We’re all waiting for our Eldorado

2013-06-04 10:00

The antidrug campaign in Johannesburg and surrounding areas has been given a tremendous boost over the past few weeks.

It started with the visit by President Zuma to Eldorado Park on May 14 2013 in response to a ­letter written by Dereleen James on behalf of desperate mothers, who pleaded with the highest ­office in the land to intervene in the drug-riddled township.

The cry is no different to ­thousands of others who are bearing the strain of drug­dependent ­family members or neighbours who in their desperation for a fix, disrupt family life and collectively are destroying entire communities throughout the country.

The difference in approach this time – an emotional plea as if to a wayward father to please come and set the house in order – seemed to work.

Whatever it was, it made the presidency react in an unprecedented way: Zuma visited the ­area at short notice and made commitments to a community to act beyond the issue in ­question.

The president’s concluding ­remarks in his address at Eldorado Park, that he will personally drive this process, gave residents hope that there will be serious ­intervention to resolve the ­situation.

There is much scepticism about the motive for the president’s response with votes in the 2014 general elections often being cited as the ulterior motive. Whatever the motive, the impact on Eldorado Park, particularly, and more generally other townships around Johannesburg, is clearly visible.

There is still a high police presence in Eldorado Park and neighbouring Klipspruit West, and areas like Lenasia, ­Westbury, Newclare, Ennerdale, Noordgesig and as far as Thokoza, and other East Rand townships have had an upsurge in antidrug ­action.

Those involved with the ­Eldorado Park campaign are ­inundated with calls from ­community groups and individuals to form alliances to combat the scourge in their own ­communities.

The campaign in Eldorado Park started long before Zuma’s visit in various forms.

The Gauteng premier’s office, as well as Gauteng’s departments of education and social development held follow-up visits and workshops in Eldorado Park.

The general criticism of these meetings and workshops is that there is overdiagnosis and too ­little treatment of the symptoms as well as the root causes of the problem.

While provincial government is producing the broad framework with community groups for multidepartmental intervention, civil society ­organisations are concerned about the ­Eldorado Park focus of the ­actions thus far.

Two more marches were held by church groups since Zuma’s visit. The latest was last Saturday.

The nature of the “Believers’ March, Taking Back Eldos for ­Jesus”, as it was billed, raises questions about how best to maintain the momentum gained since the Zuma visit. Other groups felt sidelined and are ­pursuing “their own” action.

The fight against drug dealing, drug abuse and related criminal activity requires a united front by all stakeholders in order to ­systematically respond to issues of supply ­reduction, demand ­reduction and harm ­reduction as the fight against the drug problem is internationally benchmarked.

Another march is planned by the Gauteng premier’s office in ­Eldorado Park today.

There is an ­opportunity here to use the ­antidrug campaign as an entry point for the National Development Plan roll-out and to ­develop a replicable model to take to other ­areas.

» Halim is a member of the Community Care ­Foundation

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