Safety is all the Rage

Vol­un­teer Red Frogs will once again be school-leavers’ ‘big sis­ter or brother’

The Independent on Saturday - - METRO - DUN­CAN GUY dun­can.guy@inl.co.za

RE­CENT generations of school-leavers cel­e­brat­ing the an­nual ma­tric Rage fes­ti­val were in­clined to con­sume fewer drugs than their pre­de­ces­sors from 2011 to 2014, ac­cord­ing to Greg Walsh, founder and di­rec­tor of the or­gan­is­ing com­pany, G & G.

“That’s what one senses from the mood of the crowds,” he said. “They are more ed­u­cated, worldly and con­fi­dent. And eas­ier. They tend to be more mindful of body and soul than the gen­er­a­tion be­fore them.”

How­ever, he said those seek­ing to go to ex­tremes tended to in­dulge in more of the “le­gal drug”: al­co­hol.

The fes­ti­val takes place in uMh­langa, Bal­lito and Dur­ban from November 30 to December 8.

Walsh said to counter excessive al­co­hol con­sump­tion, liquor was sold at “pre­mium” prices. Ine­bri­ated rev­ellers could also be “locked out” of buy­ing liquor on credit with a tap on their dig­i­tal bracelet, giv­ing them ac­cess to only food and wa­ter pur­chases.

To re­strict Rage par­tic­i­pants from find­ing them­selves on board hired minibus taxis with drunk driv­ers at the helm, driv­ers would be re­quired to un­dergo breathal­yser tests be­fore start­ing their shifts. “In the past, some have been sent home,” he said.

Walsh said Rage’s ef­forts to counter drug use in­cluded al­low­ing po­lice to send un­der­cover agents into crowds. “This leads to their ac­tu­ally do­ing trans­ac­tions and mak­ing busts. We catch six or seven small-time deal­ers every year but it’s never a big dealer.”

He also said the pro­gramme was de­signed to keep par­tic­i­pants in a safe en­vi­ron­ment, away from the main­stream crime of ev­ery­day South Africa, but it was im­pos­si­ble to keep a full watch on every place where par­tic­i­pants were stay­ing.

How­ever, par­tic­i­pants were en­cour­aged to stay in more cen­tral places where se­cu­rity was tight, and official trans­port took them to their des­ti­na­tion venues with no drop-offs.

Venues gen­er­ally had three times the num­ber of se­cu­rity present than at events such as mu­sic con­certs. Medics would also be on hand. “Not be­cause the en­vi­ron­ment needs it. We just want the big­gest safety blan­ket.”

Walsh said his com­pany had pro­vided the Bal­lito and uMh­langa Ur­ban Im­prove­ment Precincts (UIPs) with an ex­tra eight se­cu­rity guards.

Also on duty would be about 200 Red Frogs, vol­un­teers from church or­gan­i­sa­tions, who were slightly older than the school-leavers and could help them in emer­gen­cies or pro­vide coun­selling.

Brett France, the Red Frogs na­tional ma­tric hol­i­days co-or­di­na­tor, said their role was to be “like a big sis­ter or brother walk­ing them through it”.

“I’ve seen our guys defuse a sit­u­a­tion that could have led to a fight by in­ter­ven­ing and of­fer­ing them (an­tag­o­nists) sweets (trade­mark Red Frog sweets),” he re­called.

Cara Reilly, spokesper­son for the uMh­langa UIP, praised the Red Frogs as be­ing “the touch point with the kids”. “They hold it all to­gether.”

She said there would be cooler-box searches on the beaches of uMh­langa and Bal­lito to check that peo­ple obeyed by-laws.

“It all takes lots of EQ (emo­tional in­tel­li­gence) and un­der­stand­ing of the bal­ance be­tween kids be­hav­ing like kids and be­hav­ing badly.”

Metro po­lice spokesper­son Se­nior Su­per­in­ten­dent Par­boo Sew­per­sad said plan­ning for Rage was in its fi­nal stages. “Most ac­tiv­i­ties have moved up to uMh­langa and Bal­lito.”

RAGE events have three times the se­cu­rity per­son­nel in at­ten­dance com­pared with many con­certs.

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