Bethlehem residents express frustration over rising drug abuse

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Disgruntled residents of Bethlehem in the Free State have expressed their frustration about the increase of drug abuse in their area. They raised their concern with the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, at an Imbizo held at the local stadium.

Numerous marches have been held to the local police station, where residents raised issues of drug abuse and a lack of proper policing. Most notably, residents have accused the area police commissioner of corrupt activities.

Dihlabeng residents gathered at the local stadium to deal with issues of substance abuse and gender-based violence. They were also encouraged to report criminal activities in their communities.

However, the community members say they are tired of the area police commissioner, who they allege, is involved in criminal acts. Residents have appealed for the minister’s intervention.

“Our grievances with this guy are, he has been involved in stock theft cases and drug dealers are being protected by the same police general. Now we say enough is enough today with this police general. We have got so many cases that we can put on record that he is involved with. One which I want to make an example which I want the minister to follow it up with his headboy who was arrested for stock theft. The allegation is he once died but how was he released from the police cells.”

“We march but we don’t get help, the police don’t help us. The police in Dihlabeng keep on failing us when they are suppose to help us they assist the drug peddlers. Now we are being killed after the suspects continue to roam around and you see them after few days. As to how they were released we don’t know.”

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services has implored residents to work with their leaders to fight social ills in their communities.

“They are concerned about the high level of drug abuse in the society and community here and that those who get arrested they get released easily. So we have requested that they give us the specifics of the cases so that we can outline issues with the relevant authorities in the NPA and the SAPS so that we can give a community a feedback and for the community to report more cases. Because we only have four related drug cases in the whole area of Bethlehem and you have hundreds of people complaining of drugs. It does not make sense, there’s a sign that somewhere they don’t trust the system.”

Community Safety and Transport MEC, Maqueen Letshoha-Mathae says they are getting more concerns from the community about the local area police commissioner.

“We will have to take this matter up because its not the first time, its not the second time, there has been numerous occasions where we interact with communities where we found the same complaint. And I did raise this matter and I have just spoken to the Minister Ntate Lamola that now we belong to the same committee the JPCS cluster. We really need to take this matter up to the level of the MINMEC where we formally now engage the minister and the deputy minister and we come down here and listen to the concerns of the community. Really, they have been raising this issue several times but its high time that now we give them a formal hearing and engage the minister, myself now that the minister of Justice was also here we really have to do that now.”

The community members have vowed to continue holding protests to root out crime in their community.