Rehab ‘explosion’ as youth switch on to tik

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USE of the debilitating drug tik has exploded in Nelson Mandela Bay, with experts saying it has become the drug of choice among youth due to its availability and affordability.

While there are no official statistics on the severity of the problem, Shepherd‘s Field Rehabilitation Centre outside Port Elizabeth reports that tik addicts now account for 57 per cent of its patients.

And the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) in Port Elizabeth said its number of addicts on tik had more than doubled in the last six months.

As the second cheapest drug on the streets after dagga, tik has saturated the city‘s poorest communities.

The drug can get a buyer a “high” for just R20, but experts warn it causes parts of the brain to “dissolve” after prolonged use.

Tik is made up primarily of crystal methamphetamine, but can also include a number of household products such as anti-freeze, slimming drugs, rat poison and household cleaning products.

Sanca information, training and education co-ordinator Zarina Ghulam said the drug had infiltrated the northern areas of Port Elizabeth specifically and that the number of users was growing rapidly.

“From July to December last year, we‘ve seen a huge jump of tik users coming to us for treatment.

“It went from 3,1% to 7,2% in those six months. Although we do not have the latest figures available for the last couple of months, I can definitely say the numbers are growing rapidly.

“The majority of the people who come to us for tik abuse are from the northern areas and it‘s moving to Uitenhage.”

Tik was first identified as a potential problem in the Bay two years ago when gangsters were being paid for poached perlemoen with tik by Cape Town crime barons.

Shepherd‘s Field chief executive Gerrie Cronje said the number of tik users at their centre accounted for 57% of people admitted for substance abuse.

Although a number of these addicts came from Cape Town, the majority were from the Nelson Mandela Bay area.

Reinhardt Coetsee, director of Rei‘s Place House of Recovery at Greenbushes in Port Elizabeth, said it was evident that tik was a fast growing problem in the city.

“Although it hasn‘t hit PE as bad as Cape Town, it is definitely a major concern and the problem is escalating.”

Humewood Community Police Forum chairman John Preller said the number of tik users attending his group meetings was increasing.

“We‘re definitely seeing an upward trend. Numbers are increasing drastically and the alarming thing is that it is younger people between the ages of 18 and 25.

“Tik has found its way to PE from Cape Town and we can no longer say it‘s coming, because it‘s here, and it‘s growing.

“The scary thing is that people only seek help when their lives become unmanageable, when the problem is at its worst.”

Aaron Liddell, a recovering tik addict at Shepherd‘s Field, said he was able to buy tik on nearly every street corner as it was so freely available.

“I can get it from the guy down the street or go to any of the coloured areas and buy it. It‘s everywhere. It‘s even in schools and prisons.”

Ghulam said it had devastating long-term effects on the body, although tik users were often swindled by the initial feelings of euphoria, increased energy and self-confidence.

“One client who came in for treatment ended up in hospital. They discovered he had holes in his brain because of the tik and he had to have two brain surgeries. They couldn‘t do anything to repair his brain, so he died.”

She said tik users were prone to HIV/Aids because the drug heightened arousal, which could lead to high-risk sexual behaviour.

Preller said it caused extreme aggression, which often led to uncontrollable violence. “Just recently, I heard from a parent who said her son beat her because of his tik aggression,” he added.

Preller said some of the permanent effects of the toxic drug were that it dissolved the teeth and areas of the brain.

Substance abuse in the northern areas was one of the main reasons for the disintegration of families and gangsterism there, he said.

Tik addiction also had a drastic effect on the economy, and on families, said Preller, with addicts ultimately losing jobs and homes torn apart.

“With tik, they lose their ability to think straight and they end up getting fired.

“Shortly after that they‘ll start breaking into houses or hijacking cars to get money to buy more drugs and most of the time end up in jail.

“You end up losing a strong productive person in the economy, and if you multiply that by the thousands of tik users we see, it results in the loss of thousands of productive people in the economy.”

Source : The Weekend Post

Recession blues bite Bay business outlook

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THE Nelson Mandela Bay metro‘s Business Confidence Index continued to decline in January “under recessionary economic conditions and low levels of both business and consumer confidence”.

The decline came amid the economy contracting by -1,8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the first annual retail sales decline in nine years, and a 22% plunge in manufacturing output.

The index, compiled for the regional business chamber, tracks the performance of 15 key economic indicators chosen from those available that are believed to “best reflect the business mood in the PE/Uitenhage area”.

These include the inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the metro; the prime rate at month end; the rand-dollar exchange rate; retail sales in the Eastern Cape; the total number of new cars sold in the metro; the value of building plans passed and completed; the Consumer Confidence Index for the metro by the Bureau for Economic Research of Stellenbosch University, and number of passengers arriving at the PE airport.

But Dr Neil Bruton, compiler of the index, says current developments “will ultimately yield a consolidation in the rate at which the index is declining at present”.

“The inflation rate is set to decline rapidly in 2009 and … interest rates are set to decline, probably steeply. Furthermore, households and businesses are addressing their debt positions, with growth in credit extension to the private sector down to 11,9% in January, the lowest since November 2004, and with growth in demand for mortgage finance falling to the lowest level since mid-2003.”

The indicators that supported the index through January included significant declines in the trend cycles of the metro inflation and prime interest rates; continued growth in the real value of buildings completed and steady growth in value of those passed; and marginal growth in the trend cycle of retail sales.

Negative indicators included the “steep decline” in new cars sold and the “declining” number of airport passenger arrivals.

“The level of consumer confidence in the Eastern Cape, while reflecting a generally declining trend, remained unchanged.”

source: The Weekend Post

Consumers face shock 25% power price hike

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BATTERED consumers in municipalities across the country could face a further shock 25 per cent hike in the price of electricity.

In a circular last week, the national treasury advised municipalities to factor in a 25% rise in the cost of purchasing electricity from Eskom in preparing their budgets, although it stressed that the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) had yet to rule on what increase it would award the power utility.

Last year, Eskom was awarded an increase of 36%, of which 30% was passed on by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality to residents.

Indigent households which qualified for the council‘s Assistance To The Poor programme were handed a 14,2% increase.

Eskom needs the tariff increase to contribute to the financing of its capital expansion programme.

The circular warns local authorities that in considering changes in property rates they should “take cognisance of local economic conditions such as the downturn in the property market, trends in household incomes and unemployment. Excessive increases in property rates and other tariffs are likely to be counterproductive, resulting in high levels of non-payment and increased bad debts”.

The national treasury requires the municipalities to justify all increases in excess of the 6% upper inflation target of the Reserve Bank. The circular states that given the current economic crisis, municipalities will be faced with some “very tough decisions” when preparing their 2009/10 budgets, adding that they must give priority to:

Managing all revenue streams, especially debtors;

Protecting the poor from the worst impacts of the economic downturn;

Supporting local economic development initiatives “that foster micro and small business opportunities and job creation”;

Securing the health of their asset base in increasing spending on repairs and maintenance; and

Speeding up spending on capital projects funded by conditional grants.

“Municipalities must pay special attention to eliminating all unnecessary spending on nice-to-have items and non-essential activities,” the circular states, adding that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel had noted in his budget speech that there was “insufficient control of foreign travel, advertising and public relations activities as well as consulting services”.

With regard to the fuel levy allocation that will replace the regional services council levy that was halted in 2006, the circular states that the sharing of the general fuel levy will be regulated in terms of the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill. This piece of legislation is expected to be passed in September this year.

At that stage the specific allocation for each metro will be released, although information on provisional allocations will be given to metros this month to allow them to budget for the next financial year.

The amount allocated is based on fuel sales in each metro and the amount that Nelson Mandela Bay is expected to receive is not likely to differ dramatically from what it gained through regional services council levies.

source: The Herald

Bay rates appeals to cost millions

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Patrick Cull and Tabelo Timse HERALD REPORTERS

NELSON Mandela Bay ratepayers will have to fork out millions of rands to pay travel and accommodation expenses for board members appointed to decide on appeals lodged by irate home-owners regarding exorbitant increases in their property rates.

And despite appeals against the controversial property evaluation system being launched as far back as June last year, the board is not yet functional.

Due to alleged appointment irregularities, the municipality has now asked Local Government MEC Thoko Xasa to disband the board and re-advertise for new members, a move which is likely to cause further delays.

The valuation of some 7000 properties increased or decreased by more than 10 per cent of the original amount as a result of challenges to the initial valuation, while some 600 people are in dispute with the price the metro put on their properties.

In terms of the law, the department of local government is required to establish an appeals board and duly did so, appointing one member from Jeffreys Bay and three from East London.

However, the Property Evaluations Act requires that a representative from Nelson Mandela Bay be on the board when it reviews appeals from the city.

Metro chief financial officer Kevin Jacoby said: “In terms of the regulations the MEC must consult and supply written motivations to the mayor when appointing members who do not reside within the jurisdiction of the municipality. It is therefore evident that the MEC for local government has not complied with the procedures that must be followed in the appointment of members of the appeal board.”

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said that the municipality had written a letter to Xasa suggesting she re-advertise for the appeals board.

Jacoby said the chairman is paid R3000 a day and ordinary members R2500 in addition to the costs of accommodation and transport. This bill, which would run into several millions of rand, would have had to be paid by the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay.

Jacoby said the metro had calculated that if each case took just 10 minutes to complete that would cost the municipality R1,7- million for accommodation – a four-star hotel is mandatory – and transport in addition to the fees paid to the board members. The whole process would take between eight and nine months. A more likely scenario, he said, was that each case would take at least a minimum of 20 minutes to complete, in which case the bill for accommodation and transport would rise to R3,4-million plus the fees to the four board members and take 18 months to complete.

The appeals board process in Cape Town has continued for some two years.

Although Jacoby assured councillors attending a recent budget and treasury meeting that the municipality had the best interests of property owners at heart, councillor Leon de Villiers (DA) said the process was taking too long and frustrating property owners who had lodged objections.

The final valuation roll was presented to the municipality on January 31 last year and implemented on July 1.

During that period objections against the valuations of properties were received and investigated. Letters regarding the outcome were then forwarded to the objectors.

Jacoby said objectors who were still not in agreement were then given the opportunity to request that they be provided with the valuers‘ reasons or to lodge an appeal.

During the general valuation process a total of 249669 properties were valued. More than 10000 objections (4,4% of all properties valued) were received.

Irate homeowners felt the hike in property rates could force them to downgrade so they could pay the new rates.

Following the increases one resident, Summerstrand pensioner Patrick Goldstone, 72, said his rates had increased by 107 per cent from R395 a month to R820.

“What really interests me is the fact that the person who was evaluating my house did not even come to the front door or enter the property,” he said.

“This leaves questions about how such a person could carry out a reliable valuation on my property the way he went about the process.”

Goldstone said the municipal correspondence showed his property was valued at R2,5-million.

He had decided to employ the services of two independent estate agents to value the property . They valued it at between R600000 and R650000. Some property owners have had an increase of as much as 568%, which translates to a rates hike from R420 to R2807 a month.

Major flaws in the evaluation process were reported early this year, with claims of underqualified valuators being used and up to 800 properties being valued twice – with widely differing results.
Source :The Herald

Taxi Striks before 2010

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MAYHEM erupted as hundreds of striking taxi drivers ran amok early yesterday, hurling stones at offices and passing cars, attacking municipal workers, setting a vehicle alight, blocking rush- hour traffic and crippling businesses in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Amid widespread condemnation over the wave of violence, urgent talks between city officials and taxi representatives collapsed late last night with defiant drivers vowing the wildcat strike would continue today, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

Police, who yesterday drafted in reinforcements including the crack flying squad and rapid response unit members, will be on “high alert”. Police Captain Rassie Erasmus declared: “We will not let taxi drivers hold the city to ransom”.

The drama unfolded yesterday when more than 300 taxi drivers opposed to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system being implemented for the 2010 World Cup blocked major roads including the N2 freeway near Bluewater Bay and the Uitenhage road near Vista University.

Police arrested six people for public violence and confiscated “a number of taxis blocking the roads”. Motorists were left fuming in long traffic jams while many commuters were unable to get to work.

Traffic police and SAPS vehicles were stoned while a municipal vehicle was set alight outside Brister House in Govan Mbeki Avenue.

Police spokesman Captain Johann Rheeder said about 30 men ran up to a municipal car and smashed the windows. “They poured petrol on the car and set it alight.”

Yesterday‘s havoc follows an orgy of violence and looting, which raged in several parts of the city last November, leaving one person dead and others injured.

Police in Nyalas were deployed to quell the protests and officers were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Nelson Mandela Bay municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said last night: “These violent actions do not belong in a peace-loving society.”

He added that workers at a BRT construction site in Govan Mbeki Avenue were attacked and offices stoned.

However a defiant metro public transport forum spokesman Melekile Hani told The Herald last night: “We are pledging our solidarity to our comrades. We are not going back to work! Until the municipality agrees to suspend work at BRT sites, and we secure the release of our arrested comrades, the strike continues. We apologise to commuters, but they must understand we are at war!”

Meanwhile, Port Elizabeth Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Odwa Mtati said the strike had “succeeded in causing maximum disruption” to businesses. “The shock of it was that no warnings were issued, so it‘s been very disruptive, especially since large parts of the industry only re-opened on Monday.”

The motor industry, particularly General Motors SA, was hit hard. GMSA spokesman Denise van Huyssteen said: “We are disappointed by the surprise strike, which has impacted on our ability to assemble vehicles.

“We only resumed full operations yesterday following a four-week break. Such actions send negative signals about doing business in this country, particularly at a time when we should be promoting political and economic stability.”

Eveready “definitely felt the impact of the strike”, spokesman Curt Bosman said. “Our workers on the afternoon shift have to leave earlier because they won‘t find taxis later, so we‘ll have to stop production. We might not even have nightshift.”

The DA also condemned the violence and chaos. Eastern Cape transport spokesman Pine Pienaar said: “The situation is just not acceptable”.

Kupido said the strike was especially disappointing “since this disruptive behaviour followed after an important meeting on Tuesday between the mayor and the industry.

“A task team consisting of representatives of the taxi industry and the municipality was established with the sole mandate to prepare for a transport indaba which will address the concerns of role-players in the industry.

“Despite this progressive step, some members of the taxi industry still went ahead with strike action and as a result inconvenienced many commuters who unfortunately rely solely on public transport.”

source : The herald