Traders lose after station fire

2017-12-05 06:00
Khayalethu Mfubesi of Prasa talks to one of the vagrants living at the burnt area under the railway bridge at Mutual train station in Maitland.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Khayalethu Mfubesi of Prasa talks to one of the vagrants living at the burnt area under the railway bridge at Mutual train station in Maitland.PHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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Informal traders lost thousands of rands worth of stock when a Prasa building in the Mutual train station in Maitland burnt on Sunday 26 November.

More than six vendors kept their stock in the shelter under the bridge at the station. The shelter burnt at about 18:10, a few hours after they had left.

The fire was reportedly started in a feud between two rivals over a missing packet of drugs. A group of men reportedly argued about drugs at the shelter and threatened to burn the place. They left, but a few minutes later homeless people staying under the bridge saw smoke and flames.

They could not save anything in time.

Dwaod Baily says he lost everything but he is glad to be alive. He says the worst could have happened if they had been attacked while they were sleeping.

“These guys had issues. I am not sure if it was tik or coke but they wanted their drugs and started a fight. We thought they had left and we slept. Luckily we were not in a deep sleep and we saw the smoke. Everything happened so fast that we could not save our stuff.

“It is not us who burnt this place. We like it here and we have nowhere else to go, we are still staying here,” says Baily.

A vendor known only as Isaac says he lost stock worth about R4000. He says this has severely affected his and the other traders’ families. “I have been selling here for more than 15 years and this has never happened. We are very hurt and frustrated. We appeal to anyone to help us with another safe shelter to keep our stock and continue running our businesses,” he says.

He says the traders’ lost stock includes tables, chairs, fruit, chips, sweets, body spray and phone chargers.

Another trader, Gamu Chipuraro, says she lost her only table. She is disappointed, especially because she feels the station had always been one of the safest, despite the vagrants and mentally ill people who live under the bridges.

When People’s Post visited officials were also inspecting the damage. One of them, Khayalethu Mfubesi, said Prasa was busy investigating the cause of the damage.

He said the damage would cost the state-owned company a lot of money to fix.

He claimed this was the second fire caused by vagrants this year which “unnecessarily adds costs to the company”. “We will not tolerate it. We are investigating this and once we get to the bottom of it we will know what steps to take. In the meantime, we condemn illegal occupation of our properties. We will be removing them soon.”

He said they had a security system at their stations but found it difficult to control vagrancy. Mfubesi said they would engage with neighbouring stakeholders to try to work out a plan to tighten security and prevent vagrancy.

“We are trying to set up a meeting to find solutions to this problem. It is unacceptable,” he said.

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