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Communities empowered to tackle substance abuse

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The City of Johannesburg has entered into a partnership with the Gauteng Department of Social Development and other stakeholders to intensify the fight against substance abuse in various communities in the city.

On Friday, representatives of the provincial department and of the City officially launched the Klipfontein Local Drug Action Committee at the Klipfontein Community Centre near Midrand.

Similar committees are expected to be launched in other parts of Johannesburg within the next few months as the anti-drug campaign in the city shifts into overdrive. A local drug action committee, which consists entirely of local residents, is a coordinating structure that brings together all interested parties to plan, discuss and implement preventative substance abuse programmes.

According to the Gauteng Department of Social Department’s Dalton Mathalise, a local drug action committee empowers a community to take a firm stand against substance abuse in close cooperation with stakeholders such as the City’s Citizen Relationship and Urban Management, the South African National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, faith- and community-based organisations and law enforcement agencies.

This means it is, ultimately, members of the community who take the lead in the eradication of drugs in their areas. “Their input also helps to determine the types of anti-drug initiatives we as a department will develop,” Mathalise said in his address at the Klipfontein launch.

He explained that the approach was informed by the National Drug Master Plan and the Substance Abuse Act. “We’ve lost too many of our brothers and sisters to drug abuse. It’s time communities take back their power,” Mathalise said.

Mary Moyaba, of the Benefit Unit of the City’s Department of Social Development, said the initiative was part of Johannesburg’s vision of striving to create a Smart City that included a drug-free citizenry. “The most important thing is that we must give the baton to local communities to enable them to take a stand against drug abuse,” she said.

Ward 32 Councillor Bongani Nkomo said the biggest problem facing communities was the lack of recreational facilities and programmes to get the youth off the streets. “Unfortunately, there are more bottle stores than libraries here. So, what we have are youths who hang around bottle stores and in street corners rather than in libraries and youth centres. Drug abuse is a big problem – not just in Klipfontein but in Johannesburg as a whole .I think that we need to start somewhere. The launch of these local drug action committees and the model of setting these up to combat the scourge of drug addiction are a very good start. 
“I think this is a very good initiative because if one drug dealer decides to move to another area he is going to find the exact same people there championing the exact same cause and making his life difficult,” he said.

Councillor Nkomo said he was encouraged by the turnout at the event. “The community seems to be on board. If you look at the plays being performed here today, you’ll see that all these are from the local community who rehearse every single day in this very multipurpose centre – exactly the kind of people we are trying to reach,” he added.

Former drug addict Benny Sekele told of his personal struggles and the battle to be clean.

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