Business has plan to help vagrants

2018-02-20 13:45
Downtown shop owners write strong letter to City.

Downtown shop owners write strong letter to City. (File/Ian Carbutt)

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The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) has put forward a plan to clean up the city involving a regulated waste recycling system.

PCB CEO Melanie Veness said they hope to soon meet with Msunduzi Municipality about the proposal, which seeks to address the problem of rubbish strewn across central business district roads.

This comes as Msunduzi has received yet another formal complaint about vagrants and filth — this time signed by about 130 residents and businesses along Church Street, Boom Street, Pietermaritz Street and Masukwana (East) Street.

Veness explained that the proposal is targeted at vagrants and drug users.

“A number of businesses are badly affected by vagrants who use the recycling depot for easy money. So they dig in rubbish bags and leave rubbish strewn across the street.”

Veness said the plan will be to regulate the recycling system, where vagrants or recovering drug addicts can be assigned to sell scrap to make some money.

The proposal will see those involved wear uniforms and be formally registered with the recycling depot.

She said Msunduzi has yet to respond to the proposal.

Veness said the effects of the “decay” in the city can already be seen, with businesses moving out of the CBD.

“The more they move out, the more vulnerable the CBD becomes to decay. It’s a downward spiral.”

She said of businesses in the downtown area: “A number of them have been there for years, and shops like that are the backbone of a society. They also employ people and [decay] can reduce their effectiveness. The [City] needs to create an environment where it is conducive for business. They need to provide a better environment.”

Meanwhile, the letter of complaint was submitted to Msunduzi and the office of the mayor last week.

It details complaints of an apparent increase in serious crimes, such as armed robberies and muggings, since last year.

The letter said vagrants have been seen to openly abuse drugs outside shops. “Our customers are scared to come to the area because they are being robbed, our shops are being robbed, school kids are afraid to walk to and from school as they are also being targeted,” the letter read.

The letter said the problems escalated since the closure of the Ematsheni beer hall, which used to house vagrants. “The situation has gone out of hand and we feel like prisoners within our homes [and] businesses]... most of our regular customers don’t want to come and shop,” it said.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed receipt of the letter and said the matter was escalated to the office of the Premier.

“As the City we have engaged the Department of Social Development and SAPS numerous times, and we will continue to do so to try and find a sustainable solution with regards to the issues of drug abuse crime and [the] homeless.”

The Witness has run numerous reports on the decay of the CBD recently.

Last year it was reported that a City plan to clear vagrants from the CBD by housing them in a property was panned by sources on management committees involved in such undertakings, this after the City itself canned an identical project just a few months before the announcement. In another report, the City had seemingly failed to uphold a host of promises to deal with vagrants, crime and filth from the CBD.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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