Now is the time to act decisively on the drug scourge

Philip M Bam, Deputy Chair of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance and Safety & Security Portfolio Holder writes in the Cape Times of 30th June 2011.

CAPETONIANS have always been proud of the accolades bestowed upon our beautiful city. Lately those seem to have changed to brickbats as our city becomes world-renowned for the evils which lurk therein.

We are now known as the “Murder Capital”; “Tik Capital” and a place of sleaze. This really saddens me as I have always defended our beautiful city whenever I am confronted with the international perception that Cape Town is the crime capital.

The constant mugging of tourists and citizens on Table Mountain and growing house-breaking problem does nothing to obliterate this bad perception. Neither do reports such as the one that appeared in the Cape Times of June 28 (“UN highlights city’s growing drug problem”) help. Unfortunately, we cannot dispute the facts in the report.

This growing drug problem is real. It is destroying families and communities. Every suburb in the city and especially those where the disadvantaged and poor live have succumbed to this pervasive cancer. The stark reality is that it is not going to just go away.

It appears that our “emperors” are fiddling with party-political power games while Cape Town is burning. The very fabric of our society is being destroyed. The soul of our nation is being attacked when our youth are being targeted by avaricious drug dealers. We do realise that there are documents with nice-sounding strategies and drug master plans but documents don’t save lives. We need to get our priorities right. We need all hands on deck to deal with this scourge.

Has it not dawned on the authorities that whatever it is they are doing is not working? We need to reassess our strategies. The heart-broken father and mother, the grandparents whose household goods are being stolen daily by their own children know that the strategy is not working.

Perhaps one of the reasons for bad strategising is that the masters of the plan may not have been affected by the scourge of drugs. Perhaps the consultants who were paid millions of rands to write plans do not live on the Cape Flats where drug peddling is rife and totally out of hand. Perhaps we believe too much in “the document” which seem to be a peculiar South African governmental trait. What we need is real meaningful action. We need to co-ordinate our enforcement and prevention strategies with the long-term healing plans. We congratulate those operating the youth treatment centres but they cannot cope with the demand.

The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance calls for firmer police action against the drug importers. We ask: how is it possible that huge quantities of drugs can be moved on our roads while we have regular roadblocks stopping cars to do driver licence checks and just wave them on? How is it possible that drugs can be sold on our suburban streets by youth on little BMX bicycles while police patrols are passing by? How is it possible that shebeeners and drug lords can get “police bail” and avoid spending even one minute behind bars while a law abiding citizen is unlawfully arrested in a blatant abuse of police powers and kept behind bars for hours on end? We probably know the answer but then we also know that whistle blowing is not a life sustaining activity in this country.

We call on all our law enforcement agencies to act now and without fear or favour. Perhaps now is the time to bring back a dedicated unit to deal with the drug problem. Perhaps now is the time to be unpopular and act decisively, not only against the drug dealers but against those civil servants who are corrupt and on the payrolls of the drug bosses. Let’s clean up our agencies and administration and then it would be a lot easier to clean up the drug problem.

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