Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill [B12-2008]: Various Departmental Briefings

Social Development

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

The Department of Justice noted that there was a need to move to the concept of restorative instead of punitive justice, and the Bill’s holistic operational framework was welcomed. A concern was that drug dependency seemed to be criminalized. Non custodial sanctions should be imposed for drug related offences. It was suggested that the Children’s Act had useful guiding principles. The National Youth Commission was concerned about the lack of sufficient data on people using drugs and increased numbers of youth being admitted to the centres. Dissemination of information remained a challenge, and life skills and awareness education together would be useful. The Bill was silent on the role of provincial and local government and local drug action committees should be supported. The Central Drug Agency was not seen to be functioning effectively and it was suggested it should be structured as an independent Agency. This was supported by the Department of Education, who also welcomed the creation and implementation of the National Drug Master Plan, and stressed the importance of integration. The lack of a central approach, and the involvement of governing bodies, was explained.

South African Police Services noted that it worked with other departments and close cooperation was important. It worked closely with the Central Drug Agency and did not share negative perceptions. The focal areas of the police included their roles in demand reduction, the focus on schools, and attempts to combat organised crime. The abuse of alcohol was also questioned and explained. The Department of Health outlined the importance of its work in reducing or minimising the harm associated with alcohol and drug abuse. Drug substitution programmes were being investigated and tested, and this Department also had to be involved in the public awareness aspects.  Other departments had to focus on supply reduction and agents. Most concerns had been taken into account when the Bill was drafted. It was suggested that there be a separate chapter on rights and duties of users, and identification of the roles of provinces. The Department of Provincial and Local Government believed that substance abuse could be incorporated into the Youth Development Framework for Local Government, and be focused on in other programmes, and that partnerships could be established. Every municipality should be putting together an integrated development plan as programmes would have impact at local levels. Sports and recreation facilities were being misused and the structures were not strong enough. The Department of Trade and Industry noted that liquor was of key importance, but that provinces had exclusive jurisdiction in the micro sale and distribution of liquor. There was a close link between liquor and drugs. This department also believed that it was critical for departments and enforcement agencies to coordinate. The roles of this Department and Department of Agriculture were not mentioned in the Bill. 

Members were concerned about the lack of mention of the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry and Provincial and Local Government in the Bill. These departments had important roles to play and were integral to the successful implementation of the Bill. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms were key to the proper assessment of treatment centres, as well as the keeping of registers of all clients at these centers. Lack of coordination and integration between departments was bemoaned, and the role of the Central Drug Authority was questioned. The Committee also expressed concern on the absence of data and statistics to inform policy decisions and provide accurate records of substance abusers in treatment centres.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson informed those present that the Committee was in  the process of considering the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill [B12 – 2008],  and was at the stage of considering the roles of departments with a particular role of ensuring the effective implementation of this legislation. Those departments should outline their  understanding  of how this legislation affected them, and raise anything they would like to see in the legislation or other issues related to the Bill.

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) briefing
Ms Shireen Said, Chief Director: Promotion of Rights of Vulnerable Groups, Department of Justice, welcomed the Bill as it provided a wholistic operational framework for the department, and moved towards a therapeutic approach to substance abuse.  Ms Said noted the tendency of using courts as the only resource, whereas they should be used as the last resort.

Nonetheless, she raised certain concerns with this Bill. It appeared to criminalise drug dependency and it ignored the current trend of restorative justice, as it still reflected punitive and adversarial processes with a limited emphasis on prevention.

The Department had recommended that there needed to be non-custodial sanctions for drug-related offences, and there was a need for linking substance abuse with other social phenomenon.

The Chairperson said that there was a sense that the Department of Social Development (DSD) drafters had left matters very vague. The Bill took a number of multi-pronged strategies and interventions. He asked what specific ideas the Department of Justice had to strengthen the chapter on prevention, and if any specific roles should be mentioned.

The Chairperson asked if there were any specific suggestions to manage referrals,  involuntary service and the diversion option, and if this Bill should make any cross-references to other legislative tools, measures or suggestions to create synergy.

Ms J Semple (DA) expressed her appreciation for the input, as she too was concerned about alignment with the Child Justice Bill.

Ms H Bogopane- Zulu (ANC) asked if the Department of Justice viewed their intervention only in terms of children and asked for suggestions how to strike a balance regarding the elements of restorative justice.

She asked further how the Department of Justice would define vulnerable groups and vulnerability in their broader sense.

The Chairperson stated that it seemed the Department of Justice was trying to solve the problem by focusing on managing diversion programmes.

Ms Said said that restorative justice should not be looked at from the examples quoted, as they were used to show how the justice system had failed. The aim of restorative justice was not to be “soft on crime”, but to promote a non-litigious or non-adversarial method and approach.

With regard to vulnerability, Ms Said replied that there was a need to be very specific as this would be the first time a piece of legislation would be using the concept of vulnerability. She added that monitoring and evaluation should be an important aspect of the Bill as it required coming up with different plans for particular phenomena. Ms Said added further that benchmarks could be set up to see levels of vulnerability. There was a need to look at responsibilities  of different departments regarding operational aspects and the standard setting required.

Ms Said added that in regard to criminal and social aspects, the Department of Justice depended on other departments for support. A monitoring and evaluation framework was very important to assess and ensure accountability. She added that an official systemic handover to other departments was not well managed by DOJ. She added further that there was a challenge regarding the criminal justice system and the justice system as a whole around legal prescripts, and the Committee needed to look at how best to manage intersectoral approaches.

Ms Said noted that the Department of Justice was not in the forefront of prevention but that the courts must be the last resort. She indicated that there was a need for a much greater emphasis on the reasons for dysfunctionality, to avoid substance abuse.

In response to the request for a specific recommendation, Ms Said replied that the Children’s Act had guiding principles that made references to other systems and processes, and that the important linkages developed under that Act could perhaps be used a framework to build on.

Adv Menzi Simelane, Director-General: DOJ, then outlined the core function of his Department  and expressed the need to assess the responsibilities of other departments so as to isolate the Department of Justice’s role. He explained that the reason why diversion and restorative justice was now being encouraged, was that there had been failure of core legislation in the past. In the past there had been emphasis on prosecution and on deciding on an appropriate punishment, and that the entire system was geared to retribution. Now there were interventions to try to turn this situation around as appropriate.

Adv Simelane explained that when people appeared in court owing to their addiction to substances, the responsibility of the criminal justice system did not change. It did not mitigate, but aggravated the situation. He explained further that the prosecution had to understand that addiction was defined medically as an illness, and that addicts needed to be treated differently, and this was where diversion and restorative justice came into play. Prosecutors had to be trained to be sensitive.

Adv Simelane then explained what diversion was, and emphasised that it aimed to ensure that the person acknowledged the treatment that he or she must undergo to be reintegrated into society.

Children should not repeat crimes, and one of the best ways to achieve this was through sport. Co-operation and engagement was necessary with the Portfolio Committee for Sport and Recreation, as this would lessen the likelihood of substance abuse. It would be in the interests of justice to monitor children accused of crimes, although the criminal justice system was not really the right way to deal with children. The only proactive measure that worked worldwide was organised activities that kept people occupied . He said it was important to punish crime, but also to ensure that the processes linked to it were not dealt with criminally. There should be less criminalisation, and those areas needing the strongest interventions must be assessed. He added that resources were required to facilitate people to get assistance.

The Director-General suggested to the Committee that the three key Departments of Justice, Social Development (DSD), and Correctional Services (DSC) could, as required by clauses in the Bill, keep a register of people who had been prosecuted for crimes occasioned by substance abuse. This would enable statistics to be compiled for substance abuse-related crimes.

The Chairperson stated that this Bill did not specify much about how to manage the information required, to monitor cases in relation to repeat offenders. The biggest challenge was recurrence and relapse.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu agreed that this should be included chapter on monitoring and evaluation, and that there should also be something enabling a check to be kept on treatment centres as well. In this way a comprehensive register would be available and allow for access to all client information.

Mr Putsoletso Loselo, Chief Director: Legal Services: DSD, stated that the DSD was trying to  encourage due process, particularly where people had to be referred to treatment centres. He added, with regard to the linkages in this Bill, the Child Justice Bill and Children’s Act, that the difficulty was that  the DSD wanted to avoid replication.

Ms Nomathemba Kela, Chief Director: Welfare Services: DSD, asked for the view of the Department of Justice on the model of drug courts used in the United States, and whether these courts could come up with a process of restorative justice.

Adv Simelane replied that  drug courts were discouraged, as they had their own negatives and raise constitutional issues. Resources would be skewed to the places where these courts were set up. However, the Department of Justice would favour dedicated courts, because approaches could be designed around certain specific areas.

National Youth Commission (NYC) Briefing
Mr Elrico van Rooyen, Commissioner: National Youth Commission, presented the NYC’s submission. He firstly raised the increase in the number of youth who abused substances. He stated that key concerns were the lack of sufficient data on people using drugs, and the increased number of youth being admitted to these centres. He added that definitions in the Bill did not refer to youth in specific terms. The greatest challenge regarding prevention was around the dissemination of information. He emphasised that the principle of providing information to people in a language that they could understand should be upheld. He added that the Bill should define target groups to guide implementation at a programmatic level.

Mr van Rooyen said that where life skills education was coupled with awareness education, this was more effective in turning around the problems in society. He noted the Bill was silent on the role of provincial and local government and local drug action committees struggled in terms of placement. He concluded by saying that the Central Drug Authority (CDA) was not functioning effectively, and should be structured in terms of an independent agency, so as to separate the Department and the CDA.

The Chairperson shared the sentiments regarding the CDA,  and stated that this Bill should become a partnership agreement with clear guidelines as to how to enforce it to create synergy. He asked whether responsibility for local drug action committees should be located in municipalities.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC) asked how the Ke Moja campaign featured in the Bill. He stated that perhaps there was a need to look at mini-plans and who was to monitor and take responsibility for them

Mr van Rooyen replied that when the provinces and local government  were engaged through the youth directorate, they were told that local government was the gateway to service delivery. This, however, was not backed up with resources. The local drug action committees needed to be supported.

Mr van Rooyen asserted that the CDA should be given more power so that the Portfolio Committee could get departments to be more accountable. He added that more research was needed on how the CDA could be made more effective.

The lesson on Ke Moja was that departments could work together to overcome the struggle in an integrated approach.  He concluded by saying that budgets should be looked at regarding the amounts that the departments were actually spending on substance abuse, as the National Youth Commission was advocating for stronger tools for departments to measure the effect of resources deployed.

Department of Education (DOE) briefing
Ms Jennifer Rault-Smith, Chief Director: General Education: Department of Education, briefed the Committee on the policy and laws in place to deal with substance abuse at schools. The creation and implementation of a National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) was especially welcomed, to ensure that children were protected. She said that integration was very important and that the Department of Education wanted to see a more direct reference to education and the continuation of  the education process so that children did not find themselves alienated from schooling. She suggested that legislation should ensure that discipline did not include corporal punishment for school-going offenders.

The Chairperson said that there were various dispensations in place in different fields dealing with accreditation of training programmes, and the skills needed to effectively implement them under the current legislation. He added that whilst this legislation might be specialised in regard to the subject matter of substance abuse, it was not a tool to accredit qualifications. He asked how existing arrangements could be synergised to give accreditation to existing programmes.

Ms Semple asked if the Department of Education agreed with the sentiment that the CDA as a body needed more ‘teeth’ to be effective.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) said that each school should have a management plan and asked if these plans were nationally drawn, or were different for each school. She asked further how children were tested for drugs and what happened if usage was denied.

The Chairperson asked what the Department of Education’s approach was regarding suspension or firing of students.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) said that there should be policy to guide the training of teachers about drug abuse.

The Chairperson expressed concern about the lack of a single focal point, pointing out that every department had a different focus and emphasis, which made it difficult to see an integrated approach.

Ms Rault-Smith replied that generally education had become more encompassing, and the subject Life Orientation demanded that schools brought in people to discuss issues. She said that the Department of Education was also starting to work closely with the Department of Home Affairs.  She added that they were battling to get sufficient social workers to work in Education.

Ms Rault-Smith said that there was a general management plan, but different schools would do their plans differently. The DoE was looking at how to train and support principals because principals managed sites. Training for teachers had been developed and was ongoing. There was a policy that teachers should not be out of classrooms, so finding time for training was not easy.

Ms Rault Smith stated that for children who were victims of substance abuse, services were made available in every district, and this included social workers. A district support plan was being developed.

Ms Kholiswa Mgaba, DoE, added that it was difficult to measure the efficacy of the CDA. Training was ongoing in schools, and additions had been made to the National Curriculum statements around drug abuse. The lesson plans now included drug and substance abuse.

Mr Eben Boshoff, Legal Services, Department of Education, stated that search and seizure was done within the framework of the legislation and included counselling and support. In regard to school plans, various responsibilities were, in terms of the legislation, assigned to school governing bodies, especially around safety, so there was no national management plan.

Ms Gumede asked if departments ever came together  to show each other that they were not doing enough.

Ms I Direko (ANC) said that in her experience most schools simply wanted to steer clear of problem children. In fact, in order to solve problems, they had to have the right attitude to meet challenges head-on.

Ms Rault-Smith concluded by saying that educating children was very hard, although it mostly did achieve success. Independent schools tended to have committed parents supporting them, and all children were accepted, but social problems in society affecting children were incredibly worrying. She added that there was no easy solution, but school governing bodies were to be included as part of training for substance abuse, and were encouraging parents to understand misdemeanors. The Department of Education would make a further submission to DSD on the Central Drug Agency and would review the Bill again.

South African Police Services (SAPS)  briefing
Assistant Commissioner Tertius Geldenhuys, SAPS, stated that the matter of crime was not only being dealt with by SAPS, as the SAPS was working with so many departments, some of whom were represented here, and recognised that close co-operation was important. Mr Geldenhuys said that SAPS did not share the negative perceptions of the CDA, as they worked closely with this Agency.

Mr Geldenhuys provided an overview of the role of the police force in combatting crime, and outlined the focus areas of the police, which included  their role in demand reduction, the focus on schools, the demand reduction guidelines and their objectives. He stated that measures were in place to combat organised crime. He also provided information regarding drug trafficking routes, the typical drug flow, money flows, gangs in Western Cape,  syndicated drug operations and the organised crime drug strategy (see attached presentation).

Mr Nzimande stated that the presentation had focused mainly on abuse of drugs and asked for a comment on the abuse of liquor.

Mr Geldenhuys replied that alcohol abuse was a serious problem that led to a range of crimes, including domestic violence. The police focused on any place where a person could buy and consume alcohol. He said that the problem in South Africa was that national liquor legislation dealt only with the distribution of liquor on the supply side. Only the Eastern Cape and Gauteng dealt with the consumption of liquor, retail trade and licencing for taverns. Mr Geldenhuys added that the provinces’ legislation was not aligned or standard, meaning that the police had to be trained on the different legislative regimes that applied.

Department of Health (DOH) briefing
Mr Sifiso Phakathi, Acting Cluster Manager & Director: Mental Health, DOH, presented the submission and outlined the importance of the Department of Health in reducing or minimising the harm associated with alcohol and drug abuse. He said that there had been international testing and evaluation of some of the standards. Drug substitution did have its advantages, and DOH was looking at evidence for substitution medicines, and was applying their system to test interventions.

He said that other departments needed to be galvanised to deal with supply reduction and to focus on agents. He added that the Department of Health had to create public awareness on alcohol and drug abuse, and identify and counsel high-risk users through primary health care.

He emphasised that most of the issues raised by the DOH when it consulted with the DSD were taken into account in the drafting of the Bill. Mr Phagati proposed that issues regarding the guiding principles as enshrined in the Constitution should be dealt with in a separate  Chapter on the rights and duties of users. This should also include the consent to treatment and complaints mechanisms. He said that the Bill did not identify roles for provinces and local government whereas the interventions required should start at a primary level.

Ms Semple asked about the importance of syringe exchange programmes. She asked further whether the period at private treatment centres should be the same as at public treatment centres.

Mr M Waters (DA) felt that substance abuse should be the responsibility of the Department of Health. He added that no notice period should be required for visits to treatment centres for support.

Mr Phakathi replied that the Department of Health was watching the evidence closely on syringe exchange programmes. He said that this was not the approach adopted at present in South Africa, as environmental sectors needed to be in place. Funders had made some interventions, but the worrying factor was that this programme was unlikely to take off. The Department of Health was open minded on a comprehensive package for intervention.

Ms Semple asked if the Department of Health would prefer a shorter period for auditing.

Mr Phakathi replied that licences were re-issued annually.

The Chairperson asked who was envisaged as doing the audit and if there was collaboration between departments.

Ms Kela stated that inspections were not done singly. They were done by the Department of Health, the Department of Provincial and Local Government, and other stakeholders as necessary, including SAPS.

Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) briefing
Dr Simphiwe Mngadi, Executive Manager: Equity and Development, DPLG, presented the submission of her department. The DPLG saw the Bill as a positive step towards addressing substance abuse. She outlined the programmes and projects in place to support the implementation of Bill. The proposed way forward, as outlined by her department, included the incorporation of substance abuse into the Youth Development Framework for Local Government, the intensification of a ‘deliberate ‘ focus on substance abuse in other DPLG programmes and establishing partnerships around the substance abuse focus week.

Dr Mngadi said that every municipality had to put together an integrated development plan, since government was actually responsible for ensuring that anything done would be implemented or would have an impact at local level.

The Chairperson stated that this Department would need to focus on how organisation would take place at local level. He cautioned about the danger of political interference for purposes of legislation.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said that the presentation lacked a reference to having links with other departments.

Ms Semple said that the Department of Sports and Recreation had indicated that many facilities were taken over by Local Government and municipalities, who now privately owned these facilities. She asked for the DPLG input on this matter.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu asked what was meant by issues of involuntary service.

The Chairperson asked how the role of local government could be institutionalised if it was not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

Dr Mngadi stated that sports and recreation facilities were being misused, and that the Department was trying to grapple with this problem. The challenge was that the structures were not strong enough.

Ms Semple asked how, if local government was already overloaded, it could cope with substance abuse issues.

Dr Mngadi responded that the Bill suggested that the DSD would provide resources and this would make matters easier to deal with.

Dr Mngadi concluded that all questions and comments made by the Committee had been noted and would be taken back to the Department for further engagement.

Department of Trade and Industry (dti) briefing
Mr Fungai Sibanda, Chief Director: Regulatory policy and legislation, dti, and Mr Jeremiah Mela, Acting Deputy Director General, dti, presented the submission. Mr Sibanda highlighted that the role played by the Department of Trade and Industry regarding liquor was of key importance, but that provinces had exclusive jurisdiction in the micro sale and distribution of liquor. He emphasised the close link between liquor abuse and drugs. He provided a wholistic view of the regulatory framework of liquor, and set out what was being done in areas to stem the tide of liquor abuse. 

Mr Jeremiah Mela said that the dti worked with provinces through the National Liquor Regulators Forum. He added that dti also worked with all provincial liquor forums to harmonise provincial and national legislation, and to identify areas for standardisation to make enforcement easier. He said the dti assisted provinces to draft legislation and get it approved, particularly with regard to checking norms and standards contained in the National Liquor Act. The objective was the reduction of the socio-economic causes of alcohol abuse. Mr Mela said that educational awareness programmes existed in partnership with provincial liquor authorities and other industry stakeholder campaigns. Finally Mr Sibanda stated that a critical issue was the question of co-ordination between different departments and enforcement agencies.

The Chairperson asked if the dti had anything to do with the regulation of other substances.

Mr Sibanda replied that methylated spirits was regulated through the DTI.

Ms Gumede stated that statistics must be kept to ensure an accurate record of issues.

Ms Direko said that shebeens were a major source of problems, and stricter controls should be put in place to minimise the damage in schools, in particular.

Mr Sibanda stated that the Department of Agriculture was responsible for the classification of liquor products. He added that an integrated approach to enforcement had been adopted.

The Chairperson asked why the roles of the dti and the Department of Agriculture were not specifically mentioned in this Bill, as the dti clearly did have a role to play in terms of demand reduction and social impact.

Ms Kela  asked what role the dti saw itself as playing in demand and harm reduction.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu thought that it would be difficult to include the dti in the Bill, certainly by way of allocating a specific area, given the fragmented situation, and this highlighted another challenge in terms of policy.

The Chairperson concluded that in these past two days the Committee had tried to push matters as much as possible, and had attempted to create the right platform. Members had tried to demonstrate to the departments the necessity of having an integrated approach. It seemed that the efforts were presently not finding full expression because of a lack of co-ordination and integration. He asked that the departments take up the challenge, and interact with each other to facilitate the process of passing the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned


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