DA marches against drug abuse – demands specialised units

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Leader: Mpumalanga

Below is an extract from the speech delivered by Anthony Benadie, during the DA’s Human Rights Day Anti-drug march, held in Middelburg this morning.

As with the closing of other SAPS specialised units, the closing of the South African Narcotics Bureau (SANAB) has had a devastating impact on the fight against drug trade and abuse across South Africa. SANAB, the former SAPS specialised unit dedicated to fighting drug and substance abuse, trade and smuggling, formed a critical part of reducing incidences of drug related crimes – and its closure to a large degree opened the market for drug smugglers and dealers to trade freely and go undetected.

When considering the impact of drugs in a relatively small community such as Middelburg, the absence of such a unit is hardest felt. It is now a known fact, that drugs and drug abuse affects practically every single community; and having infiltrated every school in almost every community, the fear of losing the war against drugs is becoming real. In many instances, the SAPS and community members are well aware of the whereabouts of drug suppliers, but due to compromised intelligence drug dealers are often alerted to raids before they happen, rendering police efforts meaningless.

The reality is that drug consumption in South Africa is twice the world norm, costing South Africa R20 billion a year, posing a huge threat to the country’s future, especially the youth, who are most susceptible and vulnerable to drug abuse. Every day dozens of youth’s lives and families are being torn apart by drug related crimes and abuse, with school kids who use alcohol or drugs being three times more involved with violent crimes.

Essentially, drug addiction steals life – not only from the addict – but from families and communities as well. Today, as we celebrate Human Rights Day, the DA chose to focus on the right to life, a constitutional right, violated daily through drug related activities. Despite the dedication and hard work of NGOs, churches, schools, Community Policing Forums and some SAPS officers, we firmly believe more needs to be done.

As members that represent our communities we therefore propose:

* The establishment of an anti-Drug unit be set up and implemented within the SAPS, which specialises in anti-drug patrolling and investigations. Underworld bosses are key players who control the flow of drugs in our communities, and such a unit must send a clear message that underworld criminals will receive our maximum attention.

* The establishment of a Substance Abuse Forum, representing all stakeholders who are working together to deal with this plague.

* The maintenance of a database of community organisations that are actively involved in community anti-drug initiatives, and sustainable support provided to these organizations, ensuring adequate coordination to ensure every effort is made to maximum effect.

* Community Policing Forums have shown to be greatly effective in fighting crime in all communities, and we encourage continued support, training specifically related to substance abuse and increasing financial support to these forums.

* We call on the Mpumalanga government to review Mpumalanga’s liquor legislation, to regulate the areas where alcohol may be sold and consumed, and establish alcohol-free zones.

In the Western Cape where the DA governs, these and other innovative ideas are being implemented, many of them to great effect. No reason exists why the Mpumalanga government cannot take a harder stance on drug abuse and drug trade, dealing directly with the N4 drug highway that serves as a distribution network for drug suppliers and dealers.

We urge every single community organisation, school and church, including the SAPS, never to give up in our fight against this purge, to save our families and communities, thereby ensuring that our youth may enjoy a life free from drugs and share in the South African dream of a prosperous and fulfilling life.

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