'South Africans more likely to kill because of drugs'

LAST Friday we commemorated International Day Against Substance Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking and launched a week-long campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs.

South Africa is part of the global village and is not immune to global problems.

Former UN secretary Kofi Annan once said: "Globalisation offers the human race unprecedented opportunities. Unfortunately, it also enables many antisocial activities to become "problems without passports".

Over the past years there has been a rapid increase in the patterns of alcohol and drug use and abuse in South Africa.

The magnitude of the drug problem in our country is a major cause for concern and poses serious challenges for government and our society.

Global statistics show that South Africa is fast becoming the epicentre of the global drug trade.

The UN World Drug Report of 2008 shows that the abuse of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine (known as "tik" or "nyaope" by youngsters) and other drugs previously unknown in our country has reached alarming levels. Increasingly worrying is the reality that these drugs are becoming available to children as young as 10.

The consequences of alcohol abuse are everywhere: from foetal alcohol syndrome to the growing number of young people who seek treatment for drug addiction.


It is widely recognised that drugs destroy lives, generate crime and threaten sustainable development.

There is a growing body of evidence of the relationship between drug abuse and irresponsible sexual behaviour, which often result in unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection.

Comparative studies show that South Africans are much more likely to cause injury or death to ourselves and to others - often friends or family - when intoxicated than citizens of country's citizens . The high levels of road fatalities in our country bear this out.

The Department of Social Development is working jointly with all stakeholders to give the day a proper meaning.

As we commemorate International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, we constantly remind ourselves that the battle against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking, both within and beyond our borders, is far from over.

We also remind ourselves that fighting the scourge of drug abuse and illicit trafficking is a shared responsibility in which we all have to play our part to restore the social fabric of our nation.

Our response is anchored in the National Drug Master Plan, with a strong emphasis on prevention, particularly among young people.

The department initiated "Ke moja" (I am fine without drugs}, a campaign aimed at empowering young people through music, peer education, sports and life skills programmes, to resist the temptation to experiment with drugs.

I personally believe that taking drugs or not is about making choices, and if we can empower young people to make informed choices we can turn the tide against substance abuse.

At the same time we need to support those recovering from addiction.

A successful national response can only be effective if it is premised on a sound legislative framework. Accordingly, the government passed the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, which encompasses a full range of interventions and strategies to combat substance abuse and illicit trafficking.


The Act further make provisions for the establishment of programmes and services, including community-based services.

The combined effort of government, the Central Drug Authority, civil society and communities over the past years have enhanced government's understanding of the nature and magnitude of the drug problem.

What is required now is to translate that knowledge into programmes and interventions to reduce people's vulnerability to drugs.

This means engaging everyone - parents, teachers, community leaders, and most importantly me and you, to play our part in full.

Molewa is the Social Development Minister