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Durban - Tensions between residents and sex workers flared in Glenwood at the weekend, leading to crime-watch groups filing complaints of intimidation with the police.
The two groups had met last week to try find a solution to the influx of women plying their trade in the suburb.
Bulwer Community Forum chairwoman Heather Rorick said she had filed a complaint with the police after sex workers allegedly accosted and intimidated forum members as they walked home near Baxter Park in Clark Road on Friday afternoon.
The Glenwood Community Watch filed a complaint early on Sunday.
“We have opened an occurrence book entry regarding the threats made to community watch members, and charges are pending,” Rorick said.
“The situation is brewing and getting hot. Tempers are flaring on both sides, and things are getting bad.”
SAPS spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed last night that residents had filed complaints at the Umbilo police station.
Rorick said the forum believed the sex workers had been emboldened by last Tuesday’s meeting which, she added, had painted them as victims of human rights abuses.
“These ladies have got attention now, so no matter what they do, they think they are untouchable. It’s got worse over the past week. They say they are here to stay and if the community doesn’t like it, they can get out.”
The forum volunteers had been off duty at the time of the altercation, Rorick said.
Several sex workers had allegedly “blocked off” two young men who were walking with them, and one of the women had then started threatening and shouting at them.
“She called them ‘rubbish dogs’ for siding with the white people and not taking sides with their own colour. It was not nice at all. She then said they were not scared of the police or of the courts.”
The sex workers allegedly told the men they were watching all the crime watch members, who should “watch their backs”, Rorick said.
They had allegedly specifically threatened Rorick as “the mama of the crime watchers”, saying; “We are coming for you.”
“We took the police officers to point them out, but when they saw the police, they ran away. One of them was a ringleader, and we know who she is,” Rorick said.
“We have been assured by police that charges of intimidation are pending.”
There had been an influx of sex workers from Chesterville, uMlazi, Ntuzuma and Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road. Some appeared to be as young as 14.
Rorick said most of the clients of the sex workers drove Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and other luxury vehicles, many of which had Pinetown, uMhlanga and even Pietermaritzburg registration plates.
“The majority of the men we have seen have big, thick wedding rings on their fingers.”
In recent weeks, motorists who had been minding their own business had reported that sex workers had tried to extort money from them.
“If men are parked at a stop street or if they pull over to talk on their phones, (sex workers) then get into the car and start screaming and shouting. They demand money, screaming: ‘Pay me! You have not paid me!’
“They are innocent men who are being targeted. One guy said he just threw R50 at (the woman) to make her get out.”
Rorick said residents were “really fed up” after last week’s meeting, as their complaints - about condoms being abandoned on pavements and outside schools, defecating in public, prostitutes flashing to attract clients, and rising crime - had not been adequately discussed.
“This meeting has backfired on those prostitutes, because all it has done is anger the community even more.”
Residents could not wait a month to meet again to address the problem, which needed an urgent solution. They were planning to meet the Umbilo station commander soon.
“There are a number of accommodation houses involved in this,” Rorick said.
“A whole crackdown needs to be done, and not just raiding for one night and then they are released.
“They need to be shut down. It’s a thriving business - there is no getting away from it.”
The Glenwood Community Watch filed a complaint at the Umbilo police station against the sex workers because they had threatened all local community watches.
“We are not taking this lightly,” the chairman of the watch, Guy Perrins, said.
“We’re going to fight this all the way. It shows the arrogance of the criminals and prostitutes who think they own the place. It is unacceptable and against all social norms.”
“The city has to come down heavily on them and apply the by-laws.”
Umbilo Community Police Forum chairman Ben Madokwe said the allegation of intimidation was “serious” and indicated sex workers were not respecting residents’ rights.
“These ladies are up to big mischief, and they will rule the area if we let them keep on doing what they are doing.”
Thuli Khoza, provincial co-ordinator of the sex worker-led organisation Sisonke, could not be reached for comment, despite repeated attempts to contact her on her cellphone.