The Drug Fight Needs YOU

The UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was marked on 26 June.

It is also a year since Lead SA and Crime Line launched the Drug Watch campaign to Gauteng.

Some 30 000 suspects were arrested and millions of rands worth of drugs were seized by police.

Despite numerous calls on the Justice Department, the conviction rate of these arrests are still unknown.

Initiatives aimed at curbing the trafficking and manufacturing of illicit drugs should be escalated with urgency.

At the same time, investment into rehabilitation and counselling should be revitalised for addicts.

The reality is we are losing the war on drugs.

The consequences of drug abuse on communities are devastating.

Cape Town communities are at war as gangsterism and drug trafficking continue to escalate.

Last weekend, 16-year-old Annestley Hartnick was shot multiple times in front of his home in Tafelsig by members of a gang.

He is just another casualty of gang rivalry.

Residents have warned that they will start taking the law into their own hands. This is something that we cannot afford.

No corner of South Africa is immune to the drug plague.

Meanwhile in Eldorado Park, outside Johannesburg, the drug situation is apparently again out of control. This despite President Jacob Zuma’s intervention in the area following a compelling letter from a mother, Dereleen James, pleading for help in the drug ridden area.

I attended a meeting in Eldorado Park recently with Gauteng Community Policing Board Chairman, Andy Mashaile and senior police officials. Community leaders claim that despite interventions into the area, it is business as usual for drug dealers.

Parents in this area are desperate. Dereleen, who founded the Sharing Without Shame initiative, is testimony to the sacrifices that the community has made and despite this, all indications are that the problem is worse than before.

Pointing fingers will not achieve anything, but Eldorado Park as a case study shows that we are not equipped to deal with the drug problem holistically.

Long-term and sustainable interventions are what we need.

When I visited a school west of Pretoria recently, I asked learners how many of them have experimented with drugs and alcohol. Half of the school’s hands went up. I was shocked.

Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi was equally shocked and have vowed to root out the top 10 gangsters operating in schools.

It is however clear that schools are easy targets for drug syndicates and many have become havens for dealers and addicts.

There is a common belief that only poor communities are affected. The reality is quite different. I’ve met with children from upper and middle class families experimenting with and often abusing drugs.

The war on drugs is not as simple as just locking up drug dealers. It is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution.

The justice department needs to take the lead and ensure that not only dealers, but the kingpins and manufacturers are convicted and severely punished.

There have been discussions happening in the country regarding the legalisation of drugs. I do not know if this is the answer, but are we having the right discussions to determine the veracity of claims that it will significantly reduce the drug problem?

Headlines were recently made in the United Kingdom when a mother called for the legalisation of recreational drugs. Her 15-year-old daughter suffered a cardiac arrest last year after taking 0.5mg of ecstasy.

The mother believes that by lifting the prohibition, it will ensure that health professional and not dealers are in control of drugs.

Back home there is currently a bill before parliament seeking the legalisation of dagga.

It is going to be interesting to see how this debate unfolds.

The time of the whistleblower is here.

More and more we are seeing ordinary citizens from across the world playing a more active role in the issues that affect them.

Whether they are actively trying to change legislation, patrolling their neighbourhood or blowing the whistle on criminal activities in their communities, the change is coming from the bottom up.

This groundswell of growing active citizenship is not going unnoticed.

Police are counting more and more on information from the public. This is becoming a global phenomenon and for us commonplace.

In October South Africa is hosting the first ever Crime Stoppers International Conference on African soil. The conference, which is open to the public, will be held in Cape Town from 12 -15 October 2014.

Drug trafficking is one of the topics that will receive considerable attention, including the issue of legalisation.

It will also look at the Mexican cartels, gangsterism and what the rest of the world is doing to combat drug trafficking.

South Africa has to be part of this discussion and I truly think we have a contribution to make.

I was very impressed to learn about the ‘Shot Spot’ technology that will soon be tested in Cape Town.

This detection system will be able to triangulate the location of a gunshot. If successful, it will definitely assist police in tackling the problem with gangs.

We certainly look forward to engaging with the international community on crime. The best part is that this conference is open to everyone and all who have an interest in crime prevention.

Earlier this week The Star published an editorial on drug smuggling through OR Tambo International Airport. It has become such a common occurrence that 40kg of seized cocaine hardly made the news.

The fact that it didn’t speaks volumes of the apparent ease drugs are being smuggled into the country.

As the editorial points out, we are ill equipped to stop the trafficking of drugs to the country.

It also reminds us that we can no longer talk about crime in isolation.

The world is at war with drugs, but it’s no longer just a war for law enforcement and legislators. It is everyone’s war.

We cannot sit back and watch the drug dealers and manufacturers ruin lives. It is up to each and everyone one of us to be an active citizen and Lead SA.

*For more on the Crime Line / Crime Stoppers International Conference visit www.crimestoppers-conference2014.com.