Msimanga and several Tshwane Metro Police officers came face-to-face with the ugly side of what was once a proud gathering point in the city centre.
This place where many marches and demonstrations started over the years, is now a shadow of its former self. Nyaope smokers and dealers openly do business on the street.
“It is going to take extreme measures and almost a miracle to revive Brown Street to its former glory and stature, but I’m up for the challenge,” said Msimanga.
During a walkabout, the team was exposed to filthy, dilapidated hijacked buildings, a flagrant disregard for by-laws by nightclub patrons, notorious crime hotspots, urban decay, the degeneration of infrastructure and general lawlessness.
Some vagrants slept on the corner of Sisulu and Brown streets in makeshift homes. Piles of litter and rubble lined the street and unregulated traffic and pedestrians passed through.
“Welcome to Nyaope Street, Mr Mayor,” said a taxi driver when Msimanga walked into Brown Street. Youths, some shabbily dressed, huddled around Msimanga with some saying they wanted to go to rehab, while others asked him to create more jobs.
Msimanga said the city was not the only one hard hit by the drug scourge, so were businesses in the area. Shoppers did not want to do their shopping in the area and buildings were not rented so they ended up being vacant and vandalised.
Msimanga also discovered that one bar in the area was operating without a liquor licence. That bar was being shut down. One well-known retailer was also found to have contravened the by-laws by trading without an operating licence.
Msimanga said from his trip into the street, he was encouraged and inspired to find sustainable solutions to the challenges. He had listened to the concerns and frustrations expressed by officials.
“We are going to need a joint effort with business leaders and taxi drivers because everyone is affected,” said Msimanga. He would be meeting taxi drivers next Tuesday to discuss how they could help in making the area safer.
Acting chief of police Jenny Malan was also part of the walkabout, and promised that from next week they would be taking willing drug users to rehab. “It is important that we help them because if we don’t, they are going to make our lives hell. We must ensure they are absorbed back into the community."
In the short term, the City would clean up the area and use the services of creative artists to repaint the walls using inspired graffiti.
Also in the pipeline was a metro police office in the area to keep a watchful eye on criminal elements and drug users. “We are going to have a satellite station in this area, we are going to convert one of the city buildings into this satellite office,” Msimanga said.
“We appreciate that intermittent searches and operations are not sufficient to effectively deal with the massive challenges we are facing, specifically illegal drug use and trading, including contravention of by-laws by business owners.
"The satellite office will go a long way in consistently addressing these and other crime related challenges in the area and surrounds,” said Msimanga.
Residents said money was exchanged daily for drugs, with some of that money allegedly going to corrupt police officers. “You need to change the police and bring in new ones, sir. These current ones take too much bribes,” a resident told Msimanga. Next week the metro police will be raiding buildings for drugs and illegal occupation.