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Johannesburg - There’s the pink ribbon for breast cancer and the red one for HIV and Aids.
What’s the colour of the ribbon raising awareness for drug addiction?” Dereleen James, an anti-drug activist, asked during a community meeting in Eldorado Park on Thursday night.
James, a mother of two teenagers, was thrust into the spotlight in 2013 when a letter she wrote to President Jacob Zuma, chronicling the struggles facing families battling with drug addiction, circulated online until it reached the president himself.
Zuma and other government leaders subsequently visited the community, and initiatives aimed at arresting the drug and crime problem in Eldorado Park were launched.
On Thursday James, through the anti-drug organisation that she founded - Sharing Without Shame - hosted a meeting at which the community, church, school and business people gathered to revive the efforts to address the drug problem.
“I am the mother of a drug addict,” James declared. “This is not like being a mother of a child with cancer, diabetes or Aids. This is not the mother of a child serving with honour in a foreign land, or the mother of a child who lives no more and is mourned by all,” she said.
“I am the mother of a drug addict! There are no fund-raisers for this disease, no selling cookies.
“There are no flags flying or bumper stickers acknowledging my child’s deeds.
“There are only tears and silent screams and a dread of what the next knock or phone call brings.
“I’m here because the social ills in our community matter to me. Does it matter to you?
“You may think drugs haven’t knocked on your door, but when you walk out and get hijacked, guess what? It could be someone who is high that is hijacking you. I am asking you, let us unite against this evil… it’s a silent killer,” she urged.
Gauteng Provincial Community Police Board chairman Andy Mashaile called on the residents to work together with the police so that they can tackle the scourge.
“Communities must engage and share information with the police. If there are matters of service delivery you’re not happy with, share that with your station commander,” he said.
Mashaile said people must not blame the police if they see drug peddlers released on bail soon after they are arrested. “Blame the Department of Justice. They must come and account to you,” he said.
National police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale reiterated that police needed the co-operation of communities in order to succeed.
He said the question of people being released on bail after they were apprehended for crimes was of great concern to the police.
“We are addressing that through a committee set up by the president to ensure we work together - the police, Correctional Services and Department of Justice,” he added.