Vagrants facing ‘war’

2018-07-25 06:00
Vagrants sit together to smoke whoonga on Retief Street. PHOTO: NHLANHLA NKOSI

Vagrants sit together to smoke whoonga on Retief Street. PHOTO: NHLANHLA NKOSI

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PIETERMARITZBURG taxi owners have warned that “war is on the cards” if authorities do not act decisively soon on whoonga users who have infiltrated taxi ranks in the CBD.

The taxi said on Tuesday that the group of vagrants and drug peddlers started taking over the taxi ranks after they were moved from Matsheni Beer Hall in Retief Street after it was closed by Msunduzi Municipality in December 2016.

uMgungundlovu regional taxi council chairperson Bheki Sokhela said numerous attempts to get the municipality to assist them had fallen on deaf ears.

“We are not going to tolerate this any longer. We want the whoonga boys out of the taxi ranks.

“Commuters don’t feel safe and this is affecting our business.

People are opting to hire private transport because they are scared to come to our taxi ranks.

We won’t lose our business over something that can be managed,” he said.

Sokhela said they believed whoonga users were the reason behind the spike in petty thefts at taxi ranks.

“We have public toilets but they are not being used.

There is a strong urine stench outside the taxi ranks because people are scared to go inside the toilets.

“Old women are forced to urinate outside; we can’t allow this to continue.

“We want them out of taxi ranks. If the municipality is not willing to meet us halfway, we’ll be forced to remove them forcefully.”

A street vendor at the Retief taxi rank, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said she feared for her safety.

“Whenever I need to go and use the toilet, I say a little prayer.

The situation is out of hand.

“People are robbed on a daily basis. You can’t even fight because there are over 50 of them.”

The street vendor said the vagrants also posed a serious health hazard because commuters were inhaling the whoonga that is being smoked.

“Why is the municipality not doing anything?

“Are they waiting for someone to die before they resolve this issue?”

Fires were burnt and the vagrants, who were standing in groups, appeared drugged, when journalists arrived in Retief Street taxi rank on Tuesday.

A commuter who uses the Retief Street taxi rank said: “They sit and wait for people inside the toilet so they can rob them.

“Our town is not safe anymore.

The Retief taxi rank has become a no-go area.

The authorities need to devise a plan around this issue.”

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the City is working on a plan to resolve the issue.

She said the criminality aspect was the domain of the police and should be reported to them.

She said the City would reinforce security at the public toilets around the city.

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