Solidarity: Des D’sa Under Attack

Arsonists target anti-drug activists
Crime campaigner injured in petrol bombing

January 21, 2008 Edition 3

Sharlene Packree

Desmond D’Sa’s burn scars will forever remind him of the forces opposed to Wentworth’s anti-drug and crime campaign.

On Friday, D’Sa’s Austerville flat was targeted by petrol bomb-wielding arsonists.

In a desperate bid to put out the flames that threatened the lives of his wife and two daughters, D’Sa suffered burns to his hands and face.

Yesterday, the smell of petrol still lingered in the air as D’Sa inspected his home.

The latest attack is the third on the home of an anti-drug campaigner in the area and D’Sa fears that drug lords are using intimidation to get his organisation to back down.

The Wentworth development forum believes that their vocal campaigns against the high crime rate and drug abuse in the community has impacted significantly on drug sales in the area and is seen as a threat to the livelihoods of drug merchants.

Wentworth police spokesman Sgt Balan Reddy confirmed that three cases of arson were being investigated.

The sale of drugs in the community has been a serious concern for many years.

In 2004, President Thabo Mbeki visited the area as part of his election campaign and community members told him prostitution and drug abuse were rife.

D’Sa is well-known for his strong views on drugs, crime and environmental pollution in the south Durban basin.

While he was injured in the arson attack, D’Sa said he would not succumb to the intimidation of drug dealers.

He told the Daily News: “We have started a foot patrol where we monitor the kids at school. We are making sure that these kids have no access to drugs. They are going to school to learn and not peddle drugs.”

Another activist, Cynthia Billings, was also a victim of an arson attack.

Billings said a petrol bomb was thrown into her flat and the resulting fire damaged her furniture and other appliances.

Police opened a case of arson, but no arrests were made.

“These drug lords know they can’t sell their drugs when we are around. This obviously affects their business, so they want to shut us up,” she said.

Billings said D’Sa and other activists who spoke out about these social issues were seen as a major threat to criminals and drug peddlers.

“They see us as a threat and they think they can stop us continuing our work. But we won’t stop fighting to clean up the area,” she added.

D’Sa said some residents knew the identities of the arsonists, but were too scared to speak out for fear of reprisals.

“People are living in fear here. Some are too scared to speak out, while others are harbouring these criminals, who buy them food and clothing,” he said. D’sa said drug dealers marked out specific areas and used teenagers to sell the drugs and carry out arson attacks.

“We are saddled with big drug dealers who are linked to other criminal elements. They need to be dealt with,” he said. “But, we are not scared of them.” The Sheffer family have also been victims of intimidation by gangs in the area.

Two weeks ago, two men smashed seven windows in their flat while the family was asleep.

The gang also tried to set the place alight, but were unsuccessful.

Wesley Sheffer said: “It’s not easy to live in fear. There is no help from the police, who keep losing dockets and fail to investigate the attacks,” he said.

Sheffer and his family have even resorted to living at a relative’s home after fears that the gang might return.

Local councillor Aubrey Snyman said D’Sa is being targeted because of his strong views on social issues.

Arsonists Attack Activist’s Flat

January 18, 2008 Edition 3


Community activists in Wentworth have vowed to stand up against intimidation after three separate arson attacks on their homes in less than a month.

In the latest incident, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance chairman Desmond D’sa’s home in Austerville was set alight in an arson attack this morning. This has been confirmed by the Wentworth police.

D’sa told the Daily News he was startled by a loud bang just after midnight and he rushed to the kitchen.

“When I looked on the floor, I saw a plastic bottle with a cloth sticking out of the top. It looked like the cloth had been soaked in petrol,” said D’sa.

He sustained burns to his arms and face while trying to put out the blaze. Firefighters extinguished the fire, which damaged his front door and kitchen appliances.

D’sa has been a vociferous opponent of drugs and crime in the community, and his views against environmental pollution in the south Durban basin area are well known.

Cynthia Billings, who lives in the flat next to D’sa, described how her flat was torched in December and that police were investigating a case of arson.

D’sa said a third community activist’s house was set alight earlier this month. He said he would not be intimidated and would continue to fight for the rights of the poor in the community.

Local councillor Aubrey Snyman visited D’sa’s home this morning and was vocal about the anti-social behaviour in the community.