom of movement,” Makhoba said.

“That is what makes it difficult for the police to intervene, as most as these vagrants are just sitting on the pavements, which is not a crime,” she said.

However, Makhoba added that a number of undercover police officers will be deployed to patrol the area in an attempt to stamp out all criminal activity. “The officers will deal with the people who sell and smoke whoonga and other drugs,” she said.

Makhoba added that addressing the issue of the vagrants requires input from a number of stakeholders.

“The police are working with the Department of Health, the Department of Social Development, the office of the mayor, Safe City and local business owners that operate in the Ematsheni area,” she said.

“We can’t just throw all of [the vagrants] in jail as attempts to rehabilitate these people also need to be made,” Makhoba said.

She went on to assure people that uMgungundlovu­ South Cluster has good relationships with the various stakeholders. As an example, Makhoba said there are police officers stationed at Safe City 24 hours a day.

“The officers are there in anticipation of any incident that could happen,” Makhoba said.

She added that all the mentioned stakeholders are in the process of finding a way to address the issue of the vagrants.

Furthermore, Makhoba warned that members of the public should be careful when they are on the streets. “People must avoid talking on their cellphones or carrying large amounts of cash when walking in the street,” Makhoba said.

Makhoba also warned drivers about driving with their windows open and leaving valuable objects in plain sight that could attract robbers.

“Residents also need to play their part in applying their own safety measures Makhoba said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ematsheni beer hall

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