City’s drinking problem

2019-03-18 10:18
Cutting out alcohol can help you make more informed eating choices.

Cutting out alcohol can help you make more informed eating choices. (Mireya Acierto / Getty Images)

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Public drinking may be a criminal offence but that does not stop dozens of Pietermaritzburg’s youth from consuming liquor in parks, sports fields and even on the streets.

Ratepayers and residents who witness this behaviour on a regular basis blame the City for not enforcing its own by-laws on public health.

A Peter Kerchoff Street resident said he would not care so much about the drinking if the revellers didn’t make noise. He said every weekend was like a party with dozens of cars parked on the side of the road playing loud music.

“The more they drink, the louder their voices get and sometimes they start fighting and wake up the entire block with the shouting and screaming,” he said.

He was worried about the future of the country as it was the youth that engaged in what he described as “reckless behaviour”.

“We all know young people drink but I think it’s getting out of hand. Sometimes you see them passed out in their cars with the doors open and music blasting. I don’t know if it’s a cry for help.”

Another ratepayer who owns a property on Pietermaritz Street said the drinking culture in the area was fuelled by the five liquor outlets in a single block. These also happened to be within metres of schools and homes.

“Pay-day weekend is the worst, but every weekend is dangerous, as people walk drunk in the street, fights break out and noise continues up to 3am.

She said it was now a common sight to find drunk people sleeping on the pavements in the mornings and the street gutters filled with broken glass.

She had also observed people driving with bottles of alcohol in their laps and drinking as they drove.

“Bylaw enforcement, traffic enforcement and simple consideration for the lives of others are non-existent in the city.”

A local DJ, who asked not to be named, said he had seen that some people now preferred buying their liquor to go drink  outside the venues that he played at.

“It could also be because many of them have not reached the legal age for drinking and they know the establishment owners won’t allow them inside.”

He said Pietermaritzburg did not offer many choices in terms of entertainment for young people.

He said the municipality should consider having a place where people could gather, enjoy food and drinks outdoors.

“If you have a designated area it would be safer for everyone.

“The municipality could also deploy law enforcement officers to make sure that people under 18 are not drinking and they could also stop those who want to drive while drunk.”

City spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha did not directly respond to Weekend Witness’ question on public drinking and enforcement.

However, she forwarded a copy of Msunduzi’s public health bylaws which state that “no person(s) shall consume liquor at a public place unless authorised to do so by the relevant authority.”

Last week she told Weekend Witness that the municipality had an idea to identify a designated area that would be exclusive to revellers and make it attractive for partying purposes exclusively, away from Alexandra Park where there were also complaints of rowdiness.

Sexual violence and drinking sprees

The director of LifeLine Pietermaritzburg, Sinikiwe Biyela, said the consequences for public drinking were dire for victims of sexual violence.

She said the organisation dealt with dozens of cases where young women were raped during the public drinking sprees.

“We have cases where their drinks were spiked and they were raped. When they wake up they don’t remember what happened and the only thing they can prove was that there was penetration. They don’t even know if it was one of their ‘friends’ that raped them.”

Her concern was that these “parties” often took place where it was impossible to get CCTV footage to assist the police during their investigating.

Biyela said these matters often did not make it to court as the police told the victims there was nothing they could do since they were drunk and didn’t remember what happened.

“Their friends also refuse to come forward and testify because often their parents don’t even know that they are part of these public drinking fests.

So the victims get no support from their own families — because they don’t tell them — and their supposed friends they were partying with.”

Police warn of public drinking

Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese warned people that even drinking while sitting in your car in a public area was a criminal offence.

“When people engage in such behaviour, not only are they engaging in a criminal behaviour, but they could also end up being victims of crimes themselves once they are intoxicated.”

He said criminals would most likely take advantage of them if they see that they are not in a position to defend themselves.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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