EThekwini officials have given themselves until June to ensure there is visible change at Durban’s Albert Park, which is plagued by drug problems.
The city also has plans to develop a rehabilitation centre.
Speaking to the executive committee on Tuesday, mayor James Nxumalo said their eyes had been opened last week after a visit to Albert Park, widely known as “whoonga park”.
He said some officials had not been aware of how great the drug problem was, adding that having their own rehab centre would help, because they could refer people needing help directly.
Nxumalo said they had received a lot of support for their initiative. “I also received a call from someone from the Johannesburg municipality telling me that they had the same problem, only theirs was greater.”
While there are believed to be up to 1 000 whoonga addicts in Albert Park, Johannesburg was struggling to control more than 7 000 addicts spread out across the city, Nxumalo said.
“The person I spoke to said they were looking at us to see how we handle this problem, because they don’t have plans in place. If we can be successful, other cities can look up to us,” he said.
Deputy city manager Musa Gumede, who is heading the task team to deal with the problem, confirmed his commitment, saying he was targeting June for significant progress.
Gumede, during his presentation of the Clean My City Qalakabusha Intervention Report, said they had identified 87 buildings listed as bad buildings in the inner-city and 45 outside the area.
The project is aimed at addressing the plight of homeless people and immigrants within the city centre, particularly at Albert Park.
Gumede said their analysis of 354 people profiled showed that 80 percent were males and 20 percent female. Ninety percent used drugs; only 10 percent were not users.
They also found there were 130 vacant plots and abandoned properties in the city centre where criminal activities such as rape, drug dealing and trafficking were taking place.
Within the Albert Park precinct, the number of bad buildings and the non-availability of rehabilitation centres for children were a major problem, Gumede said.
“Some respondents who were referred to the Department of Social Development did not follow up on appointments, while some refused to accept their family members back.”
Deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala said the issue of bad buildings was something the council had been grappling with for some time.
The municipality had to meet owners and tell them that they would expropriate buildings. “Most of the street kids are young and some drug lords keep them there so that their businesses flourish,” she said.
Councillor Fawzia Peer said drastic steps had to be taken, even if meant demolishing the buildings.
Nigel Gumede, who chairs the housing committee, suggested that some of the building be used for social housing.