Cape Town - Anti-drug group Pagad says it could “eradicate” the drug trade on the Cape Flats in just six months if the media and police would stop undermining it. What’s more, chairman Abdus-Salaam Ebrahim says, it could be done without “spilling a single drop of blood or firing a single bullet”.
“The power of a community that comes together in the name of justice and under God’s will always be stronger than the guns of drug dealers and gangsters. Pagad has the ability to bring the community together in such a way. Once that has been achieved, we believe that the drug merchants would have no choice but to pack up shop and leave our communities in peace.”
During an interview at Pagad’s headquarters in Athlone on Wednesday, Ebrahim took aim at the police for the large presence they maintained at Pagad events, while they seemed incapable of effectively closing down drug dens and bringing dealers to book, he said.
Ebrahim criticised the media for insinuating links between Pagad and two pipe bombings in Athlone last week. The bombings, which targeted a car dealership and a private residence, took place near a motorcade event organised as part of Pagad’s Ramadaan awareness campaign.
He said this resulted in a steady stream of concerned supporters visiting Pagad’s offices. They raised concerns over their own safety and fears that they would be investigated by police if they associated with Pagad.
“These are unfounded concerns and greatly undermine the positive things that the Ramadaan campaign has achieved,” said Ebrahim. These positive things, according to Pagad, are to do with reinstalling faith and self-confidence in communities which have lost hope because of unchecked gangsterism, drug abuse and violence. In this interpretation, Pagad sees its role not in clashing directly with drug merchants, but rather acting as enablers to unlock a community’s potential to save itself.
In spite of a belief that drug dealers can be forced to leave the Cape Flats peacefully, Ebrahim says the organisation will protect and support members of the community who exercise their “divine right” to defend themselves through the use of violence.
“Pagad does not instruct members of the community to commit violence. But what if your daughter is raped and the police do nothing? What if that rapist returns the following week to rape your wife? What if you then kill that man? People have a divine right, one that is guaranteed by God and holy Scriptures, to defend themselves. We cannot judge, we will support people who exercise this right.”
On Tuesday evening, a gang of men wearing balaclavas petrol-bombed a known drug den. They shot and killed one of the property’s residents in Grassy Park. It was still unknown whether the perpetrators were vigilante members of the community or those of a rival drug-dealing gang, said Philip Bam, chairman of the Grassy Park Community Policing Forum.
It remains uncertain whether the man who was murdered, Thomas Lewis, 57, was part of the alleged drug dealing activities at the house. His son, Basil Lewis, 37, claimed that his father was an innocent victim.
Ebrahim equally said he could not speculate on the attackers’ motives.
“But if they were acting for the best interest of their community, we support them. We always condemn the loss of innocent life, but we say to parents and to spouses - do not allow your loved ones to be in such dens.”
No arrests have been made in connection with any of the bombings.