Several traffic signs in and around the Pretoria central business district (CBD) and the highly populated Sunnyside have been colonised by a huge plastering of business owners advertising their wares – from penis enlargement creams, vagina tightening creams and skin lighteners to rooms to rent.

At the corner of Leyds and Rissik Streets, in Sunnyside on the eastern side of Pretoria CBD, what used to be a direction sign to the nearby Sunnyside Police Station was now a congested notice board for flat owners seeking tenants, and vice versa.

Nearby, a road sign that warns motorists to be on the lookout for learners of the Sunnyside Primary School has been invaded by entrepreneurs advertising their “abortion services” and penis enlargement creams and pills.

Tshwane Metro Police spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba, warned the people plastering their adverts on traffic signs that they face arrest.

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“It is a criminal offence to destroy any road traffic sign. If found, you will be arrested and dealt with according to the law. Charges that you might face are damage to property,” Mahamba told African News Agency in Pretoria.

“We urge members of the public to refrain from committing such crimes and again they should report such incidents to the nearest [South African Police Service] SAPS or at the Tshwane Metro Police Department.”

On the other hand, the police said road signs, particularly those directing members of the public to a police station were not just on the streets to beautify them.

“Police wish to caution members of the public against defacing signboards that are meant to direct victims of crime to nearby police stations, or anyone needing the assistance of the SAPS,” said Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.

“For instance, a victim of a hijacking or robbery might have been robbed of their cellphone as well. Their only option at the time would therefore be to go and report at the nearest police station. The victim will need to rely on such signage to be able to get to the police station for assistance.”

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Peters said to victims of crime, time is always of the essence and finding  the nearby police station should not be a mission.

“Such acts of defacing sign posts not only disadvantage the victims of crime, but could also create an opportunity for suspects to remove evidence and disappear from the crime scene while the victim is wasting time trying to find directions to a police station,” she said.

One community member in Sunnyside, who declined to be named, said police were folding their hands.

“The posters advertising all the insane things like tightening a vagina and bringing back a lost lover are not out on the traffic signs at midnight. The advertisers even leave their phone numbers. How difficult is it for police to catch such people? The police must act,” the man said.

“The posters are glued there by criminals who have taken over this Sunnyside area. It used to be a cosy place to stay in. These days, police will do nothing.”

– African News Agency