Se­na­tor Park: Cape Town’s own crime HQ

Drugs, pros­ti­tutes, stolen goods and il­le­gal im­mi­grants –no­to­ri­ous build­ing has it all

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - HE­LEN BAM­FORD

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.

PIC­TURE: GARETH SMIT

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.

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