Western Cape makes progress in reducing drug and alcohol related harm

Albert Fritz MPP

Western Cape Minister of Social Development

Recent media reports on the failed interventions by President Zuma in terms of reducing drug and alcohol-related harms in Eldorado Park, Johannesburg, comes as no surprise.

President Zuma’s administration is characterised by this habit of waltzing into vulnerable and challenged communities, making all sorts of empty promises and then leaving those communities hopeful and inevitably disappointed.

In fact, the president has also on occasion made fleeting visits to treatment centres in the Western Cape, amid great fanfare, and it would appear the sole purpose of such visits was to undermine the Western Cape Government.

However, it’s clear from recent media reports that egg is now on his face, as The Western Cape is further ahead than any other province in terms of the accessibility and quality of services and treatment models available to the public.

Our commitment in this regard has led to a doubling of our annual budget for interventions to address substance abuse over the last four years, from just R42 million when we came into office in 2009, to R87 million this year.

To offer more treatment opportunities, we have increased the number of drug rehabilitation facilities from 8 in 2008 (5 of them residential) to 28 in 2014 (9 of them residential). The remainder of these are NGO-run out-patient treatment programmes that we support financially.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development runs three public residential treatment centres with a joint annual treatment capacity of 1200 adults and 280 youth between ages 13 and 18 years. In addition, the department also funds six NGO-run residential treatment centres with a joint treatment capacity of 657 adults and 150 youth per year.

Furthermore, the department funds 19 community-based treatment programmes with a treatment capacity of just under 4000 persons per annum.

Following the positive results with our pilot out-patient projects for school children in Eerste River and Mitchell’s Plain, we have extended the project to Steenberg and Hout Bay.  

Our engagements with the Department of Health and Sultan Bahu, has yielded positive results and for the first time in South Africa, out-patient Opioid Substitution Treatment is now being offered by Sultan Bahu in Mitchell’s Plain. This initiative is specifically directed to combat the rise of heroin use in the province.

Up until now, opiate detox and replacement therapy had been exclusively offered by in-patient facilities, however research by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has shown that these programmes can be very effective, and offer a wider reach, if rendered on an out-patient basis.

Demand often outweighs supply as we strive to implement these different interventions. We have however made great strides in reducing drug and alcohol-related harms over the past five years.

As part of our commitment to the people of the Western Cape, we will continue to make additional funds available wherever we can make savings, so that our NGO partners are also further capacitated to increase their services to people in communities where they are most needed.

So unlike the fleeting engagements and promises made by the National Government, conveniently timed in the run up to an election, the initiatives by the Western Cape Government are both successful and sustainable.