Residents of a Mitchells Plain suburb hit hard by a drug epidemic are furious that Community Safety MEC Dan Plato told them not to get emotional, and have called for him to step down if he can’t shut down drug dens they say are operating in their area.
Angry residents and parents of drug addicts from Beacon Valley vented their frustration yesterday after attending a round table discussion on drugs and crime in the Western Cape, during which Plato told parents “not to get emotional” about the surge in drug abuse and crime.
The debate was hosted by 567 CapeTalk as part of the fourth anniversary of Primedia Broadcasting’s Crime Line.
Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer and Plato were told by residents how drugs were destroying the community and how dealers operated “under the noses of police”.
After the discussion, Mitchells Plain community worker Cheryl Philander said the residents would give Plato an ultimatum.
She said there were 28 drug houses known to police in Beacon Valley and that unemployed youths were being employed by dealers to sell drugs to school children.
“Something has to be done before the end of the month to close those drug houses. The police know where these drug dealers live… but do nothing about it.”
Philander said she was disgusted by Plato’s response to the drug and crime problem in Mitchells Plain.
Plato said during the discussion that his department would work with the community police forum and neighbourhood watches in Mitchells Plain and across the province. “Drug abuse is a big problem, but we must not get emotional.”
Philander said Plato’s response was “disgraceful”.
“It’s very sad. Plato is not fit for that position. Our children are being turned into zombies because of tik and heroin.”
The call for Plato to step down was backed by the Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum.
Its chairman Michael Jacobs, who also attended the discussion, said: “Dan Plato is not in touch with the community. He doesn’t know what the issues are and was the wrong man for the job. Plato’s attitude towards the community stinks. Helen Zille should remove him from her cabinet.
“We are tired. Every time (the) government tells us to partner with them but they do nothing. The government must come to the party. Stop talking. We need action.”
Plato today refused to comment about calls for him to quit. He said he was “misunderstood” when he told residents not to get emotional.
“There were claims made about them reporting these matters to my office and I told them not to get emotional about it.”
He said it was not his duty to get rid of drug dealers, but the duty of the police and Lamoer.
“… My job is that of oversight. I cannot instruct and give the provincial commissioner orders. I can only facilitate to try to get rid of the problem,” said Plato
He said he would meet with Mitchells Plain residents soon to listen to their complaints.
“The only way we are going to get rid of the drug problem in the Western Cape is by going after the high-flyers… but the police will have to spearhead that initiative,” he said.
Also at the discussion was Carol Mentor, whose 31-year-old son is addicted to heroin. She said more than 70 children in her street in Beacon Valley were using drugs, while drug dealers were “coining it”.
“The parents are suffering, but the authorities don’t care,” she said. “They only care about their seats in Parliament and their positions. The police and ministers must start doing their jobs. We want these tik
houses closed in Beacon valley and across Mitchells Plain.”
Beacon Valley ward councillor the Edwin Andrews said: “These drug dens are strategically
Lamoer said police would follow up on every complaint and tip-off from residents.
During the radio discussion, Lamoer said police had seized R7.9 billion worth of drugs in nine months in the province.
Regarding Plato’s call for the police to reinstate the dedicated drug and gang units, Lamoer said: “There are no plans to do that. We have the organised crime unit and the Hawks, who are doing a sterling job. There are sufficient units in place to deal with these problems.”
Provincial police spokesman Andre Traut said the allegation that police weren’t doing anything about known drug dens was unfair.
“… Drug-related crimes enjoy an extremely high priority with the Western Cape police.” He said this was born out by the regular and recent drug busts and countless arrests.