Vendors ‘live in fear’

2018-03-06 06:00

Devastated shop owners in the Phumlani informal settlement are calling on police to step in urgently for the sake of their safety.

This comes after local vendors received more death threats from gangsters during a forced meeting held last month.

The terrified breadwinners from the underprivileged community situated between Pelican Park and Lotus River say an amount of R800, as a monthly protection fee, is collected from them by members of a local gang.

A resident and vendor from Phumlani, who cannot be identified for safety reasons, says the group called their most recent meeting on Monday 12 February at 17:00. Three vendors confirmed the meetings and activity of this gang.

“They came around with loudspeakers to give the message to us. Out of interest and fear we attended to see what it was all about. The chairperson of the gang was present to give the message on behalf of their leader.

“They warned that if we don’t give them the money they will remove us from the area or kill us. They say it is our protection fee, for them to look after us,” she explains­.

“I moved from Gugulethu to this area for safety and now I don’t even feel safe anymore. I have been vending here for over 10 years. These gangsters don’t look after our people – they cause much more chaos and corruption in our community. They came to remind me last week that month end is approaching and what could happen if I don’t obey their leader. Most of us just say yes and pay out of fear.”

Vendors say local police have been called in previously to oversee other issues.

“The police are supposed to be here to oversee us. I was thinking of closing my shop for a few days and going to my family, but I can’t because I need an income to feed them. There have been residents killed and removed already and it is getting worse.”

“We need help from the police. This is corruption. People’s houses are getting robbed and they are taking our only hard-earned money and nothing is being done about it. Everyone is scared to speak out because of fear. Our lives are lost just like that.

“Corruption is very high in this area. When the gangsters have their birthdays too, people must pay them. We want the deputy minister to intervene in this matter.”

Grassy Park Police Station’s acting station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Christiaan Esau, says he is currently not aware of any such situations in the Phumlani area and he urges the community to report any such cases to the station­.

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