Crime closes shop

Men walk past the Department of Coffee.

An economic empowerment initiative for underprivileged youth, known as the Department of Coffee, in Khayelitsha, has been forced to close its doors after a series of break-ins.

The popular hot spot for coffee lovers is situated at the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) premises opposite the Khayelitsha train station and mall. It started some six years ago, and became an instant hit with local and foreign visitors.

However, criminals had started targeting the shop, making it extremely difficult for owners to continue operating. In the last incident, criminals stole almost every piece of equipment used to run the shop.

When Vukani visited the building on Monday November 27, tables and chairs made of cement had been vandalised, including windows.
Founding member of the shop, Vuyile Msaku, said in 2013 criminals had broken into the shop and stole two tills and computers to the value of R11 000. While they battled to raise funds to replace the stolen items, he said, criminals pounced again and stole their coffee machine.

“This time around we lost everything. Our coffee machines, equipment, computers and tills,” said Mr Msaku.

Frustrated, he said the recent burglary had been the final nail into their coffin and had left them with no alternative, but to close the shop. He said the recent incident had left them demoralised and deeply hurt.

Mr Msaku told Vukani that while their shop had been perfectly located to attract customers, safety had been their biggest concern, particularly at night. He said they had raised their concerns with VPUU management, but nothing was done.

Mr Msaku said they had resorted to getting a mobile coffee shop, which is situated inside the Khayelitsha Mall.

He added that they had given up their steady jobs to start the businesses and over the years had been working tirelessly to ensure that the shop was sustainable.

“We have been told by people who live close by that the people who burgled here came with a bakkie to load our stuff. We never imagined that one day we would find ourselves in this situation,” he said.

Mr Msaku called on the public to help them raise funds to replace their equipment.

He said the current cost of the stolen items amounted to R20 000.

Mr Msaku said that they were in the process of setting up a Department of Coffee academy that would teach other young people entrepreneurial skills. But he said the burglaries had been a massive set-back.

VPUU work stream leader, Don Shay, admitted that crime was a challenge in the area, despite their being a neighborhood watch that patrolled the precinct during the day.

He said at some stage there had been paid security guards, but due to financial constraints they could no longer be employed.

“We have been informed that the City aims to introduce a new safety programme in Harare that would help us in safeguarding our building. But we are still waiting for the City to brief us on how it plans to roll out the programme,” he said.

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said crime was a huge problem for businesses throughout the city and that it forced businesses to spend more money on security equipment, insurance and even armed guards.

“All this adds to the cost of the products or services provided by the business. Perhaps even worse is the fear of burglary and violence which undermines staff morale and productivity. In the end, the big loser is the community itself. “The community loses the service offered by the business and it has to pay more for the products,” she said.