Government not serious about fighting addiction

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

The Mpumalanga government is not serious about rehabilitating drug addicts and fighting the scourge of addiction, and seems to have no strategic plan to address the problem.

This became apparent through conflicting statements made by social development MEC Candith Mashego-Dlamini regarding the establishment of additional state rehabilitation centres.

Days after saying at a Legislature sitting that government does not intend establishing more treatment centres soon, her answer to written questions on the same issue was very different. According to the written reply, government will build a youth in-patient treatment centre in Emalahleni which will cater for 40 young people.

Given the fast escalation of drug abuse in the province – and the high demand for treatment – it’s worrying that the MEC doesn’t have a clear indication of how her department plans to tackle this issue in terms of treatment facilities.

With only two in-patient and five out-patient centres, Mpumalanga has a severe shortage of treatment facilities. Existing facilities are under extreme pressure, are overcrowded and have long waiting lists. Furthermore, out-patient facilities are unable to assist extreme cases due to lack of infrastructural and professional capacity.

In 2006 the provincial government was instructed to draw up a provincial drug master plan to combat drug abuse, but years later we are yet to see a final draft of this plan.  The department claims it has already implemented it, but the DA fails to understand how, given the MEC’s conflicting answers. Surely treatment centres form part of any effective anti-drug plan?

In view of this, the DA urges MEC Mashego-Dlamini to tackle this matter with the seriousness it deserves. She needs to ensure that the anti-drug abuse plan is effectively implemented and that it includes the establishment of additional treatment facilities. We also call on the department to advocate more leniency in the establishment of private rehabilitation centres, as these present addicts with more options giving them a better chance at recovery.

Until government stops ignoring this social ill, lives will continue to be destroyed, families will continue to be broken up and more people will become victims of drug-related crimes.