Briefing on Vision of the Drug Master Plan

Social Development

02 June 1998
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PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WELFARE

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON WELFARE
3 June 1998
BRIEFING ON THE VISION OF THE DRUG MASTER PLAN

The Chairperson, Mr Salojee, began the meeting by giving the reason for the briefing. He said that National Drug week would occur during the parliamentary recess and the MPs would like to inform their constituencies about the Drug Master Plan during that time.

Advocate Kahn, Attorney-General of the Western Cape, gave the briefing on what the Drug Master Plan entailed. He said that the national drug strategy was a collective effort by various governmental departments . An over-arching plan to co-ordinate the work of those departments would be put in place. In other words, have a uniform plan, which would unite various strategies in fighting drugs. This plan was vital as drug abuse contributed to crime, violence, contributed to poverty in the country, etc.

Advocate Kahn said that the government's primary goal was to combat drugs. He mentioned that the Department of Justice was involved in bringing out new legislation to contribute to this goal. Also the Department of Correctional Services should also have a strategic plan in place, as wardens were going to be more accountable to the public about the activities in prison.

The second goal was to focus on the youth in our country. Non-Governmental Organisations, especially those which deal with health issues, could assist with counselling for youth and families who have been affected by drug abuse. Advocate Kahn suggested that money which is used for correctional services, could be used for rehabilitation centres. The committee was informed that the needs of the rural areas have not been researched yet. A suggestion put forward was using the media to teach people about drug abuse.

The third goal was the ability to educate children about drug abuse.

Concerning international involvement, Canada has a device for detecting drugs but it has not arrived in South Africa yet.

Advocate Kahn continued his briefing by speaking about the implementation of the plan. He said that the National Drug Authority would have to report annually to Parliament to give an update on the drug problem. Also, it was suggested that experts be seconded from other departments so that a permanent co-ordinating body could be established.

The national action committees are presently reporting to a central authority. The research undertaken so far covered urban areas only. This was not sufficient enough as information gathered was fragmented. Also no national statistics existed on the drug abuse problem. Hence co-ordination was essential.

The main purpose of the Drug Master Plan was to treat the drug problem as a main social evil, receive co-operation internationally and be more accountable to the public. In other words, the Drug Master Plan was a broad framework to deal with the problem.

A time of questions and answers occurred after the briefing. A MP commented that alcohol was also a drug. Adv. Kahn said that the war against drugs was not won, except with tobacco. However, at least people are made aware of the problem.

Ms Mars (IFP) asked whether the drug machine that is used in Canada was more effective than the police. Adv. Kahn partially answered the question by saying that South Africa was learning from the rest of the world. So far the country was just fighting for power, not dealing with the problems.

Another MP asked whether drug dealing was an offence. The answer given was that it was not an offence to be a drug dealer. It's a offence only when the person had been caught selling drugs.

Ms Turok (ANC) commented that she was pleased about Advocate Kahn's enthusiasm. She added that measures to combat drug abuse in USA did not succeed completely.

Dr Jassat (ANC) reiterated that market research was essential. There was a need to find out why people were taking drugs. The chairperson added that information was required why drugs were stolen at hospitals. Advocate Kahn responded by saying that research would be done on a national level. The Minister would be presented with the Master Plan on 3rd August 1998.

The Chairperson commented that the members would then have to meet to discuss the Plan. Ms Turok suggested that a draft bill be drawn up, otherwise the plan would be left on someone's desk.

Advocate Kahn ended his talk by proposing that the committee invite youth to attend the forthcoming meetings on the Drug Master Plan.

Dr. Harvey, from the Department of Welfare, informed the committee that there was a link between drugs and crime, violence, etc. The Department embarked on a drug prevention programme by using the medium of television and radio. Another medium being used was road shows for rural communities, encouraging youths to say "no" to drugs. A summit on the Prevention of Drugs is planned with communities. The Department would be intensifying the anti-drug compaign on 26 June, which is Drug Awareness day.

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