Fords­burg busi­ness own­ers fight back

Saturday Star - - METRO - SAMEER NAIK

MOUNDS of rot­ting garbage lie piled on the streets of Fords­burg’s busi­ness district. The dis­tinct smell of urine and rub­bish linger in the air in the hub of com­mer­cial and re­tail ac­tiv­ity. Va­grants oc­cupy most cor­ners.

The sub­urb, a haven of Mid­dle Eastern and In­dian cul­ture, food and mer­chan­dise, is un­recog­nis­able from its hey­day.

Th­ese days, restau­rants are nearly empty and own­ers bat­tle to at­tract any cus­tomers to their stores.

On Fords­burg’s most pop­u­lar street, Mint Road, sev­eral well-known restau­rants have been forced to close be­cause busi­ness has fallen sharply.

Busi­ness peo­ple tell how Fords­burg has be­come a haven for crim­i­nals, syn­ony­mous with pick­pock­et­ing, mug­gings, hi­jack­ings, smash-and-grabs, and vi­o­lent rob­beries.

Last week­end, a man was shot and killed in the early hours in an ap­par­ent hi­jack­ing.

While busi­ness own­ers re­cently em­ployed a pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pany to help re­spond to the es­ca­lat­ing lev­els of crime, busi­ness own­ers tell of their strug­gles.

Muaaz Ran­dera, the owner of chicken fran­chise Mocha­chos on Mint Road, says his busi­ness has suf­fered from ram­pant crime.

“Peo­ple don’t feel safe in Fords­burg any longer. It’s not just the hi­jack­ings and rob­beries peo­ple are wor­ried about, but the petty crime, which hap­pens on a daily ba­sis.

“You can­not walk in the street with­out some­one try­ing to snatch your phone or your wal­let.

“If you stop at a ro­bot and you are driv­ing in a bakkie with goods at the back, they hold you at gun­point and un­load your goods. It’s ridicu­lous.

“Peo­ple say that Fords­burg is go­ing down be­cause there is not enough park­ing, or there isn’t a big enough va­ri­ety of stores.

“That’s not true. Fords­burg has been here for so many years.

“What’s changed? The park­ing sit­u­a­tion never changed, noth­ing changed. The only prob­lem is the crime.”

Ran­dera and sev­eral other busi­ness own­ers re­cently cre­ated a re­vival fo­rum to ad­dress is­sues such as crime as they say they have bat­tled to get any help from the po­lice or the coun­cil.

“On many oc­ca­sions we have en­gaged with the po­lice and the coun­cil to ask them for as­sis­tance, but let’s be hon­est, it’s im­pos­si­ble to get help from them,” says Ran­dera, who is now con­sid­er­ing sell­ing his store.

Down the road at pop­u­lar burger joint Wimpy, man­ager Itume­leng Mokhothu re­veals he is “heart­bro­ken” to see what Fords­burg has be­come.

“It’s a big shame what’s hap­pen­ing. Not only for the lo­cal peo­ple, but also for those peo­ple who would travel a dis­tance to come and spend their week­ends here.

“Fords­burg was the place to go to.

◆ In 2017, a 37-year-old man was shot in the head dur­ing a busi­ness rob­bery in Fords­burg. In the same year, two peo­ple were killed in a shoot­ing when a group of men trav­el­ling in a bakkie opened fire on an­other ve­hi­cle.

◆ In 2014, Vek­ne­shan Moodley, 26, was stabbed to death at the Fords­burg Square flea mar­ket af­ter shop­ping with his soon-to-be wife.

| Sameer Naik Four or five years ago, if you had come on a week­end, you wouldn’t be able to even walk prop­erly be­cause it was so busy. There was a great at­mos­phere, fam­i­lies used to come in their num­bers. Now, it’s all gone.”

Rashid Ebrahim has run his busi­ness, Di­vine Bak­ery, for the past 18 years on Mint Road.

While crime is “hor­rific”, it is im­pos­si­ble for him to pack up and leave, he says. “I put all my money into this busi­ness and I watched it grow over the years. It’s the only thing I know.

“Not ev­ery­one can just pack up and leave. Some of us own­ers have been here for more than 15 years. This is our liveli­hoods. There is nowhere else to go.”

Mo­hammed Baig, who owns the Re­li­able Health Care store and has op­er­ated in Fords­burg’s busi­ness district for the past 15 years, reck­ons it has lost its iden­tity.

“When I started trad­ing in Fords­burg all those years back I would be able to freely walk through the streets with­out a worry.

“It was peace­ful and we barely had any crime. This is the place where friends and rel­a­tives met one an­other. It was a fam­ily place. But slowly dy­nam­ics changed and it’s be­come a play­ground for crim­i­nals.”

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