11/14/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/14/2023 05:22
Tuesday, 14 November 2023
Chairperson of the Central Drug Authority, Ms Nandi Mayathula-Khoza;
Experts and Representatives from the Civil Society Organisations;
Drug Users and Researchers working in the space of Substance Abuse;
Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Leaders in government and various formations;
Strategic Partners representing Women, Youth, LGBTQI+ community, Treatment and Business sectors;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a singular honour and privilege for me to address this important occasion - the third National summit on Substance Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, under the theme; "Towards sustainable, coordinated and impactful strategies for national drug and substance use in South Africa".
After delays caused by unforeseen circumstances, including, the COVID-19 pandemic, which did not only claim many lives but also halted many activities, the third summit is a strategic enabler which empower role-players in the field of substance abuse to discuss harmful substance use, misuse, and abuse as well as sharing of information in terms of Section 56, subsection 1 of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act 70 of 2008.
As we strive to build a caring society for all South Africans, the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, of 2008, mandates the Department of Social Development to develop programmes and support initiatives aimed at the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
This therefore affords all of us, especially, policy makers and researchers, a space to work in collaboration with, amongst others, government departments and other key stakeholders involved in dealing with the challenge of harmful substance use. It is through such collaboration that the summit would deliberate on exchange of good practice, evidence-based interventions, challenges, and sustainable socio-economic strategies. All these will assist with reducing the supply, demand and harm caused by the use, misuse and abuse of Alcohol, Tobacco, and other Drugs.
On a positive note, the long-awaited summit will explore existing research conducted by both public and private institutions on the prevalence of substance use, misuse and abuse in the country and encourage institutions of higher learning and academia to assist further in conducting research.
We are honoured to have in our midst, members of Cabinet, including, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development and the Chairperson of the Central Drug Authority, who are key towards realisation of a drug free society.
Programme Director, the scourge of substance abuse is like a compound involving many persons and institutions. Some of these entities and individuals, are using various substances for educational purposes and research, which is a good initiative for Social Workers, Medical Experts, Government Departments, Entities and Families to learn and have a broader understanding.
I am mentioning families, because many individuals, who were once responsible citizens and role models for their children and communities they live in, are now in rehabilitation centres. This is not only a concern for government which spend millions on rehabilitating abusers of substances, but also cause a long-term emotional and psychological dents and wounds, which may not be easy to heal.
Today, South Africa is faced with array of social ills such as dysfunctional families, children living on the streets, high prevalence of teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, the spread of HIV/Aids chronic disease, and Gender Based Violence and Femicide, which has been declared a second pandemic in the country. Some if not most of these problems are caused by substance abuse, which could have been prevented if we worked together as different sectors in society.
We do have very good policies which are envied by many countries globally, but our progress in terms of successful implementation of same, leave much to be desired. This calls for drastic measures as efforts, time and money is invested in the good policies we have as a country.
One of them is the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP), which comprises the seven goals which should also be reflected upon during the summit. These goals are Demand and Reduction, Supply Reduction, Access to substances for medicinal use, New Psychotropic Substance (NPS) and Amphetamine Type Stimulants (ATS), Governance, Leadership and Accountability, Research, Development, Monitoring and Evaluation and Economic Development.
The NDMP which reflects the country's response to the substance abuse problem as outlined by the United Nations Conventions and other international bodies, outlines the role each Department should play in addressing substance use and abuse. In short, the goal of the of the NDMP is to contribute to safer and healthier communities through coordinated efforts to prevent use, treat substance use disorders, and reduce production and distribution of illicit drugs in South Africa.
It therefore means that we are on track today as we engage, convince, and mobilise community members and structures to participate in the fight against substance abuse.
In support of the NDMP, I would like to emphasise that prevention, treatment, and law enforcement authorities are important pillars of helping to reduce substance abuse in South Africa. It is for this reason that for duration of the summit, relevant Departments, stakeholders and role players.
Esteemed guests, in their nature, substances, including, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and others, cannot be taken lightly because once abused, they have negative impact and potential of crippling and causing deaths. It is therefore imperative that as we engage, our thoughts and expertise are not only based on the socio-economic challenges of substance abuse in society, but rather solution driven.
Most recently, we attended the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Cape Town, with 55 countries in attendance. Amongst its recommendations; Denormalisation of alcohol use in society; fast track the tabling of liquor amendment bill in February 2024; Department of Health to table marketing of alcohol beverages bill, just to mention a few. I hope that the summit will also consider these recommendations and engage on how best these can be implemented.
Both the conference and summit came at a right time as the Cabinet has just approved that the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Use Disorder Policy be gazetted for public consultation. This policy will be published on the 17th of November 2023, for public comments, and I urge you to make sure that this summit do contribute to it.
An eventof this magnitude should be prioritised, given the fact that drugs and drug misuse remain a national concern requiring greater collaboration among key sectors of our society at all levels. The complexity and pervasiveness of drug misuse and the harms it caused to individuals, families and communities means that no one can tackle it alone.
Despite our differences in opinions, we have to use the next three days to create a platform to share information, expertise and promote a collaborative approach amongst government departments and other key national and international stakeholders who gets their hands dirty working on the challenge of substance use and misuse. As a result, this summit should further allow exchange of good practice, evidence-based interventions, challenges and sustainable socio-economic strategies aimed at reducing the supply, demand and harm caused by the use, misuse and abuse of Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs (ATOD).
What makes the summit more important to me and my colleagues is that Cabinet recently approved the proposal by Social Development to reestablish the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Substance Abuse. This Committee will assist with mitigating the impact of the risks associated with alcohol and substance abuse amongst the youth; children; women; persons with disabilities; pregnant women; families in all their manifestation, including, child headed families. Disadvantaged persons in vulnerable communities; occupational groups at risks, such as artists, athletes, and professionals; as well as key populations, like the LGBTQI+ community, sex workers and migrant workers.
The summit will focus primarily on achieving the following objectives:
III. To improve our knowledge base on how illicit drugs relate to other urgent challenges, such as conflicts and environmental degradation.
In preparation for this summit, the Department of Social Development and the CDA committed to bring to the fore the voices of communities through provincial dialogues. This gave us the opportunity to engage communities at grass roots level ensuring that no one is left behind. The dialogues were aimed at getting inputs on the effectiveness of the National Drug Master Plan 2019-2024, the inputs will be useful in our deliberations in this summit.
We all have a role to play in ensuring that all people are and feel safe in South Africa as envisioned in the National Development Plan (Vision 2030). It is important that we do this together to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
The issues raised and resolutions taken at this meeting will find expressions at the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Substance Abuse. We have to come out of this place with a clear mind and zeal to work together and share how we can reduce the prevalence of alcohol and substance abuse and its associated challenges of illegal liquor outlets, underage drinking, to name of few. It is for this reason that the deliberations of the summit will focus on four broad themes, namely policy and legislation, demand reduction, role of civil society and harm reduction.
Most importantly, this summit will provide an opportunity to discuss sustainable, coordinated, and impactful strategies for reduction of drug and substance use and misuse in South Africa as the theme suggest.
The days of talking statistics are over. This is the time to work very hard to reduce the statistics and talk implementation and progress.
As I conclude, I wish to thank all institutions that were involved in organising this summit, especially, members of the CDA, representatives from various formations and institutions, the organising committee and government officials.
I would also like to extend my profound gratitude to the provincial Substance Abuse Forums, Provincial Departments, Civil Society Organisations, and Institutions of Higher Learning, who continue partnering with the Department of Social Development through anti-substance abuse initiatives.
We thank all partners for their continued leadership and your commitment as demonstrated through your support and national efforts made by your respective departments in addressing the scourge of substance abuse and illicit trafficking in the country.
Our word of appreciation also goes to all who participated in the provincial substance abuse dialogues which served as build-up activities towards this Summit.
Working together by adopting a multi-sectoral approach, will assist on ensuring that we have a successful summit, characterised by robust engagements, deliberations and information sharing sessions.
I thank you