From vibrant community to thugs’ haven

NO-GO AREA: Dirt, strong smells and muggings characterise life in Nielson Street – once a sought-after area in Port Elizabeth Picture: BRIAN WITBOOI
NO-GO AREA: Dirt, strong smells and muggings characterise life in Nielson Street – once a sought-after area in Port Elizabeth

Shop owners leave area in droves as criminal elements rule roost in Korsten business zone

Nielson Street in Korsten, once a vibrant and sought after business location, is a shadow of its former self, with criminal elements forcing businesses out of the area.

In its heyday, Nielson Street was a hive of booming businesses, with more than 15 small enterprises operating side by side.

Today, just eight businesses remain, with many of the owners considering shutting their doors.

Some that have already shut up shop include an optometrist, a butchery and a barber shop.

Last week, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality confirmed that the area was problematic, saying it arose from two abandoned buildings belonging to a landlord believed to be in Pietermaritzburg, but who metro inspectors have not been able to trace.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the buildings had been vacant for quite some time and, as time went by, they had been stripped by vagrants and were now a dumping site.

“These buildings are typical examples of what is described as a problem building. The municipality is in the advanced stages of getting the problem building bylaw promulgated,” Mniki said.

“Legislation has gaps in addressing matters of this nature, hence the NMBM took a progressive approach with the formulation of a legislative framework to address these challenges.”

Nielson Street is littered with “to let signs” placed on a number of empty buildings.

Fear and frustration is visible on the faces of business owners, who did not want to be named when commenting..

Bricks belonging to one of the abandoned properties have been removed one by one and it is now a haven for “skollies”, a businessman said.

A 57-year medical doctor still practising in the area said car break-ins and office burglaries were not uncommon.

Over the years, Nielson Street had deteriorated to a point where vandalism and invasion of property had become the norm, he said.

“Patients and customers no longer want to come into the area. This problem has an adverse effect on our businesses.

“I feel that much of the problem stems from the empty building halfway down Nielson Street.”

His frustration was fuelled by the fact that, for three years, he has highlighted the problem with the municipality and suggested demolition.

To date, he said, he had not received any response.

An irate 63-year-old businesswoman who, for the past 40 years, has been operating a food business said the area was a health hazard.

“I sell food here and this place [street] is dirty. Customers no longer wish to come,” she said.

“People are robbed and skollies hide in the buildings. Businesses are also burgled. We reported the problem but the municipality is doing nothing.”

Just a stone’s throw away from her business is a water leak which was reported over three months ago but has yet to be fixed, she said.

Across the road, also in Nielson Street, a 33-year-old businessman was waiting patiently for the first customer to enter the door.

“You can see for yourself, it’s very quiet. Customers are scared because of the muggings. I plan to move my business to an area which is busy,” he said.

The man, who inherited the business from his father, spoke of how thugs threatened him the last time he tried to do something about crime in the area.

“My shop was burgled by them,” he said.

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