Cape Town - The Department of Social Development has set aside R87 million this year to tackle drug and alcohol abuse in the Western Cape – double the amount the province has spent on tackling the scourge over the past four years.
Premier Helen Zille revealed the figures on Monday during a joint press conference with Social Development MEC Albert Fritz at the provincial legislature.
Zille said they planned to spend R500m to combat drug and alcohol abuse over five years should they remain in office.
The R87m was intended to provide services to more than 13 515 individuals in need of in-patient facilities and community-based outpatient treatment across the province.
Over the years, the department has increased the number of drug rehabilitation facilities, from eight in 2008, to 25 this year, and has funded 31 NGOs which offer services in early intervention, helping about 4 380 individuals and families.
“Our crisis of substance abuse is harming another generation of young people worse than even what apartheid did to their forefathers,” said Zille
“Apartheid didn’t incapacitate people, but it mobilised them to demand their rights and to claim control of their lives. When you become an addict you become incapacitated, unemployable and a victim of your circumstances rather than an agent of changing your life.”
The spike of gang violence in hot-spot areas on the Cape Flats had once again highlighted the urgent and critical need for interventions to tackle endemic substance abuse in affected communities, said Zille.
“Previously the drugs had not hit the rural areas as much, but I’m afraid they are hitting everywhere. There is not a place where dealers don’t reach and there is not a vulnerable point where they don’t touch our youth and young people,” said Zille.
“It is a horrific situation that constitutes one of our greatest social crises.”
Zille said that heroin abuse was on the rise in the province.
“We can’t deal with this problem unless the police manage to track down the drug dealers, charge them and put them away for as long as it takes. In the meantime we have to deal with the tragic victims of substance abuse, ensure education, prevention, early detection rehabilitation and aftercare,” said Zille.
“No government can do this on its own and no government can substitute for responsible parenting. It has to be a partnership and everyone has to play their part.”
Early intervention and short-term counselling programmes were also being introduced at the department’s offices in Athlone, Gugulethu, Wynberg, Atlantis and Mitchells Plain.
The Western Cape Education Department had also rolled out random drug testing policy to identify high-risk schools.
“It is absolutely essential that we identify at-risk young people while their vulnerability to slip into destructive cycles of social dysfunction can still be contained and when their anti-social behaviour is in its formative stages and can be reversed,” said Zille.