‘Watch out!’ mayor warns syndicates extorting businesses

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. Picture: Supplied

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. Picture: Supplied

Published May 24, 2024


Durban — A criminal syndicate is terrorising small businesses, demanding “protection fees” for them to operate in Isipingo and uMlazi, south of Durban.

This so-called protection fee could be anything from R5 000 to R20 000 a month, depending on how busy and lucrative the business was, according to victims, who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted.

“I have been forced to pay R10 000 a month as a protection fee since November last year. This has crippled my business. I cannot afford this anymore. We are pleading with the government to intervene,” said a business owner, who cannot be named to protect his identity.

The people behind the scheme were believed to be linked to a powerful family in the taxi business in the south of KZN.

“If you don’t pay this protection fee, you may even be killed. These people are ruthless and have powerful people backing them,” said another business owner.

The group targeted supermarkets, spaza shops and landlords who rented out property.

A landlord in uMlazi said: “I am forced to pay R2 000 every month to these people. If you fail to pay, they promise to kill you. I am scared to even report these people to the police.”

The landlord, who is a pensioner, said he had built the rooms that he rented out from his hard-earned pension.

“I worked for 40 years and planned to live a stress-free life after retirement. But this is giving me a headache because I don’t even believe that the government will be able to stop these people.”

Some business owners were now considering shutting down to avoid paying the “protection fee”.

“I have been running my business here for 10 years. The problem started when a group of people started coming here and demanded money from me. I told them I will not do that,” said a businessman, who operates in Isipingo.

Even since he rejected the group’s demands, his life has been turned into living hell.

“My life is a mess as I cannot operate now without looking over my shoulder.”

eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has vowed to round up the criminals and crush the group.

“We are aware of the hoodlums wreaking havoc in our city demanding protection fees from people.

“We will not allow them to run amok in our city. We will crush these people so that small businesses can operate without any fear of being victimised.”

Citing the danger of exposing the victims, Kaunda said they will create a WhatsApp group where all the victims could report the criminals who demanded protection fees from them.

“We urge all affected people to anonymously report these people so that action will be taken against them,” said Kaunda.

Police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda said it was difficult for police to arrest the extortionists as victims feared pressing charges against them.

However, Netshiunda said there was a shoot-out in Isipingo last week between what they believed were extortionists and a business owner. He would not be drawn into linking that incident to the plight of the victims in Isipingo.

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Daily News