By Bosman Grobler MPL, Spokesperson on Community Safety, Security & Liaison:
The youth of Mpumalanga faces a bleak future, if they continue to be plagued by drugs and crime. The status quo will remain until the South African Police Services (SAPS) puts stringent plans in place to deal with drug kingpins and drug related crimes. This starts with specialised drug and gang units, which the SAPS continues to refuse to implement.
According to a July 2013 report by the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Abuse (SACENDU), Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces have the highest number of drug users who abuse heroine.
The report also reveals that, in Mpumalanga, there has been an increase of 5% in the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependent (SANCA) clients younger than 17 in the last six years, and that children as young as 14 are seeking help from Nyaope and Dagga addiction.
In June this year, Deputy Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla identified eMalahleni, Delmas and Balfour as areas severely affected by drugs in Mpumalanga.
The DA is concerned that drug abuse also increases criminal activities, violence, school dropouts, and demands on specialised health care to deal with after effects.
During a recent oversight visit to some police stations in the province, I discovered that
- police officials are susceptible to bribes because of their low income;
- police morale in Mpumalanga is low; and
- there is very little ambition among the men and women in blue to excel in their job due to the lack of opportunity to advance, especially if they are not politically connected.
Police morale can be boosted through stable Police leadership, fair progression through rank, and units dedicated to specific serious crimes.
Since the Narcotics Specialised Bureau was disbanded in 2004, drug related crimes have been on the increase in Mpumalanga. Crime stats for the 2014/15 financial year, showed an increase in drugs and drug related crimes of 18,5% for the past year, and a staggering 167% increase in these crimes in the past 5 years in the province.
Under a DA government the specialized Drug and Gang Units will be reinstated, this would include specialised training, specialised equipment and specialised procedures. There would be a zero tolerance approach to drug dealers and offenders, and SAPS members found guilty of corruption or misconduct would be dismissed.
The DA would also encourage a culture of reporting corruption among SAPS members and protecting whistle-blowers.