Drug use among teenagers has sextupled in past decade - Nathi Mthethwa

Minister says average starting age of abuse estimated to be twelve years and younger

Remarks by the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, MP at the Future Leaders Annual Youth Conference,

Curries Fountain, Durban

16 June 2013

Founder of Future Leaders, Ms Zanele Mbokazi;
All Distinguished Representatives from the Religious Fraternity;
Young people from across the country;
Distinguished Guests;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

A nation's success depends on its ability to encourage, harness and incorporate into its endeavours the creativity, daring and energy of youth.

This relates to issues such as access to social and economic opportunities, engendering activism around issues of development and values of community solidarity as well as creating space for youth creativity to flourish. Youth have historically displayed selflessness and heroism and that must remain an inspiration to future generations.

Today we gather to commemorate the youth who, on 16 June 1976 stood up to apartheid. On that historic day, these brave young people rose up against the apartheid regime's Bantu education and said no! No, not only to Bantu education but to apartheid itself.

When high-school students in Soweto started protesting for better education on 16 June 1976, police responded with teargas and live bullets.  However, despite this response, the uprising that began in Soweto spread countrywide. The politicization and activism of those young people, (as well as those -who inspired by these events were to follow the class of 1976), played a central role in electrifying our liberation movement and the demise of apartheid.

The 1976 Soweto uprising was a watershed in our history because, it marked a time when the strategic initiative passed from the apartheid regime to the liberation movement. The events of 1976 made the freedom struggle unstoppable and its victory inevitable.

The youth of 1976 fought for freedom and the creation of a democratic state and were prepared to die for this cause. The youth of 1976 fought for their rights, for freedom and for democracy. Today's challenges are different, but no less important.

37 years after the class on 1976, we need to commemorate these youth by directing our activism towards successfully tackling challenges of combating poverty, unemployment, HIV and Aids, personal development and drug abuse. As youth, the focus must be to inspire and empower young South Africans to identify the role they can play in addressing these economic and social challenges.

As government, the theme for Youth Month 2013 is "Working Together for Youth Development and a Drug Free South Africa". The main focus is around the fight against substance abuse and ensuring the development of youth.

As we commemorate the youth of 1976, and indeed all those youth who sacrificed to ensure our freedom, we are cognizant that these celebrations come a time where there is high unemployment amongst young people. It also comes at a time when youth are increasing becoming vulnerable to the growing scourge of illicit drugs.

About 230 million people, or 5% of the world's adult population, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010. There are also about 27 million people internationally who use drugs in a manner that exposes them to very severe health problems.

Drug trafficking flows have global dimensions and the flows link regions and continents, sometimes with dramatic consequences for the countries they affect. However, although established illicit drug markets in many developed countries have shown signs of stabilization, the growth of drug use seems to be increasing in many developing countries.

Demographic trends also suggest that the total number of drug users in developing countries is increasing significantly. This is attributed mainly to higher projected population growth, the size of these countries younger populations and rapid rates of urbanization.

Globally, the illegal drug trade is a $300 billion global industry, which is more than some countries GDPs. Internationally the UNODC estimates that there were between 99,000 and 253,000 deaths in 2010 as a result of illicit drug use.

While the scourge of drug trafficking affects all nations of the world, the poorer countries suffer the most. The common denominator in this suffering though is the youth either as perpetrators or as victims. Essentially this means the future of the human race is being destroyed.

South Africa is both a transit country and an end user country and over the last year alone 41 drug laboratories were closed down by the law enforcement agencies. The links between growing gangsterism and the illicit trade in drugs is also becoming a serious concern

A recent study showed that approximately 15% of South Africa's population has a drug problem. According to the cellular phone survey recently conducted, of 5024 respondents aged between 13 and 34, 95% said they regarded drugs as a problem in South Africa.  A study conducted in 2009 also indicates the use of drugs among teenagers had increased over the last 10 years by more than 600%. 

The average starting age of abuse in South Africa is twelve years and younger, and drug dealers are targeting schools. A 2007 report said that Gauteng's youngest drug dealer was an 8-year old boy from Douglasdale.

The types of drugs that are affecting our communities include, cannabis, cocaine (and related products), heroine, mandrax as well as new forms of drugs that are emerging such as woonga and nyaope. In the main, youth have borne the brunt of the emergence of the new local drugs. 

Drug abuse is costing South Africa R20-billion a year and could pose a bigger threat to the country's future than the Aids pandemic. According to SAPS figures, 60 percent of crimes nationally were related to substance abuse.

Drugs and substance abuse has serious implications for millions of South Africans and contributes to crime, gangsterism, domestic violence, family dysfunction and other social problems.  It not only has a negative impact on the health sector, but also impacts negatively on the family, society and on economic and social development. 

Compounding the increase in substance abuse is the sad reality that some segments of society perceive drug-taking to be cool, normal and acceptable. This is a social problem that cuts across all demographic groups.

Let us however, not forget that that international drug markets rely on supply and demand and without demand there would be no supply. The South African youth are drug dealers biggest target audience, with more and more young South Africans getting involved with drugs; whether it is experimenting, dealing, addiction, being mules or decoys; they are getting sucked into the drug industry.

Our youth also need to know that the drug lords, who make money off their suffering, normally do not consume drugs. All they are interested in is the money. They make this money off the backs of the suffering of youth and criminality.

In addressing the illicit drug trade we have, as government, recognized the need to understand the social economy of the illicit trade in drugs and theemphasis that must also be placed on improving the quality of life for all the populace.  Our response needs to focus on production, consumption and cross border trafficking.

However, shared responsibility is a key part of the formula for suppressing drugs. The drug problem must be dealt with using an integrated approach that aims to reduce, on the one hand, supply and on the other, demand. In addition, we must also focus on the inter-dependent relationship that exists between drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime.

This means we need to continuously pose uncomfortable and direct questions to ourselves. Be it about our knowledge of the goings on in our space about this crime, the level of involvement of those related to us as architects or practitioners of these evil deeds? Whether or not we turn a blind eye when expected to act on this matter of global concern?

The solution to illicit trade in drugs and associated transnational organized crime requires the active collaboration of all spheres of our governments working in concert with agencies, Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and community organizations. 

The modus operandi of syndicates in this trade is to corrupt our global governance systems. This takes place through targeting particular branches of society, unsuspecting ordinary people etc. In some instances their first prize is to ‘capture' the states' operations, befriending authorities for their narrow needs. There has been huge investment by these scoundrels in building intelligence and general security infrastructure around themselves.

A key feature of our approach to the problem is the establishment of a multi-disciplinary, multi governmental level approach. The approach is based on an Integrated and Project Management framework which includes:

o  Ensuring the involvement of National, provincial and local government in the process.

o  Ensuring that technical task teams are established involving different government departments 

o  The development of a multi-disciplinary plan implemented through existing community structures. 

o  The approach is also based on our National Drug Master Plan - aimed at reducing demand, harm and supply; and which focuses more on prevention, early intervention, treatment and after-care and re-integration

The South African government recognizes that the drug problem is complex and requires decisive and collective national action.  That is why as government we have been at the forefront of fighting the scourge of substance abuse through various national initiatives and programmes.

Government and its partners are also implementing the Anti-Substance National Plan of Action, which is a collective effort towards a South Africa that is free of drug abuse. The plan focuses on enabling policy and legislation; supply reduction; demand reduction; harm reduction; and strengthening the role of civil society in this struggle.

To effectively address substance abuse among young people, it is important to recognize that the problems are complex and multi-faceted requiring a multi-sectoral and holistic approach. The multi-disciplinary, multi agency approach is the only answer to wipe out this curse from the face of the Earth.

In this regard synergy must be found in education, health, social development, mural activities amongst others to compliment the focus on safety and security matters like enforcement of the law. We still need to emphasize the goal of improving the quality of life for all people.

Communities around the country must work with the government and police to raise awareness of the scourge of substance abuse, and organizations targeting young people must mobilize them to lead by example in their homes, schools and societies.

A call to action needs to be made by all of us in this rally, to save the present and the future for the sake of our youth. It is within our power both individually and collectively to rise to the occasion.

There is an African proverb that goes thus: "there are two things over which you have complete dominion, authority and control: your mind and your mouth". Let us use both our minds and our mouths to triumph over such social ills as the drug problem.

Allow me to invoke the words of the late South African revolutionary leader, President OR Tambo on youth and the future when he said "A people, a movement, a nation that does not value its youth does not deserve its future."

Our success depends also on our ability to encourage, harness and incorporate into these endeavours the creativity, daring and energy of communities and in particular the youth.

I call on all young people here today to take up the spear of the class of 1976. Mobilize against the drug scourge and the evils it is creating. The youth of today will one day be adults running South Africa. How do the youth of today envisage tomorrow's South Africa? Do we want a nation to be proud? And, what we do now will have an impact on future, just as the class on 1976 impacted on the demise of apartheid.

Let us take a stand now let us pay tribute to the class of 1976 by Working Together for Youth Development and a Drug Free South Africa.

I thank you.

Issued by the Ministry of Police, June 16 2013

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