Pretoria – As the consumption of the dangerous concoction known on the streets as nyaope, continues to wreak havoc in communities, authorities in South Africa’s most populous province are turning their collective attention towards getting the newcomer on the dealer’s block officially classified as an illegal drug.
Gauteng Agriculture, Rural and Social Development MEC, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, has convened a two-day stakeholders’ summit to address the thorny issues associated with nyaope, which continues to pose a complex challenge for many government institutions and most importantly, families around the province.
Of the many problems that come with the use of nyaope, the most taxing is that currently, the cheap brew with the expensive social impact is not yet classified as an illegal drug.
“It presents a unique challenge to law enforcement in that it is a concoction of mostly ‘legal’ substances and thus makes prosecution difficult,” said Mayathula-Khoza.
The powder-like substance is a mixture of rat poison, heroin and anti-retroviral medications, among others.
Mayathula-Khoza said delays in the road towards classifying nyaope as a banned substance undermined efforts to root the drug out of vulnerable communities.
“We sadly learn every day of break-ins and robberies, as well as aggressive behaviour by culprits who want to service their addiction to this substance.
“All factors considered, substance abuse is recognised as one of the greatest health and social problems in South Africa, with wide-ranging consequences that include physical debilitation, chronic eye impairment, injuries, marital and family problems,” she said.
The non-classification of nyaope as an illegal drug prompted the MEC to convene the summit, held under the theme, ‘Working together to declare nyaope an illegal drug and ensuring a substance abuse-free Gauteng’.
Mayathula-Khoza said the theme was fitting as it reflected the need for concerted efforts to curb the scourge of nyaope and other substances that are abused in Gauteng.
The summit will seek to lay the groundwork towards finding a workable plan of action and solutions to be implemented in order to eradicate the scourge of nyaope; improve education and awareness, which has been found to be strongly linked to the reduction of crime rates associated with drugs; and encourage government departments to take an authoritative stance in the fight against nyaope.
Mayathula-Khoza said they wanted to see communities join hands with government to combat the scourge of substance abuse, something they could do by making communities aware of what services were available to them should they seek help.
According to South African Police Service figures, 60 percent of crimes nationally are related to substance abuse and nyaope users constitute a substantial number of abusers.
Last year in Gauteng alone, 25 949 drug-related crimes were recorded.
Of great concern is that nyaope users are typically between the impressionable ages of 13 and 19.
Statistics from the SA National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence Thusong Centre in Mamelodi show that since January 2012 to February 2013, a total of 83 people taking heroin, dagga and nyaope sought help at the Community-based Outpatient Help Centre in Mamelodi East.
Mayathula-Khoza appealed to communities to work with authorities in clamping down on the areas which are known for the distribution of drugs.
Municipalities would also be useful in strengthening by-law enforcement to prevent the use of abandoned buildings by drug dealers and drug users.
During the 2013 State of the Province Address, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane committed her administration towards getting nyaope classified.
“We will lobby the criminal justice system to classify drugs such as nyaope as illegal.”
President Jacob Zuma also pledged his Cabinet’s support for combating substance abuse in South Africa during the 2nd Biennial Summit on Drug Abuse held in Durban in 2011.
In an effort to fight the scourge of drug abuse, 27 Local Drug Action Committees have been established throughout Gauteng and five Regional Drug Action Committees, including a Provincial Forum to fight alcohol and drug abuse.
These structures coordinate the implementation of the National Drug Master Plan at local level.
Education, awareness and prevention programmes targeting youth in and out of school considered to be at high risk are being implemented by the department, in collaboration with the NGOs.
“In the 2011/12 financial year, the department implemented the Ke Moja (I’m ok) drug prevention programme and the programme reached a total of 5 595 young people.
“Our approach includes the expansion of home visits, school visits and counselling, among others,” Mayathula-Khoza said. – SAnews.gov.za