Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA Pictures
The City of Joburg has opened its first township substance abuse treatment centre to fight the escalating drug scourge, especially nyaope addiction among the youth.

Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba and Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Dr Mpho Phalatse officially opened the Tladi Community Based Substance Abuse Treatment Centre in Soweto on Monday.

It is an initiative by the city to address the scourge of drugs in our most vulnerable communities. Mashaba said the use of drugs in the area had become a serious problem.

“Daily our families are ravaged by drugs; our homes have become battlefields for wives, husbands and children turning against each other to fight drugs.

“Our home, towns, suburbs and villages are no longer nice places to be. Our society is crumbling right before our eyes and lawlessness is becoming our way of life,” Mashaba said.

The mayor said he said received reports that some police are working with drug dealers. He said the Tladi community should not be silenced.

“It is through our silence that criminals have managed to grow and get away with illicit drug trade,” said Mashaba.

Mandla Mbatha, 34, who recently recovered from drug addiction, shared his experience of substance abuse.

“There is a saying that says ‘Never underestimate small beginnings'. I started smoking cigarettes in Standard 5. In Standard 5, I started using dagga when I was 13 years old. In Standard 7, I started using mandrax. I later smoked heroin in the early 2000s. Then it was not yet popular.”

Mbatha said that later in his life he smoked nyaope and used cocaine. He said life started to be tough, and that was when he realised he needed help. He said his family always had fights because of him and having a daughter was one of the reasons why he decided to stop smoking and go to the House of Mercy Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre in Boksburg in 2008.

Mbatha said that after spending 42 days at the centre, he substituted drugs with alcohol, but that didn’t last long, and he relapsed.

“What people must know is that recovery is a personal thing. The first time I went to the centre, I was doing it for the people, and that affected me. I went back in 2010.

“I am proud to say I have stopped taking drugs, and I would encourage anyone with drug addiction to seek help. I am glad that today my community have a drug rehabilitation centre that will help them,” said Mbatha.

Joburg metro police department Chief of Police David Tembe said they would work together with the SA Police Service and the community.

“We want to reclaim our communities. We want to reclaim law and order in our communities. One of our priorities is to fight drugs. We are committed to fight those who give our children drugs,” he said

Earlier, the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) and the Congress of SA Students (Cosa) delayed the opening of the centre by protesting at the event.

“We don’t want Mashaba to come and address us. We were not made aware that the centre is opening today,” said Sanco ward 21 treasurer-general Maipato Madlala.

Cosas regional executive committee member Mogalemang Kgaji, 22, accused the DA of "stealing" the idea to open the centre from the ANC in the area.

The centre will cater for drug addicts in different ways such as individual sessions, family sessions and 10 days of detox. An iThemba 24-hour crisis line will have six social workers on standby. Residents are urged to call 080 0223 217.

The city will in this financial year open other community-based substance abuse treatment centres in Westbury Clinic, Riverpark Clinic in Alexandra, Joubert Park Clinic and the Eldorado Park Extension 9 Clinic.

@SthembisoMedia