Prostitutes confront Glenwood residents

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Copy of NS Glenwood 1 INLSA Bulwer Community Forum Volunteers Heather Rodick and Odette Louwrens explain to the police how the prostitutes threatened them. Photo: Zanele Zulu.

Durban -Glenwood’s conflict between prostitutes and residents flared up again on Friday, prompting community activists to consider laying charges of intimidation.

Volunteers from the Bulwer Community Forum, which holds marches against prostitution in the area, allege that three known female prostitutes threatened them with death and made racial insults.

“You black people are actually working with the white people. You are not supporting the black people. Why are you taking their sides. You’re like dogs,” Wonderboy Biyela recalled them saying in Zulu.

They allegedly did so while blocking their way on the pavement in Clark Road, saying they were “not moving for these dogs”.

Heather Rorick, who chairs the forum, said one of them then switched to English, saying: “You have all got big mouths at night. Why don’t you catch us now? We know who you are, all the crime watchers. Watch your backs, we’re coming for you.”

Turning specifically to her, she said, one added: “We are waiting to get hold of you.”

The forum group called the police, then led two officers in a van through lanes between Che Guevara and Berea Road, calling on houses they claimed were brothels in an area “you don’t go to alone at night”.

They planned to lay charges of intimidation at the Umbilo Police Station this morning.

Sex workers have, in turn, complained to organisations such as the Sisonke advocacy group and the Commission for Gender Equality about being harassed and verbally abused by residents.

The afternoon’s drama followed a quiet Human Rights Day on the streets of lower Glenwood, where prostitutes soliciting clients is a common sight at all hours.

Tuesday night saw residents gather at Glenwood High School to air their views.

The meeting in the packed hall was divided into two camps: home owners and family people who don’t tolerate prostitution in a residential area and others who are concerned about sex workers’ rights.

While many among the family values camp agreed with the rights activists that prostitution should be legalised, they said it was not an immediate solution.

Many called for the enforcement of municipal bylaws, which they believed, should cause the closure of businesses such as “B&Bs that offer rooms per hour”.

A follow-up meeting is planned in around a month’s time.

Glenwood, like other areas fringing the inner city, is also feeling the effects of vagrants who have been flushed out of the city centre in recent campaigns.

It has prompted Glenwood DA councillor Nicole Graham to ask the city for some of its Urban Management Zone guards. Some 642 of them presently stand to be posted to the suburb.

The zone guard system, though effective, is due to be interrupted at the end of the month when it will have run its course as a pilot project.

Municipal spokesman Thabo Mafokeng said it would be brought back once the city had established how to run it more cost-effectively and more efficiently.

“It has been a good project. It will be continued.”

He said the metro police would be “implementing some of the lessons we have learnt”.

In the city centre, ANC councillor Themba Ncane said he feared the withdrawal of zone guards could lead to a crisis. “I’ll fight to get them back,” he said.

Martinus Meyer, DA councillor for Morningside, said the area of his ward that fell within the city limits had benefitted from zone guards while parks on the fringes of the city, especially in Greyville, had “almost been invaded by vagrants”.

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