Senator Park: Cape Town’s own crime HQ
Drugs, prostitutes, stolen goods and illegal immigrants –notorious building has it all
COCAINE for the tourists and tik, rocks and unga for the street kids.
Welcome to Senator Park, the most notorious building on trendy Long Street, where drugs can be bought for hard cash or swopped for stolen goods at any time of the day or night.
A Facebook group called “Close down Senator Park” has been started in an effort to get authorities to crack down on the drug lords and pimps who operate brazenly.
It was started by Damian Snyders, manager of the St George’s Cathedral outreach programme, who has also appealed to both Premier Helen Zille and Mayor Dan Plato to intervene.
Snyders said street children were persuading tourists to buy them items like cereal, milk and sugar which they were exchanging for drugs in Senator Park.
“Once they get the items they run to Senator Park.”
One kid confirmed this, saying a bag of groceries – which the drug lords feed their families with – was swopped for rock (crack cocaine).
“It’s only enough for one drag though. It lasts a second and then you need another,” he said.
Snyders said “very young” prostitutes work out of the building.
“The other day a young girl was raped there. And now these guys are telling the kids they want gold cards so they are forcing them to steal wallets. “
Two years ago a man was pushed out of a sixth floor window and killed.
The entrance to the seven storey-block is in Keerom Street, near the Cape High Court.
Snyders says everyone had a unique name for the building.
“Some called it ‘Skywalker’ and others call it ‘Senator No Weer’ – but they all know it’s where to go to get drugs.”
There is a big metal turnstile to get in and out which is manned by security who sit behind bullet-proof glass.
Bachelor flats go for about R3 500 a month but there are up to 11 people in some of the rooms and the lift has been switched off because of constant vandalism.
On the Facebook site there are accusations that the police took bribes or warned dealers when there was to be a raid.
But, police spokesman, Senior Superintendent Billy Jones said the Cape Town police had no record of cases where police members had been implicated in bribery by alleged drug lords. He said if people could back these allegations, they should report them.
Linzi Thomas of the MylifE Foundation said that every item stolen in the city landed up there.
One Long Street business owner said pickpockets trawled the pubs and then hid in Senator Park. “Sometimes you see bank cards and empty wallets being flung out of the windows when they’ve taken what they wanted.”
He said the main drug dealers were from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola while the drug runners were usually Tanzanians.
“They need to bring in the military,” he said.
Tasso Evangelinos, chief operations officer for the CCID, described Senator Park as the “biggest single eyesore in the CBD”.
He said it was a sectionaltitle building with each apartment individually owned, making it hard to identify the culprits. There are 168 units.
Evangelinos said police raids had intensified in recent weeks but were not enough.
“It’s a sick building and we need to target it from all angles.”
Len Lowings, of managing agents L & V Properties, said they were working closely with the police and the city’s “Drug Busters” unit. They were also assisting owners to evict tenants involved in drug dealing.
Lowings said that last year the police and Home Affairs raided Senator Park at 3am after closing off the street.
He said 85 illegal immigrants were found but not so much as a single joint.
Next week they will be installing a new tamper-proof turnstile, made by the engineers who designed Athlone Soccer stadium’s turnstiles. This will work in conjunction with electronic tags. Visitors will be logged in by security.
“If we can control access then I believe we can get it right.”
JP Smith, chairman of the city’s safety and security portfolio committee, said the building had no major defects or rental arrears for the city to act on. He said Senator Park would only come right when the drug lords were evicted.
Smith said many owners were absentee landlords and unresponsive to complaints, but other owners had been physically assaulted and pushed down stairs when they had confronted their tenants.
MAN ON A MISSION: Damian Snyders, manager of the St George's Cathedral outreach programme, says drug lords at Senator Park are selling drugs to children as young as nine. He wants the building closed down.