Johannesburg - The use of illicit drugs, child abuse and neglect are rife in Alexandra township, the Department of Social Development revealed on Thursday.
Testifying before the Alexandra Inquiry held by the SA Human Rights Commission, the department not only disclosed its role in dealing with social ills but also gave an assessment of the present situation.
Although the Gauteng Social Development MEC, Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe, was conspicuous by his absence, department head Thembeni Mhlongo, made the submissions in which he pointed out the extent of social ills in Alexandra.
Mhlongo said pressing issues in the township include; child abuse, child neglect, substance abuse, outbreaks of deadly fires during winter and floods during summer.
However, head of the department said some of the issues were being attended to.
"We have identified the needs of NPOs [Non-Profit Organisations] and early childhood development centres that may need assistance," said Mhlongo.
"We assist home-based facilities. There are also childcare forums in place. By doing this, we are highlighting that we are trying in every way possible to assist the community.
"We have services by social workers for domestic violence, marital support, child protection services, rehabilitation, and psycho-support services."
She said the department was well equipped to offer refuge, food and dignity packs to the affected families.
Social Development Department Technical Advisor, Solly Ndweni, told the inquiry that there were 43 Early Childhood Development centres that the department was funding as well. Ndweni said, in that regard, he felt residents of Alexandra were "well taken care of".
"We have only profiled the area twice and in that period, we came across 359 families that let us know that they are in need of food. Our intention is that in places like Alex, to continue with the profiling so we can spot problem areas and deal with them," said Ndweni.
Commenting on the absence of MEC Nkabinde-Khawe, the manager of the South African Human Rights Commission, Buang Jones, said: "The MEC was invited to respond to the ongoing challenges of Alex [Alexandra]".
Apparently, the MEC fell ill and was unable to attend the inquiry as had been expected.
"We have received confirmation from the hospital that she indeed is admitted," said Ndweni.
The Alexandra Inquiry, which began on Monday, was set up following huge protests ignited by the demolition of 80 illegal structures by a hired security company, Red Ants, in April.