PMB’s red-light spring-clean

2010-10-25 00:00

IN a belated spring-clean, police have stepped up their efforts to rid Pietermaritzburg’s streets of the burgeoning sex trade.

It will be a blow for some sex workers and their customers, but many city dwellers will breathe a sigh of relief now that the nightly parade of scantily clad young girls and unlit cars is being curbed.

Burger, Prince Alfred and Masukwana streets are affected most by the sex trade.

In an operation led by Sergeant Paul Eraman, police arrested about 50 women.

They were all taken to the Loop Street police station in an operation that began at 8 pm and culminated at 10 pm on Thursday night.

The Witness spoke to various community members who live in these streets.

Nzuzo Khanyile, a manager at Emphithi Pub and Grill in Prince Alfred Street, said: “Prostitution plays a huge role in affecting our business negatively, because our patrons who come here for the first time normally do not return after they have been harassed by these girls.”

He said the pub spends a lot of money on electricity because it is forced to leave the lights on so that the women do not take the opportunity to use its premises for their trade.

Another business owner said the women litter the streets by burning rubbish, which piles up on the pavements, especially on cold nights, and remains uncollected for days.

“Our streets are sometimes littered with used tissues and condoms,” she said.

She said she has been operating her business in Prince Alfred Street for more than 10 years.

“It was worse when I first came here,” she said. “I consistently phoned the police to report these girls. Now the situation is not as bad; it’s just that now they get into the shop and steal from me during busy hours.”

A grade 12 pupil at Marion High School who lives in Prince Alfred Street said prostitution is a big problem, especially now that she is preparing for her final exams.

“We cannot focus because these girls stand on the road and make a lot of noise,” said the pupil.

The Witness also spoke to some of the sex workers.

Most of them said they are on the streets because it is the only way to support themselves — they have no other source of income.

One sex worker said,“I am pregnant and the father of my baby does not want to take responsibility for his action; being on the road is the only way I know that will help me save money for my unborn child.”

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said: “The girls were arrested for loitering with purposes of solicitation. They were fined a R100 and were all released on Friday.”

She said the operation was a success and it will be continuing on a weekly basis. “We have created a database of all the girls that were caught so that when we catch them again, they will be forced to pay bigger fines,” said Jeevan.

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