KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala officially launched the Provincial Anti-Substance Abuse Forum at The Station Urban Event Space, in Durban, on Thursday 7 October 2021. The Premier was accompanied by Department of Social Development MEC Mrs Nonhlanhla Khoza

By Lyse Comins

South Africa has become a consumer, producer and transit country for drug trafficking requiring a “drastic change” in drug policy KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala said on Thursday, 7 October 2021.

Zikalala was speaking at the launch of the KZN Anti-Substance Abuse Forum in Durban.

“The proliferation of drugs into our country and the continuing culture of alcohol abuse is visible in the many poor people we see on our streets living on a life of begging, some not just to get food, but to get a fix. Bridges have become homes for citizens who have given their lives to substance abuse,” Zikalala said.

“Addiction to substance abuse continues to tear families apart and cause untold pain to children. In the last analysis, drug abuse knows no gender, class, race, ethnicity, or creed. All communities suffer from it. With the launch of this forum, we place our hopes in it that it will succeed in arresting the challenge and in lessening its impact on individuals and societies,” he said.

He said the global drug problem and response presented challenges to the health, safety and well-being of people in South Africa.

“South Africa has become a consumer, producer, and transit country for drugs. A drastic change in approach to drug policy recognises that a punitive approach alone has not been successful in tackling drug-related problems,” Zikalala said.

He said research suggested that emphasis should be placed on evidence-based public health and social justice principles that focus on individuals, families, communities, society as a whole, and must underscore social protection and health care instead of a narrow focus on conviction and punishment. 

“An increasing demand for drugs causes an increase in drug manufacturing, smuggling through ports of entry, and dealing in and consumption of drugs. The illicit trade in psychoactive drugs and criminal enterprise is a threat to the safety and well-being of South Africans and poses a growing and significant hazard to national security, economic growth, and sustainable development,” Zikalala said.

Studies suggested that whoonga and incika were the most popularly used drugs in the province, as well cannabis and alcohol, he said. 

“These drugs are a particular concern because they are often used by children and adolescents, where rapid intervention is required to avoid an epidemic,” Zikalala said.

He said research showed that alcohol was the substance with the greatest burden of harm in the country. SA ranks in the top twenty for per-capita alcohol consumption levels worldwide and is the country that consumes the most alcohol in Africa.

Strengthening the knowledge base of the drug problem by improving data collection, analysis and dissemination, including on the links between drugs and other issues, was critical to an effective South African response, Zikalala said.

The Provincial Anti-Substance Abuse Forum was critical as would allows for the coordination of all substance abuse interventions. Members of the Forum would be responsible for the implementation of the country’s National Drug Master Plan. 

The functions of the Provincial Anti-Substance Abuse Forums include:

Strengthening member organizations to carry out functions related directly or indirectly to addressing the problem of substance abuse;

Encouraging networking and the effective flow of information between members of the Forum;

Assist Local Drug Action Committees established in terms of Section 60 in the performance of their functions;

Compile and submit an integrated Mini Drug Master Plan for the province for which it has been established;

Submit a report and inputs, annually, to the Central Drug Authority for the purposes of the annual report of the Central Drug Authority; and

Assist the Central Drug Authority in carrying out its functions at a Provincial level.

“The success to fight the issue of substance abuse in our country also depends on the continued support of the government, communities, and the business sector to provide the necessary resources, infrastructure, and accountability,” Zikalala said. –

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