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Dark side of Margate

Drugs and prostitution work hand-in-hand in Margate.

MARGATE has degenerated into even more of a den of iniquity, this in spite of constant calls – even impassioned pleas – by local business people and residents alike for stricter law enforcement, particularly by night.

Even young people who used to frequent pubs and clubs claim that parts of Margat have now become no-go zones after nightfall.

Fights are common and people have died, two in a knife fight recently in full view of patrons at a beachfront pub.

Prostitution and drugs seem to be at the heart of the problem.

The Herald went on a tour of this once ‘quaint seaside resort town’, hoping to find that the complaints were exaggerated.

Alas, not so. Prostitutes lurk everywhere and infamous drug dens are easy to find.

Sex sells for anything between R50 and R400, sadly depending mostly on race.

The Johns (as they are referred to in the movies) are mostly local businessmen and pensioners all year round and foreigners and holidaymakers in season.

Prostitutes prowl the streets day and night and quietly slink off into an alley if a police van passes by.

Many also go to Margate to openly ‘chase the dragon’ (smoke whoonga) which costs between R30 and R40 a capsule. Crack cocaine or ‘rock’ which gives a quicker, more intense high is also used on the streets, but it is more expensive at about R50 for a tiny piece. Cocaine costs about R300 per gram.

Margate taxi rank is one of the main distribution points as well as notorious drug houses scattered around the town, controlled mostly by Nigerians linked to dens in Durban.

Our guide, Harry* (to whom we were introduced  by a contact and who obviously wished to remain anonymous), was searching for Roxy*.

We were told she was a skinny girl addicted to rock and whoonga. She was said to be ‘one of the prettier sex workers’. She was not on the street that day and our guide assumed she was ‘getting high somewhere’.

The tour continued to the infamous Reid Road corner in Manaba, then along the beachfront between Marine Drive and Panorama Parade (known as ‘Lover’s Lane’), the corner of Lagoon Road and Marine Drive, Homestead Road, Erasmus Road and Dunbar Road.

A few girls who knew our guide were happy to talk to us on condition that we didn’t name them.

All said they carried condoms. Business was done in parks, inside dune bushes (beach coves), cars or inside abandoned buildings.

We also saw the evidence – plenty of used condoms discarded at these hot spots.

Some said they picked up six to seven clients a night and made good money.

“Some girls steal their clients’ cellphones, wallets or cash, but not me,” said one.

However, it was dangerous work and they never knew when they faced being raped, beaten or not paid.

Some carry knives.

Harry joked: “How do you make a ‘ho’ moan? You don’t pay her.”

He said one would never see a businessman taking a prostitute to a bar or a restaurant.

Margate is wild at night… you won’t believe it. Stuff also happens during the day… so you don’t want to know what goes on at night.”

Harry believed the sex trade should be legalised and that sex workers should operate from a controlled place where they could be looked after and tested for HIV/Aids.

“Married men pick up these women and they don’t know if they are clean or not. Then go back to their wives.”

The ultimate ‘John’ was an ‘all nighter’ which could include a shower, perhaps a meal and good money.

After visiting a few drug houses, we still couldn’t find Roxy. Inside a derelict house on Erasmus Road, we walk in on a dealer sitting in a corner of a room. He hadn’t seen Roxy.

His drugs were well-hidden all over the building in case of a police raid, Harry said. Just as we were leaving, Harry pointed to a ‘high’ car guard who had just left the house.

This house is well known to neighbours who had apparently even threatened to burn it down.

Five days later, we finally tracked down Roxy. She was in another drug house in Clifton Road and she had agreed to talk to us.

Roxy said she had been on the streets for the last three years. “Why?”

There was a one-word reply: “Drugs.”

If she didn’t get her whoonga fix, she suffered from severe ‘roasting’ (withdrawal symptoms) – an aching body, headaches, vomiting, stomach cramps and muscle spasms.

“If I have money, I smoke the whole day… I’ll do anything to get money to smoke.”

She started off as an addict, stealing stuff from home to pay for the drugs.

Then a friend advised: “You want money? Go to the street.”

Roxy said some of the girls who didn’t have money would sleep with the dealers.

“Schoolchildren are buying drugs and some of the girls are as young as 15, also addicted to drugs,” she said.

She scoffed at the police. She said they were sometimes picked up and only had to pay a fine.

Life on the street is hard. I was once beautiful, now I am ****** up. When I am alone, I think and cry… this life is very difficult.

Police have not commented yet.


*All names have been withheld to protect their safety.


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