Four children removed from Eldos ‘lolli lounges’

2013-05-22 13:53

Four children, including an eight-year-old, have been removed from “lolli lounges” in Eldorado Park in the past week, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane has said.

“Four children have been taken away and they are now in alternative centres because of their vulnerability,” Mokonyane said.

She was briefing journalists today on action taken since President Jacob Zuma’s pledge last week to crack down on rampant drug abuse in the area.

On May 14, Zuma addressed residents after receiving a letter from resident Cordelia Bailey about drug abuse.

In the letter, she described “lolli lounges” as places where young girls were lured with payments of R100 to entertain men. They became hooked on drugs and stayed on as prostitutes, getting their drugs for free as they kept clients “happy”.

Zuma called the drug abuse “a crisis, an abnormality”, and a committee was appointed to tackle the problem.

Mokonyane said 20 of these lounges had been closed in recent operations.

She is on the committee, along with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Gauteng provincial police commissioner Mzwandile Petros, and representatives of the departments of social development, correctional services, trade and industry, economic development, and education.

The mayor and City of Johannesburg officials will also participate in the plan.

She said a joint operations centre had been established and Petros would coordinate the policing, with metro police.

The plan would have two main strategies – a drug master plan to reduce demand, harm, and supply; and the Gauteng provincial antisubstance abuse strategy, which would focus on prevention, early intervention, treatment, aftercare, and rehabilitation.

Some of the plans Mokonyane discussed included a seven-day intensive detoxification programme at nearby Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

Buildings belonging to the City of Johannesburg, such as flats and houses, that were being used for drug activities and “lolli lounges”, would be cleared or demolished.

A “non-negotiable” meeting with school governing bodies would also take place.

School gates would be closed during the day, fences repaired, and food and sweet vendors around schools regularly inspected.

There would be “patrollers” within school premises and impromptu drug searches.

Youth safety imbizos, a youth against drugs forum, and substance abuse and social crime prevention workshops would be held.

The committee would examine the possibility of introducing World Cup-style specialist courts to deal swiftly with drug-related crime in the area.

Businesses would be approached to invest in the area and the departments of sport and recreation, and arts and culture would start projects for youth development and social cohesion.

Funding would be increased for in- and out-patient treatment centres and those not registered would be given “remedial” assistance.

Since the joint operations centre in Kremetart Street was launched, 116 people had been arrested in the area – 43 for drug-related crimes, 20 for driving under the influence of liquor, 10 for assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, five for burglary, five for theft out of a motor vehicle, and two for unlicensed firearms.

The drugs confiscated included cat, Mandrax, cocaine, and nyaope.

Mokonyane apologised to residents for potential inconvenience during the intervention plan.

“But it is going to be in the best interests of our community,” she said.

Mthethwa said the plan would be ongoing.

Doreleene James, who spoke during Zuma’s visit of her despair during her son’s drug addiction, thanked the team.

“Thank you for taking us seriously,” she said.

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