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Local communities need established and functional local drug action committees to face the scourge of substance abuse ravaging the fabric of our society, writes Nomcebo Dlamini

From January to July 2022 after the 2021 municipal elections, the Central Drug Authority (CDA) engaged newly-elected councillors convened at provincial South African Local Government Association (SALGA) induction sessions. The main objective of these engagements was to alert the incoming councillors to the urgent need to have Mayors establish local drug action committees and also fund their functions. The CDA presented this at 8 of the 9 provincial SALGA induction sessions.

There are 257 local municipalities in the country and as at the end of the 2022/23 financial year, less than 100 municipalities had LDAC’s established and most were not functional. According to Section 60 of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act 2008 (Act. No 70 of 2008), municipalities must establish LDACs to develop and give effect to the provincial drug master plan at municipal level. The LDAC must consist of interested persons and stakeholders who are involved in organisations dealing with the combating of substance abuse. The Mayor appoints and allocates resources to the LDAC for the pursuance of its objectives in line with the provincial drug master plan.

Reports received by the CDA from the provinces through the Provincial Substance Abuse Forum (PSAF), which is supposed to provide support to the LDAC’s, there is still little evidence of a commitment and intent by municipalities to appoint the LDAC’s even in light of the serious issues faced by communities regarding the destruction of lives, families, and communities caused by substance abuse.

The CDA has also engaged communities through public dialogues to discuss what they see as solutions to the issue of substance abuse and all indicated a willingness to be part of the solution through legitimate structures like the LDAC, however, communities find themselves frustrated as these structures are not established and were they exist they are not funded by the municipality and thus end up just being a ceremonial body which is appointed but does not function at all in the community.

This is an increasing problem for the implementation of the country strategy which the CDA and PSAF have reflected on. Without established and functional LDACs, there is not implementation of the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) at local level where its impact can be most felt.

The NDMP is the country’s five-year approved strategy in dealing with the challenge of substance abuse and illicit trafficking. The current NDMP 2019-24 is implemented along principles of human rights focused and evidence based interventions. It is multisectoral and multi-lateral with people being its central focus, as well as inclusive and participatory.

The NDMP requires all sectors of our society to be part of its implementation as its stated mission is to embrace a balanced, integrated, and evidence-based approach to domestic drug use, misuse, and abuse. It is also to invest in building safe communities through appropriate drug prevention and impact minimisation strategies. Furthermore, it is to control the demand and supply of substances of abuse and misuse and to effectively control substances for therapeutic use and the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS). This is done whilst coordinating and delivering effective government prevention interventions in combating substance abuse, illicit drug trade, and drug trafficking through the implementation of defined outcomes and effective monitoring and evaluation of impact, that will contribute to the eradication of unemployment, poverty, and inequality in South Africa.

The Mayors are responsible for appointing LDACs as indicated, but there seems to be very little understanding of the need for the LDACs nor how they are to contribute towards reducing the negative impact of substance abuse in communities. It is the intent of the Department of Social Department through the PSAFs, to provide capacitation to established LDACs on strategies to functionalise the structure once established. The CDA identified evidence based strategies implemented by other countries and it will, through the PSAFs, support the capacitation of established LDACs using some of these evidence-based strategies. It is, however, imperative that municipalities provide the financial and human resource support required to ensure that the LDACs once capacitated, actively implement the strategies.

The CDA is currently conducting provincial dialogues in provinces with the main objective, being the review of the implementation of the NDMP 2019-24. The provincial dialogues are also aimed at receiving input from provinces for the 3rd National Summit on Substance Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is scheduled for 14 to 16 November 2023 in the Gauteng province. The summit will bring together stakeholders in the field of substance abuse to deliberate on issues of substance abuse towards better implementation of the NDMP.

Nomcebo Dlamini is the Central Drug Authority’s Deputy Chairperson.

By Editor