Deputy minister launches programme to help drug users
Durban - Deputy Minister of Social Development Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu on Wednesday formally launched the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD), which aims to include drug users in determining the policies that affect them.
The event took place at the Bellhaven Memorial Centre in Durban and was attended by Zhuldyz Akisheva, the regional representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and eThekwini deputy mayor Belinda Scott.
The SANPUD launch forms part of the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) October activities and will be celebrated under the title “Strengthening our response to recovery through DSD services”.
“To date, there has been no collective voice of people who use drugs, and people who use drugs are not represented in any of the statutory bodies that inform policy or are responsible for the implementation of the National Drug Master Plan,” said Bogopane-Zulu on Wednesday.
There is a growing consensus worldwide that punishing people who use drugs does not work and policies need to change, Bogopane-Zulu explained.
The deputy minister said the National Drug Master Plan recognised the need to address drug users from a different perspective.
“The plan recognises that there are significant harms caused by the criminalisation of people who use drugs. The plan further lists the principles for an evidence-based, multi-sectoral, people-centred and inclusive and participatory response to drugs and the people that use them”, Bogopane-Zulu said.
Executive director of SANPUD, Angela McBride, said the inclusion of drug users in discussions that affect their lives has come at a vital time.
“The formal recognition by the deputy minister will amplify the voices of some of the most excluded and marginalised members of our communities.
“We hope that it will encourage people who use drugs to create and maintain a collective voice, participate in the policy debate and hold role players accountable for the implementation of the National Drug Master plan,” McBride explained.
Bogopane-Zulu and McBride reiterated the formal collaboration between the DSD and SANPUD would help reduce stigma and the marginalisation of drug users in the country.
- African News Agency (ANA)