City’s rehab centre plan for vagrant addicts met with scepticism

2017-09-29 11:25
Plans for City's rehab centre.

Plans for City's rehab centre.

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The Msunduzi Municipality’s latest plan to clear vagrants from the central business district (CBD) has been met with scepticism — especially since the City itself canned a similar project in April.

The Witness reported on Monday that the City has for the last two months been in talks with various government departments to establish a rehab centre for vagrant drug addicts from the city centre.

The plan — which has been dismissed as the City “just humouring” the CBD business fraternity — appears to be an exact replica of a centre opened of Havelock Road, which was closed because the City pulled the funding.

Vagrant drug addicts are seen as one of the main reasons for the decay of the CBD, where many major businesses have closed their doors recently.

In 2015, the City, with multiple stakeholders including Business Fighting Crime (BFC), launched the Living Off The Streets (Lots) project. It hosted vagrants at the Havelock Road centre.

A City report that documented details of the project said: “Funding the project with money to continue remains an issue and [resulted] in the closure of the project.”

The report said funding had not been secured for this year, leading to its closure in April after only two years.

The house took in 28 people who were all involved in drugs and criminal activities, like prostitution and drug dealing.

Those familiar with the project at the time claim the City was not willing to give the project “continuous funds”.

The report noted that the project was beset with problems and misbehaviour from clients, including fighting and drug abuse.

A City official told business owners in an August meeting that the centre “did not work”.

In minutes of the meeting seen by The Witness, an official said people taken to the house “prefer living on the streets”.

The official said the programme had to be closed down.

Those in the business fraternity who attend stakeholder meetings said the City has not said a word to them about the new rehab centre. “Nobody approached us,” said a source who has been on the management committee since the first rehab centre project. “We know nothing about it.”

They said the lack of input from the City caused multiple problems at the rehab centre.

The winding-down report suggested the house was filthy and overcrowded, and lacked vital staff like security and cooks.

A source asked: “What is really happening [with the project]? Who have they consulted? What is the time­frame? If they are serious about it, [the project] needs to be issued soon.”

But the business fraternity also doubted a rehab centre, even if functioning optimally, would solve the problems of vagrants in the CBD.

“There are about 400 whoonga addicts in the city, how big a place would you need for all of them? It would take too long to sort out the problem.”

Babu Baijoo, who was Msunduzi speaker at the time the project was set up, felt the project would have been a success if the City’s new management committed funding.

He said a second rehab centre was in the works before the first one was closed down.

Democratic Alliance caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said the City did not treat the issue of vagrants in the area as an urgent matter.

“They should have a plan because it is seriously compromising business. The City needs to establish the status of each individual [vagrant], what brought them there, because the number keeps increasing.

“Police, [the Department of Social Development] and the city need to find a way around this problem.”

Msunduzi Municipality acting spokesperson Siyabonga Hlongwa did not answer calls, SMSes or a detailed e-mail query on Thursday. The questions centred on the status of the new rehab centre and why the City considered it the most appropriate solution.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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