uMlazi businesses increasingly under siege from extortionists

A recent surge in violence targeting uMlazi township liquor store owners and other businesses has led them to call for protection from police. Picture: David Ritchie

A recent surge in violence targeting uMlazi township liquor store owners and other businesses has led them to call for protection from police. Picture: David Ritchie

Published Jul 10, 2024


Durban — UMlazi township liquor store owners have called for protection from police after a recent surge in violence targeting them and other businesses.

Sandile Dlamini, chairperson of uMlazi Township Tourism, said the use of violence was what essentially forced people to consider other destinations when it comes to places of tourism due to safety.

He said this issue highlighted how rife crime was in uMlazi and people did not want to visit areas rife with crime. It also affected the township’s economy.

Dlamini said as an organisation responsible for tourism in uMlazi, there was a need for those participating in the sector to come together and protect themselves.

Had there been organisations bringing business owners together in uMlazi, they could have won instead of depending on the Crime Prevention Forums, he said.

It is believed that businesses were the target of extortionists and those who had refused to pay had been killed.

One businessman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said these thugs approached businesses and offered to “protect” them and their businesses from criminals and asked for a “protection fee”. Those who refused “protection” were being killed.

“This is an issue of crime. As uMlazi Township Tourism, we think if business owners came together on their own instead of depending on CPFs, more could be achieved in terms of helping this situation,” said Dlamini.

As uMlazi business people, they wished to emulate townships like Soweto in Gauteng when it comes to tourism, he said.

There one would randomly meet a group of tourist cyclists, cycling by themselves because it’s safe.

That was the image they wanted to create for their township.

Dr Brush Mncadi, of Sisonke Liquor Traders, told the Daily News about at least four incidents where tavern owners were killed in their business premises. He, however, also stressed the need for a bit of time to get more details relating to events where liquor sellers were actually killed between March, April, and May this year.

One tavern owner was killed at Reunion next to Glebelands hostel, while two more were gunned down in uMlazi A section and another in uMlazi C section.

Furthermore, Mncadi complained about the shortage of police stations, saying just two police stations would no longer be able to cater for residents since the township had grown bigger.

Mncadi believed that crime was not the only issue faced by liquor business people within the township economy. He went on to mention that there was red tape that hampered liquor licence applications.

“There are more than 8 500 liquor businesses I personally know of, but there are only about 10 inspectors for the whole of KZN,” Mncadi said.

uMlazi Crime Prevention Forum chairperson, Mandlenkosi “Ganda-Ganda” Ngcobo, told the Daily News that things were much worse when he joined the CPF in 2022. Although crime still existed, there had been an overall drop, with the most focus being on tavern owner killings.

“Yes, crime impacts our tourism negatively as a township. When I joined the CPF, uMlazi was number four on the crime prevention list and right now we are number 16 which is a positive thing because it means we are trying our best although we lack resources,” said Ngcobo.

According to Ngcobo, crimes like hijackings, murders and kidnappings have decreased.

Portia Baloyi, the Interim CEO of the KZN Economic Regulatory Authority, told the Daily News that she was unaware of any specific instances of extortion.

She added that it was important for licence holders and the public at large to exercise caution if approached by individuals claiming association with the former KZN Liquor Authority and soliciting funds.

“As the KZN Economic Regulatory Authority, our prescribed fees include lodging and activation fees only. Any request for additional payments should be verified to ensure legitimacy.

“Legitimate representatives do not request payments for their assistance,” Baloyi said.

She added that this entity valued open communication with its stakeholders and encouraged licence holders, or any member of the public who encountered extortion or irregular activity to contact their fraud hotline at 0800 262 263.

They can also email [email protected]. Their priority was to maintain a safe and equitable environment for all stakeholders.

Baloyi recognised the shortage of inspectors but said the merger of the KZN Gaming and Betting Board with the KZN Liquor Authority into the KZN Economic Regulatory Authority was strategically undertaken to address such issues. Through integrating teams and resources, they would be better equipped to meet the demands of the industry and ensure comprehensive service delivery.

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Daily News