Athlone councillor finds ways to counter violence and drug use

| Margo Fortune
Councillor Little and her team. Photo by Margo Fortune.

Some parts of Athlone have serious violence and drug problems. We interviewed the ward councillor for these areas to find out what’s being done about it.

This article is part of our focus on wards.

Suzette Little is the councillor (DA) for ward 49, which covers ten areas covering much of the Athlone area including low-income areas like Bokmakerie and Kewtown. She is also the sub-councillor for ward 11, which is the upper middle-class Sea Point area.

She manages her responsibilities by meeting monthly with community committees in each of her areas. At these meetings, community problems are raised and decisions from the City council on how to spend the ward budget is discussed.

Little says that a serious concern in her community is gang violence. Recently youths have been killed in Kewtown. “As a mother, I feel for the parents of children who have been jailed for murder. This is not how we raised our children. A community is like a disabled person because you have a loss but then you have to work to make it better and manage the symptoms.”

Little is particularly concerned about education in the area. She has been assisting learners who failed matric to rewrite. She has helped organise extra classes for these learners. “This year we have started many projects to empower the community. One was a constituency program where we addressed the education department and the City on Why Children are not interested in School.”

She continues, “In one case a young boy stayed out of school because his parents were on drugs and he had to provide food. So he had a job and was too tired and couldn’t function in school. He missed classes and got expelled. My responsibility was to get hold of social services and apply for him to go to back to the school. We were successful. He passed matric and he is now busy getting a degree.”

Little has also started various other projects including starting vegetable gardens where people can collect and make soup themselves.

A youth living in Silvertown who did not want to be named, raised a concern that he wants to see Little address. A spaza shop trades late hours in Silvertown. Youths are meeting in front of the shop until 11pm. There is a lot of drug activity.”

Little responded that she has informed the shop owners that they must apply for permission from the City to trade and that if the residents in their road do not want their shop there, they will have to close.

A young woman, Sage Parenzee from Hazendal is working with Little’s office on a project to reduce gang violence in the ward by organising events aimed at youth. They are also planning to install, in the next year, an amphitheatre and a gym sponsored by the residents of Sea Point.

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