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By Anel Powell
President Thabo Mbeki has declared war on drug abuse, particularly the use of tik, saying components of the drug such as pseudoephedrine should be tightly controlled and be available only on prescription.
"It is critically important to focus on this serious problem which is destroying young people," the president said.
Speaking after the weekend's provincial imbizo, Mbeki said the province needed to "move aggressively on the problem of drug abuse".
"It's very clear that we have to ensure that all spheres of government intervene quite vigorously on this."
Mbeki said the department of health must regulate the sale of over-the-counter ingredients, such as pseudoephedrine used to manufacture crystal methamphetamine, known in South Africa as tik.
Over-the-counter medication is classified as Schedule 1 or 2. Giving it a higher schedule would mean the drug could only be supplied on prescription.
The president also slammed weekend media reports which claimed he had asked "What is tik?" at the opening of the De Nova drug rehabilitation centre near Kraaifontein.
He explained that while many people knew what tik was, as an end product, few knew which ingredients were used to make the drug. Many of the ingredients for tik and other drugs could be bought over the counter and manufactured in homemade laboratories, although few people realised these were so easily accessible.
That was what he meant when he had asked what tik was.
Mbeki told journalists he was disappointed that his comment, taken out of context, became the focus of his visit to De Nova when the real issue was the work being done to curb drug abuse.
While concerns about misalignment and tension between the three levels of government dominated Sunday's imbizo session, which included presentations by the City of Cape Town, the West Coast and the Cape Winelands districts, Mbeki insisted that inter-governmental co-operation was imperative for the fight against drug abuse and he commended the Western Cape for identifying 15 drug hot spots in its anti-drug strategy.
Mbeki said programmes to stop drug abuse were an important part of achieving social cohesion, especially as it had a significant impact on crime.
Premier Ebrahim Rasool, in his presentation on key challenges to the province, named drugs and substance abuse as among the key issues needing to be addressed.
The national government has allocated R1-billion to the Western Cape to fund its 15-area crime prevention strategy.
Mayor Helen Zille said tensions between the city and the province should not be allowed to overshadow the National Drug Master Plan. "It is important that the organisational structures set out in the National Drug Master Plan are adhered to by province and the city so that the roles and responsibilities within the spheres of government are clearly defined and the two spheres can co-ordinate."
In terms of the National Drug Master Plan, the city must set up a local drug action committee that would work with a similar provincial structure.