Pubdate: Tue, 08 Jul 2003
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily News.
Author: Gilda Van Schalkwyk


In the continuing fight against drug dealing and "rampant" drug abuse in
Chatsworth, south of Durban, the community itself has been identified as
part of the problem.

Police said too few people come forward to help and too many are hiding
under a cloak of secrecy.

Some are afraid, even though they know who the drug dealers are and where
they operate from, according to police.

However, a large majority of those potential informers are prepared to
sacrifice their moral and civic duties for "dirty money" payment.

Investigations in Chatsworth this week revealed that in return for keeping
quiet, many households are accepting money to pay their electricity, water
and general household bills.

"But if we told the police what we know we could be killed," said one
fearful resident.

"We would need a massive operation to clean up this place. Right now the
drug lords rule, and as ordinary people we can do little about it."

When the Daily News asked for the names of hot spots in Chatsworth, a
spokesman for an undercover narcotics unit refused to disclose them. He said
that might jeopardise their crackdown operations in the area and would
provide useful information for the dealers.

However, sources said places that are often raided for drugs are clubs,
where children as young as nine years old go regularly, schools and commuter
vantage points near the Chatsworth Centre.

Insp Dieter Meyer, of the Durban Metro Police (Narcotics Unit), said the
most common drugs sold on the streets are dagga, Ecstasy, Mandrax and LSD.

In response to community reticence, police said they would ensure the safety
of those who provide valuable information and protect their identities.

But this gesture, too, is viewed with some suspicion, as police in the
Chatworth area are often accused of corruption.

Residents claim that police often turn a blind eye to certain drug lords for
dirty money.

A Chatsworth police spokesman, Derrick Chetty, said this was a community
perception. "There has to be at least one person in the SAPS whom the
community members know they can trust and speak to," he said.

One undercover policeman said: "We can't allow the past to cloud the
situation now. We need the support of the community to clean up the streets.

"In the latest move to fight against drug dealers the SAPS, Metro Police and
the Area Commissioner's Office Detectives (narcotics department), have
embarked on a joint project to weed out the criminal elements responsible
for drug peddling in the Durban south areas.

As part of the initial operation, a special undercover team is weeding out
the "runners".

Runners work for drug dealers and can be as young as 10 years old, and often
teenagers who don't find jobs see drug dealing as "easy money".

Recently, a 23-year-old man from the area was arrested by the unit for
dealing in Mandrax, police said.

In another drug bust in March, 487 Mandrax tablets were recovered. A suspect
was acquitted of all charges because the SAPS did not have adequate

That's where the legal system comes into play and police claim they have no
control over it, sources said. But the SAPS said this happens all the time;
evidence is never "concrete enough" for prosecution.

Once the unit receives tipoffs from community members, they observe and
research, before attempting to apprehend the criminals.

Despite the unit being a small one, they said there has been a good success
rate in the apprehension of drug dealers in the Chatsworth area.

To help police with information, contact the Narcotics Department at 031 451
6006 during office hours or visit the Chatsworth police station.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk