Vagrants snatch wigs

2019-05-01 06:00
A shop in Hoosen Haffejee street that vagrants allegedly frequent.

A shop in Hoosen Haffejee street that vagrants allegedly frequent.

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AS whoonga addicts resort to ripping earrings from women’s ears and tearing wigs off their heads to sell to raise money for a fix, Berg Street business owners say they are losing customers by the dozen.

Several business owners said whoonga users are robbing their customers and stores almost daily.

They have also complained that whoonga users leave the road and sidewalks filthy and that calls to police and the municipality have fallen on deaf ears.

Auto and General overseer Aniff Mohamed said the vagrants and whoonga addicts had become a major problem in the area since the Ematsheni Beer Hall was demolished in early 2017.

“They used to stand outside my shop, around 30 to 40 people, smoking whoonga, until I cleared the area. Then they moved next door to a property that was supposed to be a business.”

When The Witness visited the building, people could be seen walking into the lot with large bags filled with cardboard and plastic.

Children were heard crying inside.

At the entrance of the lot, there is a small shop front that advertises the property as a salon, a tuckshop, a panel beating and spray painting business and an upholstery business.

“They [vagrants] have broken into every shop along this street. They broke into the store opposite me last Saturday,” he said. “People are too scared to come here, even if they have been customers for years.”

Another business owner who asked not to be named said a woman was robbed right outside his shop the same morning.

“He ran up and pulled her earrings from her ears and then ran into the bush near the demolished beer hall site.

“Her ears were bleeding. We could not catch him.

“The police arrest them but we see them back on the street the next day.”

Another shop owner, who also declined to be named, identified a property where he alleged vagrants go to buy and smoke whoonga in the CBD.

He claimed he had seen police pass the grounds on several occasions without taking any action.

“I have also seen people running around hiding whoonga in the electricity boxes and manholes so police do not find anything.

“We are too nervous to say anything to the police because we will be victimised. Nobody wants to shop down here. I have seen addicts steal wigs right off women’s heads.

“I have been robbed twice. Seven men armed with knives approached me and demanded my phone.”

Msunduzi Safe City general manager Lucas Holtzhausen confirmed that there was a problem in the area.

He cited as an example a recent robbery on the corner of Pietermaritz and Retief streets where three men robbed an elderly man before fleeing into the field where the beer hall was.

“Safe City is observing incidents on a daily basis in the same area of pedestrians getting robbed or theft out of motor vehicles.

“We would like to warn pedestrians and drivers to exercise extreme caution when they are in this area as whoonga addicts are looking for opportunities to steal property and sell it for money to buy drugs,” he said.

“We have reported the matter to police and the municipality. Police have started doing patrols around the area but there is only so much they can do.”

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said that the issue with drugs was a provincial and national issue.

He said police and the municipality recently closed off Market Square where whoonga was being sold to people in the open.

He said police would continue to patrol the CBD and monitor the situation. Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the mayor has a clean-up campaign every Friday that addresses cleanliness in the city as well as social ills.

“The issue of drugs involves a number of stakeholders such as police who deal with crime.

“The municipality is aware of the issue and is engaging with the relevant departments to try and come up with a permanent solution,” she said.


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