President Jacob Zuma has urged those living in drug-ravaged communities to make life as unbearable as possible for drug dealers and their clients.
“Make those selling and using it feel like they are not at home. Make them feel out of place,” he said.
He was speaking after hearing heart-rending testimonies from parents of drug-addicted children in Mitchells Plain yesterday.
Zuma was visiting the Sultan Bahu rehabilitation centre in Westridge to “highlight substance abuse challenges facing communities” before his State of the Nation address tomorrow night.
With him were Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Deputy Housing Minister Zoë Kota-Fredericks, Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman, and Social Development MEC Patricia de Lille.
Zuma warned that those caught selling drugs would face “serious punishment”.
“As (the) government, we need to take a strong resolution on this matter. It does not help to say there is a problem.
“This is a national problem and it needs a national response. We must collectively decide how we are going to deal with this.”
Zuma said drug and alcohol abuse had the potential to reduce the country to nothing.
He added that the government’s National Drug Master Plan, launched in 1999 by then welfare and population development minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, would be reviewed during the course of the year to bring it into alignment with current drug trends.
“We must work together to curb the scourge of substance abuse.
“As a country, we need to take a strong resolution, but everyone has to be on board.”
Fatima Solomons, the mother of a 23-year-old heroin addict, pleaded with Zuma to take “some kind of action” to help her child.
“My child has been on drugs since the age of 13. He has been to so many rehab clinics and centres, and on every drug available.
“He’s even been in prison and spent several weekends in the Mitchells Plain police cells. My prayer is: Mr President, please help us,” said an emotional Solomons.
The Western Cape provincial government spends more than R60-million a year on drug and alcohol abuse-related programmes.
Sakina Blouws, a recovering in-patient heroin addict at the Sultan Bahu rehabilitation centre, lost her family, her house and her job because of drugs.
She told Zuma about the help she had received and how she had been reunited with her mother after being “clean” for three months.
Zuma encouraged leaders of political parties, religious leaders and communities to advise the government on how best to address drug abuse, especially in the Western Cape.
“Statistics indicate that the average age of experimentation with drugs is now nine years,” he said.
“This is very disturbing. Our children are hooked on drugs before they can appreciate who they are. We’ve seen some children drinking alcohol on their way to school.
“I’m also concerned about the high number of pregnant women who abuse alcohol. The impact on the unborn child is devastating.” - Cape Argus