Cop ices the competition

An ice-vending firm in Manguzi, KwaZulu-Natal, has complained of unfair competition from an unlikely source — the local police station.

The aggrieved businessman is the owner of Eskimo Ice, Chris Barnard, who has lodged a complaint with the area commissioner of the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the police complaints directorate.

Barnard says Inspector Johan Kuilder, stationed at Manguzi, is running an ice business from police premises, using police resources.

In a letter to the commissioner, Barnard’s lawyers complain that Kuilder has approached Barnard’s “existing clients and proposed to them that Barnard’s products are of an inferior quality”.

“We hereby demand that you immediately stop misinforming our clients and members of the public that our client’s products are inferior,” reads the letter. “We further demand that you stop causing our client’s business damage; that you supply us with the necessary authorisation to operate the business from state property and supply confirmation that your interest in the business has been declared to the [SAPS] head office.”

In the mid-1990s Kuilder was told by the state to stop using police resources for his boerewors carts. Barnard told the Mail & Guardian that Kuilder’s business activities were particularly problematic, given that Manguzi was a high-crime area. Police confirmed this, saying it was on the main vehicle smuggling route from South Africa to Mozambique.

The investigating officer in charge of the case, Inspector Leon Buitendach, confirmed that a complaint about Kuilder had been lodged with the Umfolozi area commissioner. He had been on leave and could not say how far the investigations had gone.

Kuilder admitted that there was a large “Iqwa Ice” signpost at the police premises. However, he said, his wife ran the business. Kuilder’s wife works in Empangeni, about 300km from Manguzi, and returns home only twice a month. Asked how she was able to run the business, Kuilder replied: “I don’t know, but she does.”

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