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Following last Friday’s arrests at the “brothel” in Grobler Street, Louis Trichardt, things seem to have quieted down a bit at the notorious burned-down house. One lone lady was spotted sitting in front of the house in the early morning sun on Wednesday, unlike the usual crowd of ladies lining the entrance gate to the premises.

Brothel blues for residents

Date: 24 May 2024 By: Andries van Zyl

Residents of Louis Trichardt living in close proximity to the burned-down house on the corner of Grobler and Joubert Street are at their wits' end with the nefarious activities taking place on the premises at all hours of the day and night. The house is not only being used as a brothel but also apparently doubles as a drug house.

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of criminal reprisal, said he had witnessed drunken fights at the premises, with vehicles stopping there at all hours to deliver cargo that is collected before sunset. “It could be illegal cigarettes,” he said.

“There is always shouting and fighting among the sex workers about customers or money from clients who don't pay, and we hear every swear word under the sun. We also have to deal with condom wrappers littering the street,” the resident continued.

According to the resident, the house is also a “safe house” for criminals. “Another issue is the burning of stolen plastic cables that takes place at the back of the house, where the plastic smell and smoke become unbearable,” said the resident. The most frustrating part is the lack of law enforcement when he complains to the authorities. “It falls on deaf ears with the local authorities,” said the resident.

Looking into the matter, the newspaper asked for comments from both the Makhado Municipality and the Makhado police as an overlap of duties is occurring.

On the one hand, the Makhado Municipality is responsible for enforcing the by-laws regarding zoning and conducting inspections to determine whether structures are fit for human occupation. In this case, the burned-down house is clearly not fit for human occupation, with a string of health violations in place. On the other hand, the police are responsible for law enforcement regarding criminal activities. This includes prostitution, which is still a criminal offence in South Africa.

Municipal spokesperson Mr Louis Bobodi was subsequently asked if the Makhado Municipality still had a functioning health and safety department with an inspector whose job was to inspect dwellings and premises to see if they were safe for human occupation. He was also asked if the premises in question had ever been inspected by them and what actions residents could expect from the municipality in light of the complaints.

In response, Bobodi confirmed that the municipality inspected the building in June last year. “We subsequently found out that the owner of the property is deceased. The son of the deceased, with whom we conducted the inspection and handed the notice to, has also passed on. We are, however, navigating through to meet with one of the deceased's relatives before the end of this month in order to resolve the matter,” Bobodi said.

Makhado police spokesperson Sergeant Irene Radzilane was also asked for comment. She was specifically asked about the police’s official stance on prostitution, what they were doing to police the matter, and what action residents could expect from the police regarding the property. This was on 30 April this year.

A week later, Radzilane responded, saying that she was on leave and referred the newspaper to provincial police spokesperson Lt-Col Malesela Ledwaba. Ledwaba, in turn, referred the newspaper’s enquiry to Vhembe District Police Spokesperson W/O Vuledzani Dathi, who responded a week later, on Monday this week.

“The police are fully aware of the structure situated on Grobler Street in Louis Trichardt, and we are doing everything in our power to police the area. Several police operations or raids have already been conducted since the complaint was received,” said Dathi. He went on to explain that a successful police operation was held at the premises on Friday, 17 May, which led to the arrest of two male suspects aged 27 and 23 years. They were found with crystal meth and in possession of dangerous weapons inside the structure.

“As the police in the district of Vhembe, we still have more operations planned. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose when and where these operations will be held,” Dathi said.

Dathi did not respond to any of the questions regarding the prostitutes, and it seems that policing “the oldest profession in the world” remains a bit of a challenge. Off the record, the newspaper was told that securing a conviction for prostitution was very difficult. Proving that a transaction took place and that money was paid in exchange for sexual favours is apparently extremely difficult. Merely arresting the “ladies of the night” for standing around on street corners also opens the police up to cases of unlawful arrest. Both Ledwaba and Dathi were asked to respond to this but remained silent.

 

 
 
 

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Andries van Zyl

Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.

 
 

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