Vagrants spark fear

2018-11-22 16:23
Vagrants have moved back into the vacant land where the eMatsheni beer hall used to be.

Vagrants have moved back into the vacant land where the eMatsheni beer hall used to be. (Ian Carbutt)

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Vendors next to the piece of land where the eMatsheni beer hall in Retief Street used to be say they are now living in fear after a group of vagrants moved into the area on Wednesday.

“I’m very concerned about this development. I’m scared that they will rob us once they run out of money to buy whoonga,” a traditional medicine trader, who did not want to be identified for security reasons, said.

The homeless people, who until recently slept next to the nearby taxi rank, moved to the piece of land — which is owned by the Msunduzi Municipality — after taxi drivers had chased them away.

“They used to hang around here at the taxi rank and at night they slept under the trees, we never had a problem with them.

“The problem began when they started robbing commuters, particularly late at night when it is dark and quiet,” Thami Zulu, a taxi driver, said.

The taxi drivers then started regularly driving the vagrants away with sticks and whips.

When The Witness arrived on Wednesday following reports of another confrontation, the group was busy clearing the land, with some of the vagrants already setting up residential structures made of plastic and cardboard.

The land has been vacant since Msunduzi Municipality closed the beer hall in 2016 after crime had mushroomed in the area.

The beer hall was demolished.

“We don’t understand why the municipality is allowing these people to come back and terrorise us,” the traditional medicine trader said.

During the day the homeless people, who the trader described as whoonga addicts, lie low. “One can even forget that they exist. But come darkness then they become very active, robbing and stabbing people — they are very dangerous human beings,” the trader said.

Another trader said she would be forced to relocate should the municipality fail to remove the vagrants.

“I sell women’s clothing and I was expecting business to be good in the next few weeks given that Christmas is around the corner.

“But with the arrival of these people customers will avoid this area because they are scared of being robbed.

“If the municipality does not remove them then I will have to find another place where I can sell my stuff,” the trader said.

Timothy Zulu, a mobile trader who sells men’s belts around the taxi rank, said he had witnessed people being robbed on a number of occasions. “They mostly target people who have missed their evening minibus taxis.

“If they don’t find valuables such as cash or cellphones, they stab the victim,” he said.

By late on Wednesday afternoon the Msunduzi Municipality had not yet responded to e-mailed questions about the invasion.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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