Central Drug Authority: briefing

Social Development

19 June 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


21 June 2001

Chairperson: Ms N Tsheole

Documents handed out:
Central Drug Authority presentation (see Appendix)

The Central Drug Authority explained that alcohol is the drug which presents the biggest problem in South Africa. They noted that South Africa's response to the problem has been inadequate, especially if compared to the way other countries are dealing with it. The problem can be dealt with by curtailing alcohol advertising and producing counter-advertisements.

The Central Drug Authority will attempt to get its message across to the majority of the population as it has previously only reached the literate English or Afrikaans parents from urban areas. In addition, it will now focus on cannabis which is one of the biggest problems in the country.

In order to implement the National Drug Master Plan the Central Drug Authority needs resources to establish local action committees. They therefore appealed to the Committee to provide them with a budget that will enable them to operate.

The Chairperson of the Central Drug Authority (CDA), Adv F Kahn read the document and highlighted the following:

-Alcohol is the drug which places the greatest burden of harm on the SA population in terms of crime, family and gender violence, road deaths and loss of productivity.
-The Western Cape has the highest rate of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.
-Our lack of a policy dealing with this issue is indefensible and our response should be measured against those of other countries. The policy should focus on alcohol advertising, taxation, primary health care and health education.

-Our role models receive sponsorships from alcohol companies and display alcohol company logos on their clothes. One should examine the culture this creates among the youth.
-It is important to see how other countries are dealing with the issue
· In Belgium there are severe restrictions on alcohol advertising and no radio advertising of alcohol is allowed. This approach targets the under-21's.
· In France there is a ban on advertising beverages with an alcohol content exceeding 1%. When advertising, alcohol companies are forced to promote moderation.
· In Zimbabwe alcohol labels have to contain health warnings. Adv Kahn found it ironic that there are labels on cough medicines warning people against driving when using them (as senses may be impaired), there is no such warning on a bottle of alcohol in SA.
-In areas such as the Boland many people are born damaged as a result of foetal alcohol syndrome. However, while there are many billboards continuing to advertise alcohol in this area, there are no billboards warning people about its hazards.

The National Drug Master Plan
-These plans are used internationally. They involve a combined assault on demand and supply reduction (of drugs).
-In formulating this plan they identified the following shortcomings in previous responses to the drug problem in SA:
· Their message failed to reach the majority of the population. SA has eleven official languages and has a low level of education and literacy. In addition, 24 million reside in rural areas. All previous efforts had been directed at literate English or Afrikaans speaking parents in urban areas. The majority of children had never received the message.
· The overwhelming drug problem in SA is cannabis and the cannabis/mandrax combination. SA is a transit country for heroin, cocaine and amphetamines and there is a danger that these drugs will be abused in future. However, at present South Africa's problem is overwhelmingly cannabis. Previous focus has been on these future drugs (which is largely an overseas problem), while not much has been done about cannabis.
· There is insufficient international understanding of our unique problems i.e. cannabis. As fighting drugs requires global co-operation, SA has always contributed to international efforts e.g. border control, legal international judicial co-operation. However the international community has done nothing to assist in our fight against the abuse of cannabis. In fact the UN regards cannabis to be a soft drug despite the fact that it is often a 'gateway drug', i.e. people using cannabis often move on to stronger drugs.

How the CDA will implement the Master Plan
In order for the CDA to implement the Master Plan it will require a Secretariat. At present the organisation consists of 24 part-time workers. Additional staff will be needed for the establishment of 500 local action committees who will operate from Magistrates Courts. The action committees will need audiovisual equipment. It is evident that an increase in budget would be needed in order to establish these committees.

They also wish to establish a central databank. 90% of this process has already been completed in Pretoria. R250 000 is needed to make it accessible to a wider section of the population. A Secretariat would be needed for its functioning as well.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions has already given his strong support to the plan. It can however not be implemented without a Central Databank and staff.

Adv Kahn emphasised that the CDA lacks the budget to function. If there is no Secretariat the organisation exists in name only. He then went on to read the section of the document dealing with the CDA activities and outputs since 1 September 2000. He added that the CDA was a creation of the Portfolio Committee. Failure of the Committee to provide it with a budget was like giving them a head with no body.

Dr E Jassat (ANC) asked why it was so difficult to make headway in developing an alcohol policy. He asked whether a conspiracy between alcohol companies and the government was a possibility. He also suggested the foreign currency it generates as being a reason.

Adv Kahn said that he did not wish to speculate. However the liquor industry is thumbing its nose at efforts of social development. They are arrogant and powerful and are making a mockery of responsible advertising. A possible reason that they are getting away with it is public apathy. It seems as if the CDA can only look to Parliament to help them deal with this indefensible situation. They had looked at self-regulation of the industry, but companies were obviously more interested in profits than social development.

Dr Jassat said that there are powerful figures like Helen Suzman who are asking for the decriminalisation of cannabis. He suggested that CDA get a powerful figure to campaign for the opposing view.

Adv Kahn disagreed with the opinion of Helen Suzman, saying that even though she may be willing to gamble with her grandchildren's lives, he was not. Dr C Parry (a drug expert and member of the CDA) said that there are definitely health problems associated with the drug. More than 100 contaminants are ingested when smoking dagga. There is a risk of lung cancer, respiratory problems and adverse mental health (if one is predisposed). Data collected shows a link between dagga and failure at school. Because of its link with mandrax, one should consider how decriminalising dagga will affect the position of mandrax. There is a definite link with crime. A study shows that 43% of persons arrested on weapons charges, 42% of those arrested on rape charges and 50% of those arrested on murder charges had tested positive for dagga. In addition the gateway effect of the drug has to be taken into account.

Dr Jassat referred to the issue of compulsory drug testing in schools vs the question of human rights raised by Minister of Education Kader Asmal. He suggested that the CDA should try to get the Department of Education involved.

Adv Kahn said that this issue was debatable. However he believed that Mr Asmal should have discussed the matter with the CDA first. He suggested possible economic reasons for such testing not taking place in public schools in future.

Dr Jassat asked the CDA to comment on the view that alcohol can also be associated with an increase in HIV/AIDS.

Adv Kahn said that they are aware of this link and that it can be included in their awareness programmes.

Ms S Kalyan (DP) referred to the Noupoort Care Centre (referred to in the document). She asked what the findings of the Task Team were upon visiting the facility.

Adv Kahn said that Noupoort had applied for registration as a treatment centre in 1992. This had only been processed in January this year. The problem, he suggested was an absence of criteria with which one needs to comply in order to get registered. The processing of the application took ten years. There is a Commission of Inquiry investigating the issue.

Rev T Fredericks (a drug expert and member of the CDA) explained that Noupoort had previously functioned as a care centre. A treatment centre is used to detoxify patients after which they are moved to a care centre.

Ms Kalyan asked whether the only purpose of the visit to Noupoort had been to evaluate criteria.

Rev Fredericks said that this had been the purpose of the first visit.

Ms O Kasienyane (ANC) said that establishing local action committees is a positive step since rural areas had never received the full benefit of campaigns.

Ms T Tshivase (ANC) referred to cases where policemen steal dagga after confiscating it and where prisoners smoke dagga in prisons. She asked how the CDA is dealing with these problems.

Adv Kahn said that CDA was aware that dagga was virtually a currency in prisons. CDA therefore wants to force the Department of Correctional Services and other departments to submit a mini master plan. In addition, the CDA has members of the judiciary, police and Correctional Services who can influence their respective departments.

Ms Chalmers asked how big the problem of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse is.

Dr Parry said that over-the-counter drug abuse ranks almost equally with dagga in terms of the extent of their abuse. This is an unknown problem that affects more women than men. He said that CDA needs to do more to address it.

Ms Chalmers asked if there is an organisation similar to Alcoholics Anonymous which focuses on the abuse of narcotics.

Rev Fredericks said that these support groups can be found in the telephone directory. However they exist only in urban areas at present. CDA will focus on developing these as a person cannot be treated in isolation. Support is needed once a person leaves rehabilitation.

Mr M Da Camara (DP) said that although he supported the fight against the drug trade, he was sympathetic to views favouring decriminalisation of cannabis. He said that children are being turned into criminals while they are the victims. Children are provided with a free dosage for the first time in order to get them addicted. He therefore suggested that CDA pursue the distributors instead of the victims. He suggested decriminalising it in a way that protects the user and not the trade as a whole. In addition, he suggested that the high crime rate linked to cannabis could simply be attributed to the fact that it is illegal.

Dr Parry said that children who are first offenders are not imprisoned but sent to rehabilitation and diverted from the prison system. He disagreed that the crime rate is high simply because dagga is illegal. This is indeed so in the case of the crime of possession and dealing. However, it also gives rise to vigilantism, turf wars and crime resulting from being intoxicated, for example, where a person uses dagga to get courage to commit the crime.

Ms E Gandhi (ANC) said that it was not just advertising that gives rise to alcoholism. She said that in places like Phillippi, farm workers are given free alcohol by the farmers.

Adv Kahn said that they were aware of the 'dop system', which is being phased out. He insisted that counter-advertising is needed. He said that the only alcohol with a warning label is on KWV bottles which are exported to the US.

Ms Gandhi referred to the fact that children are supposed to be diverted from prison. A recent visit however showed a large number of children between twelve and seventeen in Pollsmoor.

Adv Kahn said that although there was still much to be done, much has already been done to deal with this problem.

Ms Gandhi said that she had heard of a tattoo transmitting drugs. She requested more information on it.

Dr Parry said that this tattoo sticker transmitted quantities of LSD. It is being used increasingly in urban areas.

Mr M Masutha (ANC) referred to Adv Kahn's statement that emphasis was on decreasing demand for drugs. He asked what was being done to reduce its supply.

Adv Kahn said that radical changes have already been witnessed on the supply side, for example, the work of the Scorpions. Very little has however been achieved on the demand side and this will not change while there is no funding. He said that while dealing with supply is important, demand reduction should receive even more emphasis. While there is a demand, the supplier will find ways and resources to meet this demand.

Mr Masutha asked if importing was the main source of drugs in SA.

Dr Parry said that alcohol and dagga were produced locally. Mandrax is largely imported from India although there are some laboratories here. Ecstacy is exchanged for dagga with the UK and the Netherlands. Cocaine is imported from Peru and Columbia.

Mr Masutha asked whether there is a link between the influx of drugs and illegal aliens in SA.

Dr Parry said that this was a sensitive issue. However it is undeniable that there is evidence linking drug trafficking with foreigners coming from certain areas in Nigeria and Morocco.

Mr Masutha asked why CDA was experiencing funding shortages. He asked if they had submitted an incomplete proposal in the budget process.

The Chair, Ms Tsheole, replied that when the CDA was established the budgetary process had already been completed. They had therefore not been given the opportunity to submit proposals. She asked if they had a business plan.

Adv Kahn responded that they do. It is however a modest plan calculated without the inclusion of the Drug Action Committees. The amount of money the CDA is given affects the rate at which these committees can be established. This rate in turn reflects the growth of the CDA and is the basis for planning future growth. He therefore felt that they had been far too conservative with their estimate of R2m.

Ms M Coetzee-Kasper asked if the CDA has visited other places like Noupoort which are perhaps unregistered.

Adv Kahn answered that the CDA does not have the capacity to identify and visit these places since they have no Secretariat. In fact even the Noupoort investigation had been done in the spare time of the staff. He added that if the Committee provides them with a Secretariat, the CDA would in turn be able to provide the Committee with more positive responses.

Ms M Coetzee-Kasper asked how shebeens are being dealt with.

Dr Parry stated that it would perhaps be better to regulate shebeens rather than declare them illegal, as they will continue to operate despite the fact that they are prohibited.


The current situation in respect of drug abuse in South Africa must be viewed against three milestones in the history of our country.

The origin of drug abuse as we know it today can be traced back to 1652, when the Dutch saw fit to establish a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope to service its trade route to the East. Since then, substance abuse has taken firm root in the country at great cost to both our economy and our social reconstruction.

It has been estimated that the cost of alcohol misuse to the country is R10,6 billion at 1996 levels, while the cost of narcotic drug abuse has been estimated at between R2,5 billion and R7,1 billion. The trail of misery can never be quantified.

Alcohol is the substance which places the greatest burden of harm on the population of South Africa in terms of crime, family and gender violence, road deaths and loss of productivity. The Western Cape has the highest known rates of foetal alcohol syndrom in the world. Ironically our response is feeble and inadequate especially when measured against standards set by most civilized countries. In particular what is required is an alcohol policy including a focus on alcohol advertising, taxation, primary health care, and health education.

In 1994, South Africa entered into a human rights culture and the South African President, Nelson Mandela, singled out alcohol and drug abuse among the social pathologies that needed to be combatted as part of a social reconstruction programme for the new South Africa. The re-entry of South Africa into the international arena brought with it prosperity and commitment on the one hand and a range of new problems and challenges on the other. The rapid expansion of international air links, combined with our geographic position on major trafficking routes between East Asia and the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, a well-developed transportation infrastructure, modern international telecommunications and banking systems, long porous borders and weak border control made South Africa a natural target for drug traffickers.

The winds of change, however refreshing, thus brought with it a sober chill.

On the credit side, reservoirs of energy which had been spent in the political struggles of the past could now be used to create a better quality of life for all our citizens.

In 1999, we signed the 1988 Convention and produced a National Drug Master Plan.

It is submitted that the fight against drugs can never be effectively waged unless a total strategy, including a combined assault on demand reduction and supply reduction is formulated.

Drug abuse is a social problem which affects the whole community and requires a total response. Policing can only be effective if it operates in tandem with a broader social response.

In formulating a national strategy though our Master Plan, fresh insights were brought to the drug problem in our country.

Firstly, we looked in the mirror and took stock of ourselves, something which had never been done in the past. We learnt, for example, that our past pleas about the dangers of drugs had fallen on deaf ears, and that many of the efforts in the past were futile duplication.

South Africa has a population of approximately 48 million people who are distributed over nine provinces and who range in population from 746 000 [Northern Cape] to 7 672 000 [KwaZulu- Natal]. It is estimated that 55,4 percent of the population resides in urban areas and that the population has on average eight years of schooling or less, depending on the province in which they live.

There are 11 official languages, of which isiZulu, isiXhosa and Afrikaans are the most widely spoken languages, following by Sepedi and English. In addition, cultures and levels of literacy and economic well-being differ widely.

It is estimated that approximately 46 percent of the population of South Africa are aged 20 years and younger [Central Statistical Services, 1977]. Using other data, it is estimated that approximately half the population are poor and half of them, again, are children.

Simply put, we are a nation who speaks eleven tongues, with a low level of education and literacy, and all previous efforts were directed at literate, English or Afrikaans-speaking parents in the urban areas. Our rural areas, involving some 24 million people, had never received the full benefit of previous campaigns. The vast majority of our children had never received a message on the evils of drugs in any form whatsoever.

Secondly, we realised that the overwhelming drug problem in South Africa is cannabis and the cannabis/mandrax 'white pipe' combination. South Africa now ranks among the world's largest producers of cannabis, most of which is consumed regionally, with some shipments to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Whereas we are a transit country of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines, and the danger exists of a future abuse of these drugs, our problem remains, overwhelmingly, cannabis.

Unfortunately, too much energy has been spent in addressing problems related to future drugs which are, at present, an overseas problem, rather than giving more attention to the evil at our doorstep.

Thirdly, we found that, in the past, there was not a sufficient international understanding of the unique problems of a multi-lingual, largely illiterate, country in the grips of a cannabis problem:

· It was only in June last year [1998] that the cannabis plant gained recognition at the United Nations as a substance which should also be included in alternative development programmes. Previously, attention was given only to the cultivation of coca leaf and opium poppy.

· Much of the well-intentioned international assistance we have enjoyed in the past has been directed more at the international, rather than our domestic, drug problems. Certainly we appreciate that drugs are a global problem and that without global co-operation we will lose the fight against drugs. And certainly we have contributed fully to the international effort in the fields of money-laundering legislation, better border control and legal international judicial co-operation. But perhaps the time has come for the international community to give us more assistance in fighting the unique problems facing South-Africa.

Now that the international community has condemned cannabis, the time has arrived to invest money in the eradication of cannabis and the development of alternative crop programmes.

Similarly, to date there has only been one publication, brought out some twelve months ago, in all eleven languages, warning communities of the dangers of drug abuse. Whereas we appreciate the support received from the Swedish government in making such a publication possible, has the time perhaps not come to disseminate audio-visual material to our illiterate and multi-lingual sections of the population?

Fourthly, we came to realise that community frustration, which leads to violence and lawlessness, could be addressed by the simple expedient of keeping them informed of the national/international effort in the fight against drug abuse.

Our National Drug Master Plan makes provision for the establishment of a central Drug Authority wich will co-ordinate and streamline the national fight against drugs on all fronts. Key Government departments, including the police services, will be represented on this body. A report will be tabled annually at Parliament, setting out the national effort in the fight against drugs.

Also, some 500 local action committees will be established throughout the country, who will operate from local Magistrate's Courts. These committees will consist of local magistrates, policemen and other interested community parties and will seek to communicate with the local communities in their mother tongue. Audio-visual equipment will have to be installed for use by each of these action committees.

The Master Plan will prioritise areas of greatest need and risk in a country which must use its resources to best effect. Its goals will be in the areas of Crime, Youth, Community Health and Welfare, Research and International involvement.

Our Master Plan takes strong cognisance of the fact that the fight against drugs is, in essence, the fight for the welfare of the children and those who guide their destiny. It is the South African Government's considered belief that, if we are to succeed, the classroom is as important an arena as the courtroom.

In this regard, South Africa ratified in 1995 the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which commits the Government to the principle of First Call for Children in all areas. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund began functioning in 1995 under the justice sectoral working group. The focus of the group is the establishment of a separate juvenile criminal justice system and the protection and rehabilitation of children from the use of, and trafficking in, narcotic drugs.

Thus, a project is in operation and aims to assess juveniles in an attempts to prevent their incarceration in prisons or places of safety whilst they are awaiting trial. This project acknowledges the need to protect juvenile substance abuse offenders from the prison environment which is unfortunately conducive to substance abuse.

Legislative changes now seek to ensure that children under the age of eighteen years may not be kept in prison lock-up or police cells for more than 24 hours prior to appearing in court.

Although we believe that, in certain circumstances, juvenile offenders deserve a second opportunity in life, we have stepped up the fight against drug syndicates with the introduction of sophisticated legislation aimed at asset forfeiture and the establishment of specialist investigation groups consisting of prosecutors, policemen and revenue officials, operating under the same umbrella.

Internationally, we continue to open new doors with various countries in the fields of judicial co-operation.

Regionally, we have strengthened our ties with our African neighbours.

I wish to stress that it is gratifying to note that the international community has become increasingly aware of the unique and difficult problems which face not only South Africa but also the rest of the continent in the global anti-drug effort. Our problems and our solutions differ widely from those of other countries abroad and must be defined and dealt with by ourselves in our own geographical context.

The National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) was approved by Cabinet in 1998 and the 24 members of the Central Drug Authority (CDA: see Annexure) were appointed by the Minister of Social Development in 2000. Funding has now been approved for an administrative infrastructure which will hopefully make the CDA operational in the near future.

Activities to date have been confined largely to the formulation of a business plan and budgetary requirements, as set out below.

Core CDA activities and outputs since 1 September 2000
Core CDA activities and outputs since 1 September 2000Core CDA activities and outputs since 1 September 2000
· Core Strategic planning, including development of Business Plan

We have identified the following priority needs:
· The need for establishment of an adequately resourced secretariat -- without which the CDA will be as ineffective as its predecessor.
· The need for all government departments to establish mini-drug master plans.
· The need for strengthening response at local and provincial level - through establishing of more provincial drug fora and local drug action committees.
· To establish a central data base and clearinghouse to service these structures by providing up-to-date information on the current situation and best local/international practice for intervention.
· The need to promote stronger international links to ensure more effective international cooperation.
· The need to develop an effective communication strategy that would take into account the diversity of culture, languages, age, and literacy of our population.
· The need to develop and implement a national drug policy for schools.
The need for a coherent alcohol policy, particularly focusing on issues such as alcohol advertising.

· Other activities
· Meetings -- there have been 3 meetings of the full CDA and one of the Exco. Among other things this has led to the development of the strategic plan and business plan referred to above
· We have negotiated a drug awareness programme locally and secured assistance from the USA for a more comprehensive, ongoing programme. We have also prepared four-page fact sheets on dagga/Mandrax, cocaine, heroin, and Ecstasy. Members of the CDA have also given radio, TV, and newspaper interviews representing the CDA on dagga decriminalisation, Ecstasy, and abuse of prescription drugs. The Chair of the CDA, Adv Kahn, spoke on the BBC World Service which enjoys an audience of some 500 million persons.
· We have engaged members of the liquor industry in an attempt to increase self-regulation. This has led to their recalling an undesirable alcohol advertisement. We have also cooperated with a Department of Health initiative to research the issue. These interchanges have persuaded us that the way ahead in respect of the liquor industry is legislation - addressing issues such as counter-advertising, health warnings and restrictions on sport-sponsorships and radio/TV advertising.
· In terms of international liaison we have found that in the international arena there is a lack of sympathy for our unique cannabis/Mandrax problem. The lobby to legalise cannabis continues to gain international support, and we provoked a special session of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. As a result we have been assured that our unique problems, and those of our neighbours, would not be neglected. The Executive Director of the UNDCP has personally committed himself to send out a rapid survey team to research crop eradication and alternative programmes in South Africa. We have also liaised with counter-parts in the UK, France and USA and sensitized them to our problems and examined their responses to dealing with substance abuse.
· We have also supported a SADC initiative to encourage the formulation of master plans in SADC member states by hosting a meeting of the SADC nation drug control committees in Bloemfontein in May.
· We have also laid the groundwork for establishment of national database on drug issues and a national clearinghouse.
· Members of the CDA were part of a taskforce sent by the Minister of Social Development to investigate the Noupoort treatment centre.
· Met with the Minister on one occasion (on 7th June 2001). At this meeting our Business Plan was presented and discussed, and communicated our immediate needs in order to become operational. Our message was sympathetically received.

The effectiveness of the CDA will be exclusively determined by the investment which the government is prepared to make in this structure. Specifically what is required is funding of approximately R2-million in the current financial year for the implementation of the business plan. We have kept the budget conservative.

Finally, we appreciate that the focus on substance abuse can easily be lost given other the overwhelming social problems facing the country today. We dare not allow this to happen.


20 JUNE 2001


Adv F W Kahn SC - Department of Justice, Cape Town - Western Cape [Chairperson]

Prof S Rataemane - Department of Psychiatry, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein - Free State [Vice-Chairperson]

Mr D N Bayever - Drug expert, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg - Gauteng

Ms L Rocha-Silva - Drug expert, private consultant as researcher, Pretoria - Gauteng

Rev T Fredericks - Drug expert, Toevlug Treatment Centre, Worcester - Western Cape

Adv M C Hoekstra - Drug expert, Technikon, Bloemfontein - Free State

Mr G F Jardine - Drug expert, Drug Counselling Centre, Cape Town - Western Cape

Prof D W Malaka - Drug expert, University of the North, Pietersburg - Northern Province

Mr S V Mathe - Drug expert, SANCA National, Johannesburg - Gauteng

Ms A S Moleko - Drug expert, University of Pretoria, Pretoria - Gauteng

Mr D C Moodliar - Drug expert, Department of Education, Durban - KwaZulu -Natal

Mr D C Mynhardt - Drug expert, CSIR, Pretoria - Gauteng

Dr C D H Parry - Drug expert, Medical Research Council, Cape Town - Western Cape

Ms E M J Steyn - Department of Foreign Affairs

Dr S Banoo - Medicines Control Council

Ms T M Magoro - Department of Correctional Services

Mr E A B Williams - Department of Education

Mr K S Mogotsi - Department of Home Affairs

Prof M Freeman - Department of Health

Mr T Mkhwanazi - Department of Trade and Industry

Commissioner Y Makhasi - National Youth Commission

Mr D J Moki - South African Police Services

Mr A S Theron - Department of Social Development

Mr S B Mahlangu - Department of Labour


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