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Deputy Minister Zolile Burns-Ncamashe: Southern Africa Development Community Traditional Leadership Drug Demand Reduction Meeting

Director of Programme
African Union Commission – H.E. Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development
Dr Jane Marie Ong’olo, the UNODC Southern Africa Regional Representative
Mr Bill McGlynn/ Mr Bruno Bui from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US State Department
Deputy Minister for Justice and Correctional Services in the Republic of South Africa, Honourable Nkosi Pathekile Holomisa
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Kgosi Thabo Milton Seatlholo
Traditional Leaders from SADC Countries, i.e. Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, United Republic of Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles
Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Nkosi Langa Mavuso
Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of Provincial Houses of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders
Senior Drug Control Programme Officer of the African Union Commission, Dr Abel Basutu
Mr Gunasekaran Rengaswamy
Partners from Governments, Private Sector, Royal Princess Network, UNDOC, Youth, Civil Society, Academia and others

Ladies Gentlemen

The seriousness of Drug abuse and substance addiction is a major challenge worldwide. There isn’t a specific sociodemographic grouping that is not affected by drug and substance usage. The problem is widespread across different genders age groups,  ethnic identities, and income levels and it is not a geo-locality problem, but it is prevalent in both urban and rural areas.

The UNODC reported that the number of people who used drugs in 2020 worldwide, was 26 percent higher than in 2010, and the number of people who use drugs is predicted to significantly increase by 2030, with a 40% rise expected in Africa.

World Health Organisation (WHO) 2003, reported that Cocaine use is widespread, especially in Southern Africa, and appears to be generally increasing across the continent, as evidenced by people in drug treatment. The WHO further pointed out that the Youth are the most vulnerable targets for drug consumption, according, to the majority of people treated for drug use disorders in Africa are under the age of 35.

It is my firm belief that we do not need national population-based prevalence data on drug and substance use among young people and adults to know that we are faced with a fierce problem in front of us.  We can tell, that substance and drug abuse is on the rise in our respective communities.

Previously, at least, where I grew up, it used to be that, young people would not drink in front of elders in their families or communities, but today, it is common practice that the elders drink with young people.

It was an anomaly for a woman to drink, let alone in public, but today, it is common practice. We have become more tolerant of heavy drinking, by both the young and the old. The male and the female alike.

Our functions, including cultural celebrations, are infested and flooded with liquor. To the extent that even in our rite of passage for boys, what we commonly refer to as initiation schools for many of us who observe the practice, drugs, and alcohol use are undermining the core of what we stand for.

‘Moderation’ is not known, it is about drinking until one is drunk.

Drugs are peddled even in our schools. Our children are exposed to drugs at an early age instead of being protected from drugs.

Our attitude towards heavy drinking, drug usage, and ease of access to both drugs and alcohol has to change, if we are going to make inroads in this unchartered terrain. If we regard ourselves as ‘community leaders’- we cannot fold our arms and watch our societies decline. No government, at least, from where I am concerned, can achieve the positive outcome of ‘moral regeneration’, without your involvement.

The most unfortunate truth is that Drug abuse and substance use affect not only individuals but families also, with a ripple effect on the communities and ultimately the development agenda of our respective countries.

Drug and substance addiction also contributes to poverty, as many individuals who are addicted struggle to support themselves and their families. 

To the best of my knowledge, I know that-

Different countries have developed strategies to combat and reduce both the demand and usage of substances and drugs.

Botswana, for instance, has recently established a new Drug Enforcement Agency,  a specialized law enforcement authority dedicated to addressing drug trafficking within communities, under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense and Security,

Zambia has established the Drug Enforcement Commission to prevent and control the illegal cultivation, production, trafficking, and abuse of Narcotic drugs, Psychotropic substances,

Zimbabwe recently launched the Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan (2020-2025) which aims to provide both a comprehensive and integrated approach to address the rise in substance use in the country.

South Africa, has established the Central Drug Authority (CDA), in accordance with the Prevention for and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act 2008 (Act No. 70 of 2008), serving as an advisory authority. Its primary mandate is to collaborate towards creating a South Africa free of substance abuse, and to oversee the implementation of the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP).

I can go on and on,

Some of our nations are susceptible to drug trafficking due to factors like their geographical positioning, porous borders, and strong trade connections with countries in Asia, Latin America, and North America.

But the important issue that I am bringing across is that, as different SADC Member States, we are not lacking in terms of legislative and policy direction. All that is needed, is the active involvement of all stakeholders, and impactful response from the traditional leadership in the sub-Region, Including enforcement of the law.

What is important to note, is that, it is not a government problem, but a societal problem. Therefore, it is important for societies and its leadership to recognise the serious nature of drug and substance abuse and addiction and take action to address the problem.

We know that, drug and substance use brings about dependence problems in the individual, and that it can also be harmful to the socio-economic development agenda of our communities and the country at large. Something that start out of curiosity, can have dire consequences, leading to addictive behaviour.

Ease of access to substances, it is of course, a growing challenge. Recently, my department undertook a diagnostic evaluation to look into strengthening the response by traditional leadership to combat the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide. One of the major outcry by those who participated in the study, was “ease of access to both drugs and alcohol”.

There are many risk factors associated with drug and substance abuse. The main effects of drug abuse in the globe is an increase in crime, including, gender-based violence and femicide.

This challenge, is presenting a great Opportunity to the traditional leadership gathered here today, to provide the necessary leadership by developing Traditional Leadership-Led  Interventions and prevention programmes.

Proposed Steps to alleviate drug abuse and addiction

To alleviate the problem of drug and substance abuse, it will take a multifaceted approach such as; 

  • Prevention and intervention activities targeting drug use, in particular in identified risk groups need to be strengthened in traditional communities through partnerships with relevant stakeholders.
  • Involvement of the youth in prevention initiatives.
  • Traditional leaders to facilitate for increased access to treatment and rehabilitationservices for individuals who are struggling with addiction.
  • Strengthen law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and distribution, by working closely with law enforcement agencies.

As I conclude,

A strong, proactive, passionate and exemplary traditional leadership to tackle the problem at hand is what will take us there.

Your commitment as leaders of communities to reduce the high prevalence of substance and drug use and to guarantee the protection of women and youth from violence, as fundamental human rights approach, is the starting point.

By working together, communities, government, and organizations can help to reduce the negative effects of drug abuse and addiction and improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities across your respective countries.

I wish you a very successful meeting

I thank you

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