‘Act on drug abuse’

2019-01-21 16:47
Pietermaritzburg has seen an alarming growth of whoonga addicts and police said they will focus on whoonga users to decrease crime in the city.

Pietermaritzburg has seen an alarming growth of whoonga addicts and police said they will focus on whoonga users to decrease crime in the city. (File)

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Prominent activist Thabiso Zulu has implored the provincial portfolio committee on Community Safety to intervene in the “collapse of policing” around Pietermaritzburg.

In an urgent letter “begging” committee chairperson Bheki Ntuli to “act swiftly”, Zulu said the youth in the city are suffering with drug abuse — and drug sales and use were even said to be happening right outside municipal offices and the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.

Zulu, who is also the ANC spokesperson for the Harry Gwala district, gained prominence during his testimony at the Moerane Commission on political killings, during which he feared for his life.

His letter said the city centre as well as the Dambuza and Haniville areas — which resembled “drug dens” — were the hotspots for open drug abuse.

He cited Market Square and a place on Retief Street in the letter as other hotspots.

Zulu in his letter claimed that police were aware of these drug hotspots, yet were not acting. He said drugs like dagga, whoonga, cocaine, nciki — a mixture of cough syrup and cold drink — and mandrax were the common drugs on the streets.

“The question is why nothing gets done to address this. Policing has collapsed around PMB. Alcohol freely pours in most streets; people … just drink openly in town and there are no consequences.”

Zulu, who grew up in Pietermaritzburg, told The Witness he has received many complaints about the situation from activists in the city.

“I have been trying my best for the past two years to get government to intervene. So, I have contacted the portfolio committee now, which is a powerful body. They can subpoena anyone to appear before them. They can give instructions to government departments to compile reports ...”

He said the fight against drug abuse in the city required a serious project. “It’s not just the dealers and the runners police need to arrest, but the masters behind it. This is a time bomb. There are so many youngsters abusing drugs on the streets. It has to be addressed now.”

Community activists in areas allegedly plagued with drug abuse said people feared being targeted by drug dealers if they exposed their behaviour.

A youth activist in Dambuza, who did not want to be named out of fear, said: “The situation here is very bad. The guys selling drugs are destroying the lives of youth in the community.

“The community is too scared to speak out because they [drug dealers] can do anything to harm them. The more you push to get action taken, the risk is that you will become known to them, so people just keep quiet. It’s bad. You can’t raise a child here,” he added.

Mlungisi Zondi, councillor assistant for ward 29, said substance abuse was fuelling violent crimes in Copesville, Swapo and Haniville.

“Whoonga addiction is very common, and although we can’t say for certain who the merchants are, we know they operate in these areas.”

He said Swapo had become the “valley of the shadow of death”, saying there were drug-related deaths most weekends.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese was sent Zulu’s letter and denied the allegations in it, saying that policing was not lacking in the city. “The drug problem is a national problem. There is nothing unique about PMB in terms of drug abuse ...”

Ntuli, the chairperson of the community safety portfolio committee, declined to comment.

*Additional reporting by Nokuthula Khanyile

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  drugs

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