Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill [B12-2008]: SARS, Home Affairs, Correctional Services, Sports & Recreation strategies

Social Development

19 May 2008
Chairperson: Adv T Masutha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Correctional Services, Department of Home Affairs, the South African Revenue Service and the Department of Sport and Recreation briefed the Committee on its respective strategies in support of the prevention of and treatment for substance abuse. Their presentations identified key current institutional policy frameworks that were in support of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill as well as the challenges, limitations and the constitutionality of certain clauses.

Members were generally satisfied by existing institutional measures as well as the planned measures by the relevant government departments in support of the Bill. Members raised concerns about key issues such as the weakness of the Bill in terms of the desired objectives and the readiness of the relevant departments to deal with the outcomes and policy objectives of the Bill in an appropriate manner

The Department of Social Development gave a briefing on legislation supporting the Bill.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson said that this Bill was significant as various government departments had a role to play in the provisions mentioned in the Bill and government wish to adopt and implement an integrated strategy to address the prevention of and treatment for substance abuse.

He noted that this Bill gave effect to certain policy objectives and that the legal instruments need to be there in the pursuit of these policy objectives. He said that the Committee had a problem with the Bill as it was deemed to be “weak” in terms of its central objective.

The Chair added that government departments tend to implement policy directives and guidelines much more easily if these were more explicit as opposed to policy directives that are complex in nature. He added that the Bill had several integrated strategies that are central to the core objective and that the Department of Social Development (DSD) needed to explain their role and comments on the furtherance of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill

South African Revenue Service briefing
The South African Revenue Services briefed the Committee on its strategy in support of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill. Mr F Versveld (Customs Specialist: SARS) presented on behalf of SARS.

Mr Versveld outlined the core function of SARS and gave an overview on the Illicit Economy Strategy, SARS Legal and Policy framework in relation to the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill (B12-2008).

The Illicit Economy Strategy was based on three tiers, namely, its Enforcement Division, Customs Operations and the Customs Border Control Unit.

The Enforcement Division was compromised of 200 personnel who focused on the illicit or organised crime economy and the organised and sophisticated financial schemes in the licit economy. This division had regular enforcement campaigns on drugs, tobacco products, alcohol products and the identification and research in value chains and drivers.

Customs Operations dealt with prohibited and restricted goods control. Its main focus was to ensure that SARS obtain advance information on cargoes and the processing of import and export declarations.

The Customs Border Control Unit (CBCU) was responsible for the protection of South Africa’s borders against security threats and Trans-national organised crime networks. Its aim was to forge stronger ties with other government departments and to veer towards a more intelligent monitoring of international trade supply chains.

It was noted that the CBCU could improve its intelligence capabilities and the establishment of a dog unit.

SARS would be able to comply with most of the provisions contained within the Bill, but could not comply with Clause 54 (b) and Clause 58 (2) as this would be in violation of the constitution. The constitution does not permit SARS to divulge personal information of South African taxpayers.

SARS had experience a wave of success with the seizure of R250 million worth of illegal tobacco imports, drug seizures and illicit alcohol seizures totalling R5 million.

The establishment of a Compliance Risk Division, coupled with various partnerships with certain private sector regulatory bodies, such as the liquor industry had a major effect on the success SARS had enjoyed.

The Chairperson said that he was aware of the constitutional framework guiding SARS and that any legal impediment to this Bill had to be carefully reviewed.

Ms J Semple (DA) asked the DSD if they meant the submission of general or specific information under Clause 58(2).

Mr Putsoletso Loselo (Chief Director, Legal Services: DSD) replied that all the government departments and agencies would be subjected to the laws that govern them and that they were not required to reveal specific information on individuals or businesses.

Adv Matshua said that it would be imperative for the draft legislation to reflect that government departments and relevant agencies are subjected to the laws that govern them.

Mr Loselo replied that this would be dealt with by the DSD.

Ms Nomathemba Kela (Welfare Services: DSD) added that the rationale behind Clause 58(2) was to equip the relevant authorities to monitor and implement integrated responses to challenges that may arise.

Mr M Mashaba (SARS) said that SARS had partnerships with other government departments and that sensitive information would not be able to be disclosed at a public forum, but rather to certain officials in private. He said that it was important that the necessary legislative framework was put in place to address the constitutionality of the clause, if it was passed.

Mr J van Loggenberg (SARS) stated that 58(2) was an important provision as it was aimed at fulfilling the function of the Central Drug Authority (CDA). He said that the Committee need to take note that the CDA would primarily be interested in criminals.

Adv Matsutha stated the Committee did not want to frustrate the Law Enforcement Agencies, but that the oversight role performed by Parliament was to ensure that that the Committee did not unwittingly effect adjustments in the legislation.

He added that the current agency tasked with the prevention of and treatment of substance abuse was a total failure and questioned whether the CDA would make a difference and noted that CDA work should be in line with other government departments to avoid impediment.

Ms Semple asked SARS to elaborate on what they meant by “Mandate to address the tax gap” in the illicit economy.

Mr Mashaba replied that this should be seen against the general trend of crime in South Africa and that SARS had a constitutional duty to collect revenue, protect borders and to impose excise duties. He said that more punitive measures would be taken against criminals involved in organised crime.

He added that SARS acknowledged that it had a role to play in combating crime, but that this function was primarily the mandate of the relevant law enforcement agencies in the country.

He stressed that SARS was concentrating on the “retail” part of drugs and alcohol to ascertain the income that people earn from these illegal activities.

Adv Masutha noted that during a visit to a youth treatment centre he was told by recovering drug addicts that the drug lords were well known in the community and that the police turned a blind eye to drug lords due to bribery and bonds of “friendship”. He said that the input presented by SARS suggested that there are highly intelligent mechanisms in place to address this problem of drug lords and their assets, but ordinary people seem to be witnesses to drug activities daily. He asked how it was possible for drug dealers to continue with their illegal activities when there seem to be enough evidence to convict them.

Ms Kela noted that Adv Masutha’s comment tied into a scenario where a person who ran a substance abuse treatment centre was said to have had R40 million in earnings. The person in question had since bought a hotel and there had been talk that this treatment centre could have been a front for illegal activities such as drugs.

Mr van Loggenberg replied that SARS would only get involved when there were matters of tax evasion and would thus work closely with the South African Police Service in their investigations.

Ms Semple said SARS did not give the monetary value of the drug busts carried out in 2007, as this was very important for comparison purposes.

Mr F Versveld (Customs Specialist: SARS) replied that the street value of the drugs seized stood at R881 million and about R6 million for steroids and other controlled drugs.

Ms Semple asked why SARS would only be assigning acting officials to serve on the Central Drug Authority and what measures it was undertaking to prevent drug smuggling.

Mr Verveld replied that SARS still had to determine who it will second to the CDA and that it had bought new and sophisticated scanners to curb drug smuggling.

Ms Semple asked how it was possible that there was such a huge flow of illegal substances in South Africa and how SARS kept up with new trends.

Mr Versveld replied that as long as goods were under SARS control then assessment was possible, but due to problems it was out of SARS control when the goods were circulated.

In relation to new trends, he said that SARS had regular multi-disciplined and inter-departmental workshops and that SARS had received training by Canada and the US.

He added that SARS would not only concentrate on goods coming into the country during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but also on the people who would come to South Africa. He said that SARS had a comprehensive strategy plan to deal with the complex nature of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

The Chairperson said that SARS had not elaborated much on how it would respond to the prevention of and treatment for substance abuse.

Concluding remarks by SARS
Mr Mashaba said that there were serious concerns relating to the problems discussed and that study groups had been established to look at these problems. SARS did have a workshop with enforcement agencies to target geographical areas, especially schools on the dangers of substance abuse.

He noted that SARS would intensify its efforts in securing South Africa’s borders and to prevent illegal substances from entering the country, but that it there were limitations due to capacity and lack of resources.

Mr van Loggenberg said that SARS could play a role in the prevention of and treatment for substance abuse and that SARS did participate with all law enforcement agencies on various platforms. This partnership was not merely based on directives through legislation, but through specific needs.

The problem with the CDA was that it did not have executive powers and that it would act in a more advisory capacity as ultimate executive power was vested in the Ministry.

Mr Versveld said that SARS primary function was to deal with fiscal issues, but it had a supporting role to play in achieving the objectives that were central to the prevention of and treatment for substance abuse bill.

Department of Correctional Services (DCS) briefing
Mr Joey Coetzee, Deputy Commissioner for Facilities, outlined the core function and challenges faced by the DCS and its strategy in support of the Bill. A brief overview was given on the nature of the work conducted by the DCS and the environment within which it operates as it provided an imperative framework in understanding of the corrections environment.

The DCS primarily dealt with two different ways by which offenders enter the corrections system, namely, the possession and trafficking in drugs and the offences committed to finance a drug habit.

The Department of Correctional Services was entrusted with the responsibility of detaining offenders, but it also had a rehabilitation programme, named the Offender Rehabilitation Path that led to the establishment of treatment centres at correction facilities for offenders with drug dependencies.

The DCS was unsure whether they had to register as a public treatment centre given the fact that it was a government department. The DCS emphasised that Clause 36 of the Bill dealt with temporary custody of persons pending an enquiry or removal from treatment centres. The implication involved was that persons in the care of DCS in the case of J38 need to be referred expediently and policy procedures need to be formulated in this regard. The DCS combined the focus on substance abuse as a health as well as an enforcement issue.
The Chairperson said that he welcomed the approach of the DCS in terms of the impact of the imperatives of the prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill.

This was due to the DCS not assuming that this Bill had nothing to do with them. He said that this was a government strategy to respond to the challenges that pertain to substance abuse, thus it could not be the responsibility of one particular department only.

Ms J Semple (DA) said that she had a problem with the last statement in the DCS presentation that read “ Correctional Services combines the focus on substance abuse as a health issue as well as an enforcement issue”. She asked how the DCS would be able to address the issue of substance abuse more efficiently given that it had a critical shortage of medical professionals.

Mr Joey Coetzee (Deputy Commissioner: Facilities, DCS) replied that there was a critical shortage of medical professionals, but that the DCS was engaged in partnerships with various government departments as well as non-governmental organisations.

Ms Semple said that despite DCS preventative strategies, illegal substances were still easily obtainable in correctional facilities.

The Deputy Commissioner said that this was a cause for concern as the DCS was trying its best to address substance abuse within its facilities and that this was mainly due to DCS officials being involved. DCS was paying attention to this and hoped to implement a plan that would address this issue.

Adv Masutha said that various government departments would constitute the CDA, but yet it seemed that the Department of Social Development (DSD) did not engage with these departments when the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill was drafted.    

Ms N Kela (Welfare Services, DSD) replied that the DSD did its best to consult with the various government departments on the Bill and that some departments did give their input.

She added that the costing involved was a preliminary estimate and that it would be reviewed once the Bill was passed.

Ms Semple asked the Deputy Commissioner to explain the dichotomy of custodial and “treatment” staff.

The Deputy Commissioner replied that correctional services in South Africa used to be very militaristic in nature and that there had been a concerted effort to steer away from that approach to a more human rights based approach. The dichotomy referred to those correctional officials who were of the opinion that they had a “safekeeping” duty. This led to tension between those who had to ensure that inmates did not escape and those that looked after the well-being of inmates in terms of medical “treatment”. This perception was wrong as regular correctional officers as well as medical staff were employees of the DCS and that all DCS staff had a duty to assist one another where it was necessary.

Department of Home Affairs briefing
Mr Ricardo Abrams (Director of Deportations: DHA) briefed the Committee on the DHA strategy in support of the prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill.

Mr Abrams provided an overview on the DHA strategy in dealing with legal and illegal foreigners. It was pointed out that the Bill was silent on the treatment of foreigners and the access and rights of these people to treatment centres.

The DHA was also facing logistical problems, as it did not have enough vehicles to perform its duties. This would receive urgent attention to address the problems within the DHA in ensuring efficient service as well as security provisions when illegal immigrants were transported to the various holding facilities.

The Chairperson said that South Africa had several treatment centres for substance abuse. He asked whether this meant that the DHA was actively marketing South Africa as a destination for “treatment” as the Bill made provisions for foreigners to apply for a permit to attend these treatment centres.

Mr Abrams replied that the DHA was not actively marketing South Africa as a destination for substance abuse treatment. He said that a person outside of South Africa could make a request to home affairs to come here as there were specific legislation that regulate this.

Mr Abrams added that if another country made a request for their offenders to be sent to South Africa for treatment, then it would have to follow the same channels as those who were not offenders.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) asked what the challenges were that the DHA was facing in terms of deportations.

Mr Abrams replied that the challenges were huge and that the fundamental problem was to determine whether people had the legal right to be in South Africa. He added that the DHA had a problem with the identification process as many illegal immigrants from Africa could speak one of the seven indigenous languages. As a result of this, the DHA focused on the use of foreign language, migrant clusters and dialect to determine the countries of origin in the absence of official documents.

Ms J Semple said that there was a rapid influx of illegal immigrants coming back into the country after deportation.

Mr Abrams replied that 99% of the deportees do not want to be deported and that the problem was exacerbated by poor border control.

Adv Masutha noted that the current xenophobic violence was a result of the poor border control exercised at South African borders and asked whether the DHA had a strategy to address xenophobia.

Mr Abrams noted that when an arrest was made, police were obligated by law to treat illegal immigrants in a humane manner. Xenophobia would not be tolerated.

Ms Gumede asked Mr Abrams to give exact figures of the number of illegal immigrants that were deported annually.

Mr Abrams replied that the DHA made a decision to improve its Deportation Strategy. In 2006, 24 000 people were deported and in 2007, 211 000 people were deported.

Ms Gumede asked what the most important factors were that warranted deportation and whether the DHA had facilities in place to deal with the special needs of women and children.

Mr Abrams replied that there were three main factors that warranted deportation. The factors included violations of visa specifics (such as working without a work permit if a study permit was issued and staying longer then the expiry date on the visa) and if a person had committed a serious criminal offence, such as drug trafficking.

In relation to the specific needs of women and children, Mr Abrams noted that the DHA had forged close ties with the DSD and the Health department to provide assistance where necessary.

Additional Remarks by Mr P Lesola (Chief Director, Legal Services: DSD)
Mr P Lesola (Chief Director, Legal Services: DSD) said that the Prevention of and Treatment of Substance Abuse Bill was not silent on the treatment of foreigners.

He noted that Clause 45 in the Bill did make provisions for foreigners in treatment centres and called on the DHA to make submissions to the DSD on this matter. Other conditions contained in the Bill were clear on all policy directives and frameworks.

Concluding Remarks by the Chairperson
Adv Masutha said that it was clear that the DHA did not have an integrated strategy on how they would comply with this Bill. He proposed that the DHA should formulate a more integrated responses that would concur with the objectives of the Prevention of and Treatment of the Substance Abuse Bill.

Afternoon session

Briefing by the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA)
Ms Hajira Mashego, Director for Scientific Support Services, briefed the meeting on the department’s contribution to the prevention of substance abuse.

She emphasized that the department was striving towards an internationally standard compliant framework, that is, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). She also noted the Copenhagen Declaration and UNESCO Convention endorsement as part of the departments’ guiding framework. SRSA had as a further contribution the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport Act that had anti-doping measures as its key objective.

Ms Mashego noted SRSA’s Mini-Drug Master Plan, which was inclusive of demand and supply reduction measures. She discussed the Ke Moja Strategy stating that its key objective was to create awareness and that they were targeting street and rural youth. Part of the Ke Moja Strategy would come into force through the training of youth leaders and sports and recreation competitions. Technical training for 2008/9 would be inclusive of codes such as Basketball, street soccer and indigenous games like Morabaraba, Kgati, Dibeke and Lintonga. She concluded the briefing with some of the challenges that the department was facing.  

The Chair thanked Ms Mashego for her presentation and raised some of his concerns.  He noted that drugs were far too readily available and cheap in the communities. Surveys among youth in communities confirmed that there was the overt problem of a lack of sports and recreation facilities. He identified that other departments also had a role to play including the Department of Education and municipalities and asked for elaboration on what they were doing to galvanize the availability of facilities for youth. The Chair also spoke of costly state of the art facilities that were currently not being used. Recently he had attended an energy conservation campaign in Krugersdorp and had seen an unutilised facility which occupied a large chunk of land.

He noted that addictions were not always linked to substance abuse and added that the solution to social development lay not only in addressing addiction but that it was inclusive of social enhancement in its own right. He asked the department to elaborate on the point of convergence between substance abuse and addiction as addictions were not only drug related but associated largely with performance enhancement.

Ms J Semple (DA) agreed about the use of unutilised facilities in the townships. She suggested that SRSA collaborate with the Department of Education to set up facilities so that they could be utilised. She also made reference to the Kemojo Strategy and asked the department what a youth net was.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) was concerned about the prohibition of certain medicines that were deemed legal and for medicinal use by non-athletes. Her other concern was about the protocol of suppliers of prohibited substances who were caught in South Africa and then deported to their own countries. She raised the issue of whether there was any reporting back to South Africa on the outcome of that specific crime. She also raised the concern of the inclusion of amakozi. Her other concern was who coordinated the youth nets and the overall structure of the youth nets.

The SRSA Director-General Ms Xoliswa Sibeko responded that the department had lost funding promised from Treasury as the funds had been integrated and allocated into basic needs commodities such as the supply of water and electricity. She added that municipalities that had completed some of the state of the art facilities were leasing them out to private entities, thus making it impossible for poorer communities to gain access to those facilities. The department had identified the need for trainers in the poorer and rural communities and that trained coordinators from the department were often deployed to those areas to ensure that the youth from those areas were participating in sport.

She noted that the department had increased the number of mobile gyms, thus taking training and promoting health in those areas that were unable to provide facilities, due to topographical problems for instance in the rural areas. Mobile gyms were fully-fledged full circuit pieces of apparatus. The department had in addition also taken the mobile gyms to schools in the far-reaching rural areas. The gyms were fully managed by people from the department and were designed in compliance with high standards and replenished on a regular basis.

The department held its objective in the view that they wanted to build sporting capacity from the rural and poorer areas to eventually the cities to bridge the gap and promote equality on the playing fields. She also noted that the department held a key interest in not only developing talent, but also in the promotion of ongoing sustainability towards professional athletes.

Ms Mashego responded to the committees’ concerns. She said that substances that were not deemed as actual drugs, if detected at abnormally high levels in athlete’s bloodstream, would render the athlete as someone who was doping.

She added that as of 1 January 2009 all athletes would have an athlete’s passport and that every time they participated in a sport they would be tested. She said that an athlete would be deemed as someone who was doping if levels of hormones that were once low, suddenly became exceedingly high.

She made an analogy to testosterone and growth hormone levels. Legal supplements were legal but became illegal when used in conjunction with sport.  She made reference to certain foods that if used incorrectly with the wrong concentrations by athletes, could be deemed as doping. Caffeine was such a food. She added that athletes were using masking agents to mask or hide their overuse of a certain food or substance but that blood tests would detect such agents.

She also made reference to legal substances that were used in ordinary household detergents for the production of Crytal Meth or Tik. She said that the concentration and high levels of the substances in the bloodstream would be deemed as doping.

Ms Mashego said that the youth nets that were being used in the Komojo Strategy comprised twelve members. In a community there were ten youths and a maximum of two adults or mentors. The mentors educated the youth on drug usage and life skills in collaboration with the Komojo Strategy and they were selected by Social Development in the provinces as good ambassadors. Once they were selected they went out into the communities to mentor the ten youths in the net.

Briefing by the Department of Social Development
Mr Mogotsi Kalaeamodimo, Director Substance Abuse, briefed the meeting on the existing legislation in support of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill. Legislation inclusive in his presentation were:

Medicines and related Substances Control Act (No. 101 of 1965)
Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act (No. 140 of 1992)
Prevention of Organised Crime Act (No.121 of 1998)
Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependency Act (No.20 of 1992)
Road Traffic Amendment Act (No.21 of 1998)
Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act (No.12 of 1999)
Correctional Services Act (No.111 of 1998)
South African Schools Act (No.84 of 1996)
South African Constitution (No.108 of 1996)
Institute for Drug Free Sport Act (No.14 of 1997)
Children’s Act (No. 38 of 2005)
Child Care Act (No.74 of 1983)
Domestic Violence Act ( No. 116 of 1998)
Liquor Act (No. 53 of 1989)
Medicine and Related Substance Control Act (No.59 of 2002)
Mental Health Care Act (No. 17 of 2002)
Occupational Health and Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993)
 Road Traffic Act (No. 93 of 1996)

The Committee made no comment on the brief.

The Chair concluded by emphasising the importance of maximizing the time they had left before the deadline for the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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