A surge in robberies puts Durban south businesses on edge
The once vibrant town located just 19km from the Durban city centre has over the years been deteriorating with illegal trade mushrooming and the lack of municipal services becoming a major contributor to its downfall.
eThekwini Municipality has announced plans and set aside funds to rejuvenate Isipingo as part of its inner city regeneration programme.
However, business owners say the crime surge has become a serious threat and they had spent a sizeable amount to try and protect themselves and their livelihoods.
The recent crime statistics also painted a grim picture of the area which is considered as one of Durban’s economic hubs.
Isipingo recorded a 54% increase in burglary at non-residential premises and a 52% hike in robbery at non-residential premises.
Last week, police killed nine suspects and arrested one after intercepting a planned robbery.
Members of the crime intelligence, task force and K9 units pounced on the gang of would-be robbers in the early hours of last Saturday, following a tip-off.
The area is surrounded by several factories that offer employment to the people of uMlazi.
Prospecton, the adjacent industrial area, is the location of South Africa’s largest automobile assembly plant, Toyota.
A long-time restaurant owner, Margaret Govender, had to barricade her restaurant she inherited from her father with steel after being robbed on several occasions.
She said she was still traumatised by a recent incident where a sizeable amount of cash and her BMW were taken in broad daylight.
“It’s bad here. It’s just that it’s not easy to leave something that is your main source of income. I had just opened when three men wearing balaclavas pointed a gun at me and asked for the keys. They pressed my son against the floor and took everything they wanted including my car.
Thankfully they did not hurt us. If not, I would not be standing here telling my story,” said Govender.
Many businesses on Reunion Road had upgraded security features as a result. Even the wholesalers keep their gates locked.
An owner of Reunion Trading, who asked not to be named, had also been a victim of crime on several occasions.
She said even petty crime had increased and her customers have also become victims.
“Surely you have noticed that we control access at the gate, something not common in the supermarkets. We try to combat any possibilities for being victims. It’s no longer about our businesses, but our lives and our customers. The business forums are looking at how we integrate our private security companies to work collectively to strengthen security,” she said.
A salesman at a tyre shop said some people had opted to leave their jobs after witnessing robberies.
“Business robberies have been normalised. Our bosses have even told us not to resist in case we get attacked but to save our lives,” he said.
Junaid Iqbal, Chairperson of Isipingo Business Forum, said they have hired a private security company to safeguard all the businesses in the area. He lauded last weeks police action and hoped that it would send a strong message to other criminals.
“We encourage other businesses who have not joined and contributed to our security measures to come forward. The crime issue has affected many businesses in this area, even customers are afraid.
We hope that the strong security presence will complement the Metro and SAPS efforts to combat crime and restore the image of this area,” said Iqbal.
Chairperson of the Isipingo Community Policing Forum (CPF) Aidan David hoped that using technology such as cameras would curb crime.
“We have WhatsApp groups where we notify people, including the police, when we suspect something,” he said.