It is fewer than four months ago that the leadership of the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal was here to celebrate with the people of Chatsworth Heritage Day as a further affirmation of our commitment to work with all South Africans to build a South Africa that is free of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
As we engaged with the community though our service delivery model of Operation Sukuma Sakhe, we were inundated with heart-wrenching stories about how this society - respected for its strong moral and religious values - was falling apart at the hands of well-known drug dealers who seemed to operate with impunity.
We heard how parents had grown to live in fear of their own children who would do anything to satisfy their craving for a multiplicity of drug concoctions. Levels of prostitution were soaring and violent criminals virtually owned our streets.
Chatsworth had arrogated to itself the dubious crown of being among the major drug dens in our province. We were advised by the police that the latest crime figures indicated that drug-related crimes had climbed from 1060 to 1294 reported cases - translating into a 22% increase in that category of criminal activity in Chatsworth - the third highest in KwaZulu-Natal.
On behalf of the people of KwaZulu-Natal, we as the Provincial Government made an undertaking that day that the residents of Chatsworth shall set themselves free.
We said as Government we would launch an offensive against the proliferation of whoonga, mandrax, cocaine, dagga, ecstacy and any other substance that was destroying the future of our children and our country.
Through our United Front Against Crime campaign, working closely with the Operation Sukuma Sakhe war rooms in every ward, we invited the community to work with us to reclaim Chatsworth from the drug lords and drive them out of our midst.
We established a multi-departmental task team to deal squarely with Chatsworth's drug problem, and invited all stakeholders in the community - the religious, business, political and cultural sectors to come forward and work with us.
We were taken up on our challenge from the least expected quarter.
In a rare display of civic journalism at its best, the editor of Post, Mr Aakash Bramdeo invited the community to come forward with the names and addresses of drug dealers, peddlers and runners. The MEC for Transport, Community and Liaison, Mr TW Mchunu, joined me when we were invited to the offices of the newspaper to receive the staggering number of responses from members of the community who were prepared to work with people they could trust.
The task team we had established got down to work immediately on the basis of the information the readers of Post had furnished. Little successes bred bigger victories as the community realised that our commitment to reward their co-operation would bear results.
Yesterday the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison and the Provincial Commissioner briefed me about the latest developments that we have come back to report on today regarding the achievements of the team that has been working with the Flying Squad Narcotics Task Team on the list provided to the Premier by Post.
The arrest this week of Mr Yeganathan Pillay (also known as Teddy Mafia) is a remarkable achievement. The police recovered from his house a large consignment of drugs hidden behind the headboard in a bedroom. The recovered drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and mandrax to the street value of R5-million.
We have asked the police to investigate how he has managed to evade arrest for such a long time since he has long been suspected of underhand activities.
Only on the 31st of December his wife was caught with R5 000 worth of drugs, three licensed firearms and R744 000 in cash.
This is but one example of the kind of successes our initiative with the community is yielding.
We want to say to the police: You have done extremely well and we are proud of you. The results are unbelievable and one can only marvel at the level of sheer sophistication of these drug-dealing operations. We congratulate the Commissioner and her team, the Community Policing Forum and the whole Crime Prevention Cluster for this outstanding work.
We in Government have become used to the aloof stance often taken by the media in the resolution of societal challenges instead of rolling up their sleeves and working with all of us to fight the scourge of drugs.
We salute Post newspaper for demonstrating what is possible when, instead of sniping and pontificating from the sidelines, we join our community meaningfully to build a better future.
The people of Chatsworth now know what is possible when they stand up to say "enough is enough" to crime. May their example inspire many more who doubt that their future and that of their children can still be snatched back from the evil hands of drug dealers and their fellow travellers.
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Office of the Premier
10 Jan 2013
Premier Zweli Mkhize on Chatsworth drug bust