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Young rich kids with time and money on their hands are the latest targets of drug dealers, who have descended on the picturesque town of Ballito.
There have been at least three drug-related deaths in the town this year and residents say the drug problem is spiralling out of control.
In January, Tamryn Coetzee and Gareth Kyle died after apparently taking contaminated cocaine bought from a dealer in Ballito.
Both apparently complained of severe stomach pain and headaches and were found dead the next morning.
Craig Hall, a 21-year-old gym instructor from Ballito was killed last week, and was wrongly accused of being a drug dealer.
Hall’s mother, Roselyn Bega, said in an earlier report that her son was not a dealer.
“Never ever was Craig involved in drugs - that we knew of. A lot of his friends take drugs, but he would get angry about it, saying it was such a waste of money,” she said.
Hall was allegedly shot twice in the head although the police are unable to confirm the post-mortem results.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said the motive was still unknown but a murder case was being investigated. He could not confirm if it was drug related. He said two drug dealers had been arrested in Ballito recently.
On Friday, the police swooped on a 30-year-old suspect in a parking lot after receiving a tip-off. He was found with cocaine with a street value of R700 and will appear in court tomorrow.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson, who was hired to investigate Hall, Kyle and Coetzee’s deaths, confirmed the drug problem in Ballito.
“There is definitely drug activity in the area, it’s out in the open. The drug of choice is cocaine. This is normally more expensive than many of the other drugs, but affordable to the people who live there (Ballito),” he said.
He said his investigations revealed there was no turf war between dealers as there was “plenty of business for everyone” with the main clientele being youngsters.
Although Nathanson initially told the media that Hall was dealing drugs, he has since backtracked, claiming he was misquoted and that Hall’s death was a result of a car scam.
“I don’t know what Craig was doing in his personal life. There are stories going around that he was dealing in 2009, but I can’t confirm that.
“I do know that he put down R50 000 on a R200 000 car and was scrambling to get the other R150 000 and I believe he knew it was stolen. He was told the car was impounded at a road block on the way to KZN,” Nathanson said.
He said that after speaking to authorities, he found that no car matching the description had been impounded.
“I don’t believe there really was a car in the first place and the only proof was a picture on Craig’s mobile phone. I think that when Craig found out there was no car and had lost his money, he threatened to go to the police, which led to his death,” said Nathanson, who is still on the case for the family.
Hall was cremated this week after an emotional funeral on Thursday attended by hundreds of friends and family. His father, Doug Hall, speaking at the funeral, described Craig as full of joy. “He had a great heart. There is a void in our life, and we will miss him but know he is in a better place and is happy. We all to need to carry Craig in our hearts and minds.”
Chris Lambson, the chairman of the Ballito Neighbourhood Watch, said drugs were a big problem among the youth and were too freely available, especially cocaine, with not enough done to clamp down on the trade. “There are a few arrests, but the successes are too few. Police arrests do not have an impact as the small-fry dealers are caught, and not the bigger distributors.”
A prominent Ballito resident who declined to be named, agreed that the drug trade was thriving in the town. He said everyone from car guards to bouncers at nightclubs were dealing and it was “spiralling out of control”.
“Young kids are being targeted, especially those with money. Anything you want is available – rock, crack, cocaine. And the police are aware of this; we are being let down.”
Barbara Shingler of the Dolphin Coast Ratepayers and Residents Association said there “absolutely is a drug problem in Ballito, which is a huge concern”.
“It is a big issue everywhere, including the North Coast. Residents have told the police where drug dealers allegedly hang out but nothing has been done. It makes you wonder,” she said.
A businessman in Ballito who has a shop near a popular nightclub described youngsters frequenting the club as “off their heads”.
“You should see them on a Friday night. I don’t know what they are on, but they are on something,” he said.
Mandla Ngema, the secretary of the Ballito community policing forum (CPF), said drug dealing was believed to be rife but the police were investigating it. He said the CPF, which was launched last month, aimed to create a partnership between the community and the Umhlali police to counter this and other issues.
“With the increase in crime in the area, the forum is also planning to establish street committees that will patrol and monitor (hot) spot areas as a crime repellent strategy.”
However, Umhlali station commander Colonel Bheki Zondi denied that drugs were a problem in Ballito, and declined to comment further.
Zwane said claims that the Umhlali police were doing nothing about information given by the public were untrue.
“A man was arrested a month ago for dealing drugs in the area and the information came from the public. He has been arrested for the second time this year. Operations are being conducted to deal with drugs all over.”
Sam Pillay of the Anti-Drug Forum warned of recreational drug use in affluent areas like Ballito by youngsters looking for a better party.
The group had noticed an increase in drug activity in affluent areas but unlike in middle and low income areas, it was not open. “Many of the dealers are moving their operations into the more affluent areas as the police focus on lower and middle income areas.
“But in the wealthier areas there’s a veil of secrecy - only the users know who the dealers are,” he said. Drugs like cocaine and ecstasy were popular but not for everyday use. - Sunday Tribune