ONCE upon a time it was an alluring and beautiful place, known to host great parties to which people flocked. When David Sparks, founder of Sparks Estate held a housewarming party, people came from all parts of Natal, in carts, on horseback and ox-wagons to camp out in the grounds around the house.
That huge picnic lasted a whole week, everyone being in the highest spirits, taking part in games and where dancing and feasting marked the entertainment. Today, parts of the area like Georgehill have become places to avoid, a no-go area.
Georgehill lies sprawled in the area today known as Sydenham, just a few metres up from a small public park and a little pool where you can see fish swimming under the water. The land forms part of a deceased estate and there is no electricity. Despite it being private property, the city has put in standpipe water and sanitation for the community living in the more than 100 shacks. In the centre of the settlement sits a derelict building known as Para Lodge, home to drug addicts and where drug dealing and using are the order of the day.
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Visiting the site this week, Berea Mail was led into a room inside Para Lodge where more than 30 people sat huddled, many of them allegedly sick with TB and HIV, most of them drug addicts living out their daily lives. The community is not happy about the drug activities happening in its midst, describing the situation as being held to ransom by drug addicts and dealers.
Speaking to one of the community members who did not want to be named for fear of victimization, he said he had lived in the Georgehill settlement for 28 years and watched how it changed right in front of his eyes.
“Obviously we are not very happy [about the drug activities happening] because we stay here with our families and our kids are exposed to all kinds of bad things all the time. Most of the people are sick and they defecate in public and vomit all over the place. We really don’t know what to do with them, we tried to chase them away but we failed. We tried to include the police but they only arrest the users and not the dealers. In our view, we believe they [the police] are involved in this because they know the people that sell but nothing is done to them,” he said.
According to the Ward Councillor, Chris Pappas a project to bring electricity to the settlement is currently underway.
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