Clerics help to close Bridgetown drug houses

Members of the Bridgetown Community Development Forum hold a debriefing session in the road after religious leaders approached a family in the area who are suspected of selling drugs.

The Bridgetown community is working with religious leaders to deal with drug houses.

This is according to Chris Osborn, chairman of the Bridgetown Community Development Forum.

Forum representatives were joined by Sheikh Waseem Abrahams and Pastor Arnold Zietsman when they visited a family in Akasia Avenue last week who are allegedly selling drugs from their home.

Sheikh Abrahams said they had wanted to find out why the family was selling drugs, ask them to stop, and pray for them.

“We speak to them from a religious point of view. The people we spoke to said they are selling drugs because they cannot find work. We will support in whatever way we can, but, in this case, they are not just selling, but using it as well. Our appeal to them was to get into rehabilitation as well, as it is of no use that they find employment if all their money will be used for drugs,” Sheikh Abrahams said.

Pastor Zietsman said he had seen first-hand how “the youngsters are losing their way” because of drug abuse.

“We have seen the negative impact it has on children and the community, and, as religious leaders, we share how we can help on a spiritual level. We might not have the professional capacity as religious institutions to offer counselling, but we do referrals,” Pastor Zietsman said.

Mr Osborn said each road in the neighbourhood had a street committee that met regularly with the forum to discuss problems and that had helped, for example, to identify the need for food during lockdown.

“We work closely together to ensure that nobody goes hungry. Before lockdown, we successfully closed down a number of drug houses, but when level five lockdown rules applied, things got out of hand again. We also work closely with our ward councillors, Anthony Moses and Rashid Adams, as some of these houses still belong to the City of Cape Town. Athlone SAPS is also on board, and we are working with them to apply the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA),” Mr Osborn said.

Athlone SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Zita Norman confirmed they were working with the community, with the help of the ward councillors.

“It has always been the norm, especially where rental stock homes are concerned, that the community pass on information to the ward councillors if they suspect the house is being used for criminal activities, and the councillors then filter that information to us. Our crime intelligence will then investigate the claims,” Sergeant Norman said.

Those involved in organised crime, money laundering, gang activities and other crimes under POCA risk forfeiting their assets, including their homes, to the state.

Mr Adams said once the community flagged a potential drug house, he alerted law enforcement.

“If it is a City-owned house, we start off with C3 notifications (the City’ service request which records, tracks and report requests and complaints from the public). This gives us an opportunity to follow up,” he said.

“I work closely with the forum and attend their meetings. Sometimes we find that the sellers are not the tenants of the homes, and the tenant or owner will allow it because of a need for an income. I will then see how to assist, by, for example, looking at how the arrears on the municipal account can be dealt with. We help where we can, but we must all work together.”

Mr Osborn said that if a drug house was identified, the street committee approached the family to ask them to stop peddling drugs.

“In most cases, they agree,” he said. “Some of them say so only to get us off their backs. The street committee, with the help of the neighbourhood watch, then monitors the activities at the house. If they still continue with their illegal activities, the religious leaders address it from a spiritual place. They speak to the family about what scripture says, ask what the challenges are, and how we can assist, and then they also pray for the family. If they persist, we will mobilise the entire community to stand before your house. Our motto is ‘ons gaan dikhou tot julle ophou’. We also document everything and share information with the police.”

Sheikh Abrahams said: “This is our community, and we do what we can to ensure it is safe for our children. We can only achieve it, however, if the community works together.”