Residents cry foul over police role in drugs war
BELHAR residents say they are fighting a fruitless war against the drug trade in their Cape Flats community.
Voluntary community workers say youths with little in the way of functioning families are caught in a web of drugs, crime and poverty.
“Those not strong enough end up dealing on the corners, and without a loving family to help them along the right path they inevitably become victims of drugs,” said a concerned high school teacher.
Residents believe the police are in cahoots with drug dealers, allowing the drug trade to boom in the suburb. They claim some police officers are either on drugs themselves, or they are tipping off their merchant buddies ahead of planned raids.
Community workers claim the drug situation is out of control in Belhar because police do not act fast enough on information received from the community.
“We all know where the tik houses are, we know where the dealers stay but, when it comes to raids, the dealers know exactly when police are going to strike,” said a resident.
Community voluntary worker Lindy Adriaanse said drug abuse was “out of control” in the area, and a large number of school children were abusing drugs.
“These children start smoking dagga from as young as seven and by the time they turn nine they are moving on to bigger things. Most are doing what they see their own parents do. They have no role models and little supervision.”
She said tik (methampheta- mine), Mandrax, rocks (crack cocaine) and dagga were still popular among the area’s youth.
In Belhar the hope of recovery is slim but some community lead- ers like Adriaanse are trying to do their bit to help, and refer some of the addicts to rehabilitation.
Jacob Jaftha, of the Belhar Trauma and Victim Support Centre, said they sent an average of 40 people a month to rehabilitation. “We refer between 15 and 18 schoolchildren every month and about 20 to 25 adults for rehabilitation to facilities in Vredenburg, Eerste River, Kensington and Maitland.”
Jaftha said while the situation was dire, it was heartening to know people were seeking help.
Adriaanse said drugs led to crime. “The community is not coping with the glut of drugrelated crimes and repeat offenders are driven by addiction. These children start committing petty crimes and burglaries to feed their drug addiction.”
Drug counsellor Faghmeeda Ameerodien said people who lived next door to drug houses were frightened of the merchants. Eventually the dealers became part of the community.
“Living next to a dealer brings with it a lot of uneasiness and fear. Parents worry if it is going to be their child who will be caught next.”
She said there was a lack of proper support structures for victims and inadequate policing.
The vice-chairman of the Belhar Community Police Forum, Patrick America, said in many cases youths bunked school and spent their days in drug houses and illegal shebeens.
About three months ago, 60 youths from different local schools were seen roaming the area during school hours, causing chaos. They were unruly, threatening people with knives and stealing from people.
“These kids ended up stabbing two community members who were returning from the shops. Policing forum members confiscated a slow boat – a large dagga joint – alcohol, 14 knives and a panga from the youths. Fifteen were arrested.”
America said the community was very concerned about the policing of drugs in the area. However their new operational head was making strides towards ridding the police of bad apples.