Losing the battle against urban decay

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ST Brothel764 INLSA Rooms for rent: Businesses in Claim Street and surrounding areas say brothels and illegal drinking holes are causing this part of the city to deteriorate. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

IT’S the forgotten part of town. The Claim and Plein street area, on the eastern side of the CBD, is fraught with illegal shebeens, brothels, hijacked buildings and daily dumping of litter by taxi owners on pavements.

And the City of Joburg appears to be helpless to stop it.

This is the feeling of property owners who are doing their best to upgrade their buildings and the area in general.

Businesses claim they have invested loads of money in upgrading their buildings, but are working in isolation.

The area is one of mixed zoning for business and residential.

But, says one property owner who does not want to be named, the ongoing illegal activities are out of control.

His neat building stands as an oasis in the declining area.

“The incidence of drinking outlets is significant. They are mainly run by foreigners. In fact, there are three taverns in the vicinity. One also happens to be a brothel, with young women and pimps often standing in front of the entrances of nearby buildings soliciting business.

“We are in touch with the local sector police but it seems to me that unless this matter is dealt with at a much higher level, it will never be resolved,” he says.

The owner expresses concern that school children, in uniform, walk past the brothel and shebeens every day.

The owner says the city has tried to assist with a number of high-profile raids combining the SAPS, JMPD, City of Joburg task teams and Home Affairs. But soon afterwards, these dens are up and running as before.

“I have a feeling the owners are well enough connected to get away with whatever it is that goes on (on) their premises,” he says.

Tthe owner of the tavern next door has added two storeys of rooms to his existing structure, ostensibly as a hotel, but is in reality renting these out to prostitutes and their customers frequenting his bar.

“Both day and night, but especially at night, this neighbourhood is frequented by all sorts of unsavoury characters loitering along the entire pavement in front of our property, drawn here by the booze, women and drugs.

“There is a syndicate of foreign drug pedlars in and among this indecorous milieu.”

He says the problem has been going on for far too long, with local police unable to address it effectively.

People are frequently mugged and there is a high incidence of smash and grabs.

“Sometime last year an advocate of the High Court, who was walking to catch a taxi, was mugged right in front of our door. We are desperate.

“The area is a complete shambles. In addition to the crime, there is grime and general degradation.We do our best to keep the pavements around our building clean but are fighting a losing battle,” he says.

Another owner says he re-painted his building a few years ago in an attempt to restore it to its former beauty, hoping that one good thing would lead to another.

“Sadly, the forces of degradation seem to be far stronger in this forgotten part of town. It is a pity because people are investing money. One building in the street is being converted and upgraded to student accommodation”, which is not appropriate to the activities going on in the area,” he says. “What do we do? To whom do we turn?

“As a champion of these matters, Metrowatch has had many headaches but also a lot of successes. Please help us,” he pleads.

The city did not respond to requests for comment.


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