Hawkers to resist proposed eviction

2016-04-28 10:46
eMatsheni Beer Hall (see below) hawker Mlungisi Ngubane holds an eviction letter from the Msundusi Municipality while his mother Thulisile prepares the special of the day at her food stall inside the hall.

eMatsheni Beer Hall (see below) hawker Mlungisi Ngubane holds an eviction letter from the Msundusi Municipality while his mother Thulisile prepares the special of the day at her food stall inside the hall. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Hawkers at the eMatsheni Beer Hall have vowed to resist attempts by the city to evict them and shut down the “crime hotspot”.

On April 1, the city served the hawkers with a letter, signed by acting municipal manager Boniwe Zulu, advising them to vacate the area by April 30 as the city looks at re-planning and upgrading the area which is allegedly a hangout for criminals and drug dealers.

When The Witness visited the beer hall on Tuesday, nothing suggested that the shutdown was imminent as the area bustled with people who had come to feast mostly on traditional food.

Some had come to buy traditional medicine while a group of youngsters had taken shelter in what looked like an abandoned stall.

Suspended municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi has gone on the record to say the closure of the infamous beer hall will contribute towards fighting crime in the city. He said many crimes in the city centre either emanated from, or ended at the beer hall.

Nkosi also said police consider the eMatsheni Beer Hall a “hotspot” for criminal activity, due to the sale of dagga and other illegal substances in and around it.

However, hawkers who spoke to The Witness said they were legitimate business owners and the city should not paint ­everyone with the same brush.

“If there are people who are selling drugs, they must be punished as individuals. Why punish the hawkers who know nothing about drugs?,” said Mlungisi Ngubane, one of the hawkers.

“If the crime issue is what they are using then, it is not only a matter of eMatsheni but a national issue,” he said.

Now faced with the possibility of not having a place to trade in come Sunday, Ngubane said about 200 hawkers have been left in the dark as to how they are going to respond to basic needs while the area is revamped.

He said the letters from Msunduzi did not specify how long the process would take. “How are we going to pay school fees, university fees and other debts?” asked Ngubane, who is a part-time student at Unisa.

Another hawker, who did not want to be named, said the municipality had abandoned the area for almost two decades and the hawkers had to fend for themselves with few resources, hence it had deteriorated to what it is today.

“We have asked the municipality for security, toilet facilities and refuse collection. I have to pay people to collect refuse in this area because the municipality has abandoned us. We had to put up gates ourselves because the municipality is not interested,” she said.

Msunduzi spokesperson Nqobile Madonda said the purpose of the proposed shutting down and upgrading of the beer hall was to secure the area and reduce crime. It would benefit the hawkers and allow their businesses to flourish, she said.

• sabelo.nsele@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  eviction

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