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Drug use at matric Rage on decline, but alcohol still 'premium'

Rage events have three times the security personnel in attendance compared with many concerts.

Rage events have three times the security personnel in attendance compared with many concerts.

Published Nov 10, 2018


Durban - Recent generations of school-leavers celebrating the annual matric Rage festival were inclined to consume fewer drugs than their predecessors from 2011 to 2014, according to Greg Walsh, founder and director of the organising company, G & G.

“That’s what one senses from the mood of the crowds,” he said. “They are more educated, worldly and confident. And easier. They tend to be more mindful of body and soul than the generation before them.”

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However, he said those seeking to go to extremes tended to indulge in more of the “legal drug”: alcohol.

The festival takes place in uMhlanga, Ballito and Durban from November 30 to December 8.

Walsh said to counter excessive alcohol consumption, liquor was sold at “premium” prices. Inebriated revellers could also be “locked out” of buying liquor on credit with a tap on their digital bracelet, giving them access to only food and water purchases.

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To restrict Rage participants from finding themselves on board hired minibus taxis with drunk drivers at the helm, drivers would be required to undergo breathalyser tests before starting their shifts. “In the past, some have been sent home,” he said.

Walsh said Rage’s efforts to counter drug use included allowing police to send undercover agents into crowds. 

“This leads to their actually doing transactions and making busts. We catch six or seven small-time dealers every year but it’s never a big dealer.”

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He also said the programme was designed to keep participants in a safe environment, away from the mainstream crime of everyday South Africa, but it was impossible to keep a full watch on every place where participants were staying.

However, participants were encouraged to stay in more central places where security was tight, and official transport took them to their destination venues with no drop-offs.

Venues generally had three times the number of security present than at events such as music concerts. Medics would also be on hand. 

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“Not because the environment needs it. We just want the biggest safety blanket.”

Walsh said his company had provided the Ballito and uMhlanga Urban Improvement Precincts (UIPs) with an extra eight security guards.

Also on duty would be about 200 Red Frogs, volunteers from church organisations, who were slightly older than the school-leavers and could help them in emergencies or provide counselling.

Brett France, the Red Frogs national matric holidays co-ordinator, said their role was to be “like a big sister or brother walking them through it”.

“I’ve seen our guys defuse a situation that could have led to a fight by intervening and offering them (antagonists) sweets (trademark Red Frog sweets),” he recalled.

Cara Reilly, spokesperson for the uMhlanga UIP, praised the Red Frogs as being “the touch point with the kids”.

“They hold it all together.”

She said there would be cooler-box searches on the beaches of uMhlanga and Ballito to check that people obeyed by-laws.

“It all takes lots of EQ (emotional intelligence) and understanding of the balance between kids behaving like kids and behaving badly.”

Metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said planning for Rage was in its final stages. “Most activities have moved up to uMhlanga and Ballito.”

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