Msunduzi Municipality should have had an action plan before it evicted business owners from the Ematsheni Beer Hall last week.This is the message from frustrated business people, commuters and traders in the Ematsheni area, who are still suffering from the aftermath of the closure of the beer hall.While some traders have agreed with the closure due to the criminal activities that the historic structure was infamous for, many are still adamant that the “quick fix” solution has only had the effect of opening up the whole city to criminals.Centre manager for the Ematsheni taxi rank shopping centre, Yusuf Mohamed, said: “With the closure, the municipality merely transferred the problem to the private sector, instead of effectively dealing with it as responsible stakeholders of government.“We are now caught in the crossfire between the municipality and the whoonga boys.”The Ematsheni taxi rank resembles a gloomy drug-dealing dungeon with only a handful of commuters and shoppers moving swiftly in and out of the rank while clutching their belongings as hundreds of vagrants lurk nearby.The Witness saw men operating what appeared to be a drug ring in full public view on Monday. Aggressive vagrants closed ranks and hurled threats of physical violence at a Witness reporter while she spoke to a business owner inside the taxi rank.The business owner had to resort to closing his shop and escorted the reporter out of the building under the watchful eye of security guards when the angry vagrants gathered outside the shop.Osgar Mohamed, who owns a Check Save supermarket franchise near the taxi rank, described the situation as a “ticking time bomb”.“The situation here is a social riot waiting to happen. You can see these people are very hostile and quite soon the taxi owners could take matters into their own hands.“The municipality should have had a solid action plan before evicting all those people,” said Mohamed.He said the situation was also bad for business.“The stench is unbearable and it’s affecting businesses because customers are obviously afraid to come in because of all the whoonga addicts and dealers lurking around. People are scared,” he said. “It is not safe for anyone here.”Most of the shops inside the taxi rank were closed on Monday and Tuesday and another was operating from behind a closed burglar gate.Owner Shohisduslam Jabed, of the Tastia Supermarket, said the municipality had to resolve the issue soon.“We can’t carry on like this. These people sleep here outside the shop and there are many of them, 300 sometimes. “They scare away customers and we can’t even open the burglar gate because we are afraid they will come in and steal our stock,” said Jabed.Pietermaritzburg SAPS spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said the police were not aware of the evicted vagrants’ whereabouts and were not concerned as the police did not have any issues with “individuals” but with the illegal occupation of municipal property.“As SAPS we have achieved our goal in terms of the operation to remove illegal occupants from a municipal building and until the taxi rank owners lodge a formal complaint, it is not within our jurisdiction to interfere with what happens on private property,” said Ngobese, adding that homelessness was a social issue that needed to be addressed by the Department of Social Development.Traders, who said not everyone that occupied the beer hall was a criminal, are adamant that the eviction was unfair and they claim to have since been left desperate and destitute.Evicted traders went to the city hall on Tuesday demanding an explanation from the municipality for the “ambush eviction”.Four Ematsheni traders’ committee members, Dumisani Mdlangathi, Bongi Ndlovu, Sunnyboy Gcwabaza and Ncane Ngcobo, met with Msunduzi Deputy Mayor Thobani Zuma and municipal manager of economic development Dr Ray Ngcobo.However, the committee members said the meeting was fruitless.Committee deputy chair Gcwabaza said that, after a two-hour-long wait, the members were told that the unnamed person in charge of the eviction operation would only return on January 15.Ngcobo and Zuma claimed they had little influence on the eviction process.Gugu Hlezi, who said she had been trading at the hall for almost 20 years before last week’s eviction, said she does not know how she is going to survive without her prime source of income.“We could not even celebrate New Year’s Day this past weekend because we have no money and my children have to go to school soon,” said Hlezi.Msunduzi Municipality said they would comment once they received more information on the matter.