Tackling society’s demons

2013-06-11 00:00

A CAMPAIGN to tackle drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence and a host of social ills in Pietermaritzburg’s northern suburbs is gaining momentum, championed by KZN Finance MEC Ina Cronjé.

At a campaign workshop on Saturday, a mirror was held up to the local community by Mountain Rise station commander Brigadier Francis Bantham.

Bantham said the police station had emerged from a difficult past, referring to the case of former station head Hariram Badul that is currently before the courts. Bantham said people were still going into the police station wanting to be helped by an Indian and not a black police officer. She urged people to treat each other with respect.

There were uncomfortable moments later for the Msunduzi Municipality when Bantham said the lack of proper infrastructure, long grass and the appalling state of open spaces were havens for criminals. She said there were over 47 illegal dump sites around the Raisethorpe area, where criminals hid and shared their spoils, with the long grass offering escape routes. “Let us come together and clean up. The Allandale Park is shocking. This park could be generating money for the city, if it were turned into something beautiful. Look at how dirty Raisethorpe is.” She criticised the lack of social and recreational development in the city, and the lack of maintenance for those few recreational areas that did exist.

Bantham said Sobantu was one of the most developed areas, yet recently people were burning tyres there. She added that unemployed people were being used in protests serving personal agendas, with protesters often unaware of what they were protesting about.

Bantham added that the northern suburbs were vast and that the Mountain Rise police station served 22 suburbs and 21 informal settlements. The area had 14 secondary schools, 32 primary schools, three hospitals, seven clinics, four industrial areas and a large commercial area.

“Manchester Road is one of the city’s busiest trading areas, with people from all over the country, and especially the Eastern Cape, coming to buy there,” Bantham said.

She added that housebreaking and drug abuse were serious problems. “These drugs are killing our children and we have to ask ourselves who is making the drug lord a multimillionaire. It is our community.” She acknowledged that the “big guns” were not getting caught and more needed to be done to go after them.

According to Bantham, there are many single parents in the area who are struggling to cope. “We have to reach a point where we begin to care for each other once more. For a start, I would like to see a northern suburbs women against drug abuse march with our MEC and myself in front,” the station commander said.

Cronjé thanked Bantham for holding up a mirror to the group. “Those of us in government feel uncomfortable hearing what has been said. But, we are here to be uncomfortable and to hear the truth.”

The MEC said she realised that the northern suburbs are a microcosm of South African society.

She suggested that the next step should be a clean-up drive with everyone donning overalls and arriving armed with brooms and spades. She added that KZN premier Zweli Mkhize would launch the campaign, which would then go on to become a long-term programme of action.

The workshop took the lead from Felicity du Preez, CEO for Northdale Hospital, whose discussion group came up with Mahatma Gandhi’s words as the theme for the campaign: “Be part of the change you want to see”.

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