Government is serious about hitting the ground running when it comes to helping communities that reach out for help and the Eersterust community, east of Pretoria, is no exception.
President Jacob Zuma recently held an Imbizo with the community to show government’s commitment to the fight against drug and substance abuse and promote youth development in Eersterust and surrounding areas.
The Presidential Imbizo gave the President first-hand knowledge and an understanding of the challenges faced by the community.
A number of challenges face the community, from drug and substance abuse and drug syndicates operating in the area to low income levels and high crime and unemployment, all of which have a negative impact on the youth and those searching for a better life.
According to community representatives, the drug abuse problem is affecting 15 000 youth – mostly school learners who end up dropping out of school.
President Zuma said police have been running operations aimed at arresting drug runners, the kingpins behind them, and other criminal elements operating in the community.
“About 69 crime intelligence operations have been conducted so far in the area and have led to the arrest of 55 alleged drug dealers. Police are further working with community based anti-crime organisations and security cluster partners in conducting awareness campaigns against drugs and crime in general in the area…”
The President added that the City of Tshwane had registered 1 024 poor families from the community who were receiving free basic services, and during the road show held in July, the City also helped 187 families in need of help.
“The City also donated recently R100 000 to two Early Childhood Development Centres in the community,” said President Zuma.
Before the Presidential Imbizo, a number of ministers visited the area to work with the communities to find solutions to the challenges they are facing.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini addressed residents during the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking where a number of young people admitted to smoking "nyaope" - a mixture of crystal meth, heroin and marijuana.
Minister Dlamini said the department would help the youngsters and take them to the best drug and substance abuse rehabilitation centres in the country, but urged them to commit to going back to their communities as better people.
Eersterust Local Drug Action Committee Chairperson, Desiree Fischer, said the committee had developed a programme of action to help save the lives of vulnerable individuals.
Education is the key
Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, also visited the area recently and encouraged learners to work hard at school, despite the challenges they face.
“Education will give you the opportunity to be better than your parents, so your responsibility is to persevere so that you can become better citizens and the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
The Minister visited Eersterust Secondary School and Prosperitas High School to listen to and understand the challenges that learners and educators face. He appealed to learners to not focus on their negative surroundings, but to rather concentrate on the positive side of life.
“Let your dreams of a brighter future inspire you. You need to aspire to be someone in life. You must aspire to become teachers, nurses, doctors, scientists, astrologists etc. The sky is the limit in South Africa,” he said.
Minister Radebe also encouraged learners to aspire to be entrepreneurs so they could own their own business and plough back investment into their own community.
Deputy Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation as well as Youth Development, Buti Manamela, visited Nantes Primary School in Eersterust to encourage learners to focus on their education and to look after their environment.
He visited the school to plant a vegetable garden and fruit trees and encouraged pupils to stay in school and to look after their environment, starting with their new vegetable garden and trees. The produce from the vegetable garden and the fruit trees will help supplement the school’s feeding scheme, which provides a meal to around 400 children daily.
The Deputy Minister stressed that the youth are at the centre of building a better South Africa.
Looking ahead, government has engaged with the police, the youth and other stakeholders in the area to address the community’s concerns and to come up with solutions.
“We are making progress and the President will ensure that we deepen this fight and hand the community back to the people of Eersterust,” said Deputy Minister Manamela.
New youth office for Eersterust
The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) will open an office in Eersterust before the end of November this year, to provide information to young people about education, career choices, employment and economic opportunities.
The NYDA, working with the City of Tshwane and the province, plans to implement a Youth Build Infrastructure Development Programme in Eersterust, where 100 young people from the community will build 100 houses to address the housing shortage. They will be trained in house building, plumbing and carpentry.
City of Tshwane Mayor Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said the municipality had also allocated R300 million for youth cooperatives and he encouraged young people in the area to start their own cooperatives to fight unemployment.
In addition, R15 million has been set aside for top performing matric learners who produce good results but cannot afford tertiary institution fees.
The City of Tshwane will also work with the community to build communal sports facilities, a move that will inspire the youth to stay off the streets.