Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered by the Democratic Alliance’s Johannesburg Mayoral Candidate, Herman Mashaba, during a march against drugs and crime in Bosmont, Johannesburg. Mashaba was joined by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane MP, DA Gauteng Provincial Leader, John Moodey MPL, DA Johannesburg Regional Chairperson, Khume Ramulifho MPL, Gauteng Shadow MEC for Safety & Security, Kate Lorimer MPL, and DA Political Head for Roodepoort, Anchen Dreyer MP.
Today, we march against the scourge of drugs that plagues our City.
We march for the lives lost to the evil of drugs.
We march for the broken families, torn communities and the brokenhearted.
I have seen the spark die in too many young people’s eyes, and it is time to reignite their hopes.
As a parent, I have had enough of how drugs are destroying the lives of many of our young people.
Too often, their schools are the street corners and their educators are the drug lords.
When elected on 3 August, we will act immediately.
We will launch targeted campaigns to help those with substance abuse.
There will be 24-hour drug helplines and treatment for addiction at dedicated centres.
We will replicate what the DA-led City of Cape Town has done, helping thousands with its helpline and Matrix treatments sites.
On average, 24 000 people in Cape Town use the helpline each year.
We cannot shut out the problem by ignoring it – we need to decisively tackle it head-on.
We will create specialised units within the Metro Police to tackle drugs and gangs across the city, as is done in the DA-governed Cape Town.
I will establish a permanent ‘Don’t start, be smart’ campaign. Like in Cape Town, this campaign will drive out the stigma and silence surrounding drugs and alcohol abuse.
We are in this together. We can only beat this scourge together.
Many families have a member living with a drug and alcohol problem. We are all affected. We all have a drug problem.
We will also communicate real stories from users who have travelled the hard road from addiction to recovery.
Like in Cape Town, we will use murals and other arts across the city to tell their stories, and show others how they have found help.
To reach as many residents as possible, the campaign will use radio, print media and bus shelters.
We will also establish a dedicated 24-line for members of the community to report drug lords and dens.
There will be no safe haven for drug lords under a DA government in Johannesburg.
The drug criminals will be evicted if they live in City owned properties, and face the full wrath of the law.
The community must play an active role. Because the courts are very reliant upon the evidence gathered for City evictions from city-rental properties.
We must be vigilant. We must be strong.
Next, we need to provide proper social support structures to those caught in the vicious cycle of drug abuse.
We need to fill the gap that is often left between the state and the family.
With the first combined drug abuse treatment facility in Johannesburg only due to be completed in 2018, we cannot rely on the ANC government for support.
We must develop smaller, community-run structures that can react comprehensively to patients.
As Mayor, I will work closely with the private sector to seek sponsorship and support for these facilities.
But we cannot ignore a profound truth that lies beneath the surface.
More than any other problem, the drugs epidemic is representative of our city’s deep social divide.
In our vibrant melting pot of different races, cultures and languages, we still know little about each other.
We still remain divided by the circumstances of our birth, the healthcare we receive, the schools our children go to.
A taxi ride between Bosmont and the suburbs of Randburg should not be a journey between two different worlds.
But it still feels like that.
The truth is that Johannesburg is caught in a terrible situation. There are 869 000 unemployed people in this city. 66 000 of whom were added to the ranks of the unemployed in the first quarter of 2016.
Unemployment is increasing the epidemic of drug abuse and alcoholic addiction.
Time and time again, I have seen how the Nyaope pandemic is driven by a sense of despair for those struggling to find work. Drugs hollow out lives, materially and spiritually.
While I realise that drug abuse cannot be reduced to a single factor, unemployment is a significant contributor.
Through job creation and the proactive anti-drug strategies I have outlined, the DA will help Johannesburg’s residents to realise their full potential.
A report recently stated that “youths in Africa’s most developed economy suffer from an unemployment rate hovering around 50%, among the highest in the world, and the situation has deteriorated in the last five years.”
The same report stated that “the lack of jobs and Nyaope’s easy availability have combined to devastating effect in poor communities.”
We know that Parks Tau is in denial of the scale of the problem.
When drug lords move into a community, shops, small businesses, training enterprises, and youth projects move out.
The link between the lack of jobs and drug abuse is staggering.
While unemployment in Johannesburg has risen to over 30%, drug abuse cases in Bosmont rose from 95 in 2005 to 1515 in 2015 – a 1600% increase. More than 692 houses experienced burglaries in the same year.
However, in the more affluent suburbs of Randburg which have a lower rate of unemployment, drug abuse cases rose slowly from 75 in 2005 to 114 in 2015.
In far too many communities drug lords are taking over, while the City Council and JMPD sit back and wait for residents to protest.
Finally, we need to create the right environment for the creation of real job opportunities.
This can be achieved through a clean, streamlined city administration that meets the needs of investors, actively partners with SMMEs and budding entrepreneurs, and delivers services as promised to all residents and businesses.
There is a concrete link between unemployment and drug abuse, and the only solution for Johannesburg is a DA administration that will create jobs.
We can only do this by changing the government on August 03.
Combatting substance abuse is not a task that government can take on alone. We need a whole of society approach: the parents, the schools, the police and the communities need to work with us to take back our communities from drug dealers and help our children.
It is only by working together that we can end the drug epidemic.