Western Cape government pumps millions into substance abuse battle

2015-06-22 16:38

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Cape Town - The little girl playing on an Eastridge street corner can barely count to 10, but knows what tik is.

“They smoke it, then they go mal [crazy],” the four-year-old says. “And then they steal all the stuff in the house and go sell it for drugs.”

The neighbourhood is one of the Mitchells Plain areas hardest hit by substance abuse, community workers say.

And children as young as nine are hooked on the poison easily purchased on almost every street corner.

Western Cape social development MEC Albert Fritz, with health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo, visited the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre’s Eastridge branch on Monday to mark the start of Substance Abuse Awareness Week.

Fritz said in the last five years, his department had increased its substance abuse, prevention and rehabilitation programme budget from R42m in 2010 to R92.6m this financial year.

“The number of treatment centres for addicts has increased from seven to 25 since 2008. But we need to focus on prevention instead of jumping in when the person is already addicted,” he said.

At 11:00 in the morning, groups of young people sat on pavements and boundary walls, watching people as they walked by. Locals say they are “tikkoppe” scouting for their next target.

Community worker Margaret Scholtz points out a teen walking aimlessly through the streets.

“Last year, that boy was one of the top achievers at his school,” she tells News24. “Now the only thing he thinks of is his next hit.”

Last week the 16-year-old tried to steal Scholtz’s pot plants for drugs. She didn’t lay a charge because the young man’s parents are “decent, God-fearing people”.

“You see young people who once showed so much promise becoming petty thieves willing to sell even themselves for a hit. Drugs are eating the futures of these youth. And all you can do is watch them fall victim to the problem.”

Mbombo said it was essential that the provincial government made the shift from curative measures to the avoidance of addiction.

“While the department offers a hotline initiative to those who are in need of help, it is crucial that we get involved at the prevention phase,” she said.

This will be achieved by a multi-departmental approach which is being adopted, Mbombo explained.

“This will allow us to work with the other departments to ensure that we get involved at the awareness phase of the fight against drug and alcohol abuse.”

Read more on:    albert fritz  |  cape town  |  drug abuse

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