Drug abuse havoc

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THE HAVOC wreaked by drug abuse and the mas­sive crim­i­nal en­ter­prises that drive it is a scourge which we will not soon be rid of. As we re­port to­day, the use of hard drugs like tik, heroin and Man­drax con­tin- ues to grow, and a new drug, dubbed “whoonga” – a con­coc­tion which can in­clude an­tiretro­vi­ral med­i­ca­tion, tik, heroin and even rat poi­son – is gain­ing a foothold in South Africa.

Nearly half of South Africa’s re­ported drug-re­lated crime be­tween April last year and March was in the Western Cape, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice’s annu- al crime statis­tics re­port.

Some 134 840 in­ci­dents were recorded na­tion­ally; of those 60 409 were in the Western Cape – an in- crease of 14.5 per­cent over last year’s fig­ures for the re­gion. The num­ber is also 200 per­cent higher than in the com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod to March 2004.

This year’s fig­ures re­vealed that the prov­ince’s rate of drug-re­lated crimes, at 1 127 per 100 000 peo­ple, is more than four times the na­tional av­er­age of 273.

The in­creased fig­ures, po­lice and ex­perts say, are tes­ti­mony to the fact that po­lice are mak­ing head- way in this bat­tle, though they might also be ex­plained by there be­ing more drugs in cir­cu­la­tion thanks to poor border con­trols.

The Western Cape con­tin­ues to face a ma­jor chal­lenge in com­bat­ing the deadly ef­fects of drug abuse. This scourge is not limited to the poorer parts of our city; while the res­i­dents of the Cape Flats may be worst af­fected, our re­ports to­day show that the drug trade is as ac­tive in the sub­urbs and the CBD.

But more than statis­tics and re­ports are re­quired to tackle this epi­demic, which has its roots in the greater so­cio-eco­nomic prob­lems fac­ing our coun­try: poverty, poor ed­u­ca­tion and un­em­ploy­ment.

And there are in­suf­fi­cient treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties in the prov­ince to ad­e­quately deal with the num­ber of ad­dicts.

As com­mend­able as the po­lice’s achieve­ments may be, more needs to be done. As crit­i­cal as it is to clear the streets of drug ped­dlers and users, the fo­cus must surely be on de­cap­i­tat­ing the head of the mon­ster – the man­u­fac­tur­ers and im­porters and whole­sale dis­trib­u­tors of these drugs and their in­gre­di­ents. Only then will we start to win this war which will con­tinue to de­stroy the soul of our city, and our coun­try.

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