The manager of a Marsaxlokk restaurant who was yesterday accused of assaulting one of the locality’s councillors has refuted his claims, insisting that it was actually the councillor who assaulted him first.
Yesterday councillor Daniel Zerafa uploaded a Facebook post in which he said that he had been assaulted by the manager of Rizzu restaurant in Marsaxlokk because he had gone to ask him to remove illegally placed chairs and tables outside.
However, George Galea, the restaurant’s manager had a somewhat different version of events.
He started off by pointing out that while Zerafa is a local councillor, he is also a monti hawker in Marsaxlokk and had confronted him over a dispute between restaurants and market hawkers about the use of the promenade.
Galea, who described Zerafa as a notorious bully, said that while it had been claimed that he was the one to attack Zerafa, the opposite had happened.
It is worth noting that the restaurant is not currently run or managed by the Rizzu family, and is being rented out.
Dispute over promenade use
“Yesterday, there was the tsunami drill here in Marsaxlokk so everything was closed off all morning and nobody could set up,” Galea told Lovin Malta.
He said that by the time the drill was over, it was quite late and most hawkers didn’t bother setting up. It was at this point that Galea said he started to place umbrellas out on the promenade a bit earlier than he normally would.
The restaurateur explained that his restaurant is not permitted to have tables and chairs outside during the day because the space is reserved for hawkers. Yesterday, given that most had opted not to bother setting up, he said he decided to take his umbrellas out early.
“As soon as we put up the first umbrella, he came to speak to us, not as a councillor, but as a hawker,” Galea insisted.
“He started threatening to throw everything into the sea and shouting that he gave the orders around here. He then grabbed the umbrella from its place and hit me with it. I had to go to the polyclinic and have a chipped tooth in fact.”
This, he said, was what started the altercation. Galea said he had filed a police report over the incident.
‘The war has begun’
“Had he been acting in his capacity as a councillor he would have informed the relevant authorities rather than taking the law into his own hands,” he added.
Galea told Lovin Malta that he was particularly irked by Zerafa calling him greedy in his post. “He is the greedy one, because he wants to be the one to set up alone and doesn’t want to let anyone else have any space.”
According to Galea, Zerafa actually went back to the restaurant yesterday evening, driving up to it in his car honking his horn and shouting. “This morning he came back and shouted: the war has begun.”
Second restaurant owner refutes Zerafa’s version of events
A second Marsaxlokk restaurant owner who contacted Lovin Malta following the incident but preferred to remain anonymous echoed Galea’s version of events.
He said that despite the fact that no hawkers had set up and that there was ample space for Zerafa to place his stand, he insisted that he wanted to place his right in front of Rizzu.
The second owner also said that Zerafa had hit Galea with an umbrella, before Galea punched him in return, knocking him to the ground.
They also described Zerafa as a bully, adding that the issue between market hawkers and restaurant owners had been a long time in the making. “Hawkers set up stalls in front of the restaurants when they have ample space to do so elsewhere,” the owner said.
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