It is a great honour to once again address the National Press Club as the Executive Mayor of the Capital City of the Republic of South Africa.
Today’s briefing focuses mainly on the City of Tshwane’s battle against drugs and substance abuse.
We are deeply concerned about the scourge of drugs on our communities, leaving people unproductive, pushing them further into poverty, or driving them deeper into drug-related crime and other illicit activities. When we took office we did so knowing that the City needed a comprehensive focus and response on the drug problem.
Law Enforcement against drugs
Last year we established the TMPD Anti-Drug Unit with the sole purpose of fighting and eliminating drug abuse in the communities of Tshwane. Members of the Unit were given additional training and equipment to take this battle to the next level, and I’m happy to say that across the City, drug lords and peddlers are now feeling the heat.
However, the war on drugs will not be won based on law enforcement alone, but has to include social interventions to prevent drug abuse while providing a safe haven for those who suffer the consequences of drugs and substance abuse. .
The City’s Response to Drug and Substance Abuse
One of the priority areas of the TMPD’s social crime prevention initiatives is drug awareness campaigns in schools and institutions within Tshwane, to ensure that our learners as well as communities are informed about the dangers of drugs, while we encourage them to come forward with information about drug suppliers or drug lords.
During the past year, we have had to face the fact that the treatment results of most Rehab Centres in the City and Gauteng are insufficient and have a rehabilitation rate of lower than 10%. This means that 90% of addicts relapse soon after they have left the 21-day rehabilitation programmes offered by such centres – at a considerable cost. The City’s Health Department is currently funding the Department of Home Medicine at the University of Pretoria, who developed the evidence based Community Oriented Substance Use Program (COSUP).
To date, at least 2364 people were enrolled on the COSUP programme and more than 12000 follow-up visits were conducted for intensive interventions. This excludes people reached through awareness and education campaigns. It is estimated that we have reached more than 40000 people through outreach and education.
This programme not only assists addicts to overcome their addiction, but also helps them to face the social and psychological challenges that contributed to their addiction.
The ultimate goal of the City’s involvement with problematic substance abusers is not only to assist them to quit, but to prepare them to find a job and live a substance abuse-free way of life in their community.
We know that so many substance abusers are bright young people, with massive potential, and we need to show them the way to provide positive contributions to the economy and development of our City.
Currently, the City operates seven Community Oriented Substance Use Programme sites in Mamelodi, Soshanguve, Hatfield, Daspoort, Atteridgeville, Eesterust and Sunnyside. A new site will be opened shortly in Olievenhoutbosch and preparations are being made for a site at the Mabopane Station, near the notorious drug den known as “Nkandla”.
COSUP started to treat addicts with Methadone, also known as Opioid Substitute Treatment because Nyaope consists of heroine which is an opioid. We have already seen proof that this drug prevents patients from experiencing horrible withdrawal symptoms, is better for their general health and improves their mental condition and enable them to make better decisions for a sustained rehabilitation
As part of their reintegration into society, it is extremely important to provide rehabilitating substance users with employment, giving them with a sense of purpose and of self-worth, and an income that can assist them to become independent and be fully integrated to the community. As we speak, COSUP provides skills training to 92 rehabilitating substance users.
COSUP, with the assistance of the City of Tshwane will now shift our focus on the establishment of Drop-in Centres near or at each of the COSUP sites. These centres provide services to substance users, especially those not yet enrolled in the COSUP programme. NGOs as well as Faith Based organisations will play an important role with these Centres.
We have also engaged with the private sector to establish a Drop-in Centre in Brown Street to provide health, psychological, social and COSUP services to substance abusers. Brown Street is commonly known for being a home to drug users, and predominantly unemployed, homeless young males. It is an area of concern which our administration continues to monitor.
The City has also appointed a service provider, Sediba Hope, to empower the 22 NGOs the City currently supports. Sediba Hope also manage the SLAs between the City and these NGOs. The spending of their grants as well as their activities related to drug and substance abuse in the City are monitored by the service provider. The Sediba Hope team also formed and coordinate a network of 88 stakeholders, most of them NGOs, who deal with drugs and substance abuse in some or other way. Most of them focus on activities aimed at preventing people, especially the youth, from drug and substance use that often ends up in Full-blown addiction.
Every day, our 24-hour call centre, Hope Line, takes calls and refers callers for assistance, and at the same time provide a basic transport service, accommodation, food and blankets in case of emergencies. Callers in need of support are also contacted and served by Social Workers who follow up on calls and ensure that the needs of callers are properly dealt with.
Hope Line can be reached on 012 358 5001 but we will shortly have a toll-free number.
We have also noted that the youth have resorted to the use of a cough syrup containing codeine as a cheap substitute for their drugs habit. The popular syrup is said to be the most abused over-the-counter drug in South Africa. Let me warn our residents and the rest of the country that abusing codeine, in whatever form, is detrimental to one’s health and it can result in vomiting and nausea, constipation and drowsiness. In severe cases respiratory failure can occur.
Our plans going forward
We plan to organise nine Regional Drug Action Committees which will start in Soshanguve next month. As prescribed by the National Drug Master Plan and in my capacity as the Executive Mayor, I will also establish a Local Drug Action Committee for the City of Tshwane before the end of April 2018.
While employment is extremely important in the rehabilitation process of substances users, the City is embarking on a research project in cooperation with StepUp to involve 10 selected rehabilitating drug users with EPWP jobs. Should the research provide positive results, we will make use of the EPWP programme to assist more substance users with employment.
There are several good-stories-to-tell of former drug addicts who are now living a meaningful life and contribute in a meaningful and positive way. I specifically refer to former addicts who made it without the assistance of programmes like COSUP, but who are now independent and self-sufficient because of the involvement of one or more persons – a person we might call a “Good Samaritan”, who engaged with them.
For this reason the Health Department is going to launch the Care Buddies Program that will encourage “Samaritans” or Care Buddies to engage with substance users in such a way that they will be rehabilitated and reintegrated into the Tshwane community.
Our administration remains committed to fighting the drug and substance abuse problem to reverse the devastating impact it has on our communities.
We will continue to fight the drug problem while creating opportunities for employment and productivity across the City, so that those wishing to break the chains of addiction may too live a better life – and not be condemned to a life of poverty or even death.
We have to rescue our lost generation from this and we have to leverage our regions and existing tools to make definitive progress.
This administration will continue to honour the commitments it made to all the people of Tshwane; to be a government that they can be proud of.
Let us all roll our sleeves to make the Capital City prosperous again.
I thank you.