'Zuma's visit changes lives for the better'

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

By the Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlodlo

Following President Jacob Zuma’s visit to the community of Umhlabuyalingana in March, life for many of its residents is changing for the better. There are signs of hope in an area once ravaged by the pain of drug and alcohol abuse.

The lives of its young people in the community have been destroyed and families torn apart through the prevalence of this scourge. Parents and guardians have been left heartbroken as addicts rob their own families and neighbours for money to fund their next fix.

It’s led to an increase in other societal ills such as teenage pregnancy, truancy, gangsterism, domestic violence and dysfunctional families.

As a government that cares for its people, we could not simply leave the situation in Umhlabuyalingana unchallenged. After his visit, President Jacob Zuma brought together all spheres of government and key departments to help the community.

The Department of Social Development has already rolled out a number of prevention programmes to schools in the area and reached 13 783 children and 12 509 adults. Our awareness campaign on substance abuse, Ke Moja, has reached every ward in the community. It has already impacted the lives of 2 448 children and 4 717 community members.

As we create greater awareness more people will become conscious of the dangers and life threatening nature of substance abuse.  It will also move more young people to seek help and receive treatment.

In understanding the need for a drastic change in behaviour, the government has funded the work of three Non-Profit Organisations to implement social behaviour change programmes in the community.

In tandem, the local police station is been resourced to intensify its fight against crime syndicates and drug peddlers within the community. To strengthen the fight, a Local Drug Action Committee is in place and we have relaunched the local Community Policing Forum.

The government is confident that these interventions will frustrate the efforts of those criminal elements, who are bent on exploiting our young people and turn around the situation for the community.

We call on all members of society to play a role in raising awareness and provide the necessary support to those young people affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Addiction can be beaten and government appeals to drug users to seek help today.

The successful treatment begins with the early identification of tell-tale signs. It includes possession of drug-related equipment such as pipes, cigarette papers or small decongestant bottles. If children display symptoms of alcohol and substance abuse, parents and guardians are encouraged to discuss it openly with them and assist them to find help.

Our hard -won freedom will mean little if it is not enjoyed by all South Africans away from crime, corruption and substance abuse. We cannot allow these ills to undermine the freedom that so many of our countrymen and women fought and even died for.

Let us take a stand and boldly declare drug and alcohol abuse as enemies of South Africa’s freedom and democracy. In doing so we must encourage young people to become an integral part of the struggle against substance abuse and the fight against crime.

We should take on the fight against the onslaught of drugs in our communities in the same vigour that we fought against and defeated apartheid.

The government will remain at the forefront of the fight against substance abuse through national initiatives and programmes. It is receiving our highest response through the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Substance Abuse, which has proposed legislative reforms such as the banning of alcohol advertisements, increasing the age of alcohol consumption and zero-tolerance on drunk-driving.

Moreover, given the seriousness of the situation, the response to substance abuse has been placed as the core mandate of the Central Drug Authority. Together with our partners we are also implementing the Anti-Substance National Plan of Action, which is a collective effort towards a drug free society.

The government is committed to do whatever it takes to protect citizens and fight the scourge of drug abuse, crime and corruption in society to create an environment conducive for building stable families and communities.

Let us all work together to root out the sale of illicit substances that undermine our communities. In doing so we ensure that our freedoms are enjoyed by every citizen and give our young people a fighting chance.

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