Localising the Fight Against Illicit Drug Use in South Africa: A Social Development Policy Masterstroke?
12 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2015
Date Written: December 30, 2014
South Africa adopted a new National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) in 2012. The plan covers the period 2013 to 2017 and is being implemented in communities by the Department of Social Development. The Plan provides the operational framework for all drug intervention programmes in the country. One of the most celebrated elements of the NDMP is its emphasis on the localisation of the fight against illicit drug use. Localisation refers to the process of empowering local organisations, neighbourhoods, communities and individuals to be key actors in creating and implementing strategies for combating drug abuse. To operationalise this concept, the NDMP provides for each community to have a Local Drug Action Committee (LDAC) that is mandated to develop and coordinate all illicit drug abuse programs and activities in every community. While localisation has been celebrated as a social development policy masterstroke by pro-government actors such as the African National Congress (ANC), its critics view it as inadequate due to its failure to address the structural dimensions of drug abuse in the country. This paper examines whether or not localisation is indeed a social development policy masterstroke by interrogating the promises, successes and challenges of Local Drug Action Committees (LDACs) as strategic development structures in the fight against drug abuse in the West Rand region of Johannesburg. In this paper, I argue that whilst LDACs offer a wide window of hope for reducing drug abuse problems in depressed communities, a myriad of challenges needs to be overcome for them to yield the expected results. These challenges include lack of funding, diverging interests, infiltration by outright criminals, locally entrenched “cannibalistic capitalist activities,” and police corruption. These challenges are so entrenched in the communities to an extent that it becomes almost impossible for LDACs to effectively fulfill their mandate. Hence, this paper shows that localisation alone does not guarantee positive results unless if it is accompanied by equally robust community based training in selfless and value based leadership and community volunteerism. There is also a need for government to mobilise resources to support LDACs so that they can become self-supporting in the future. The observations and conclusions made in this paper are based on an ongoing qualitative research study that commenced in June 2014. I have been conducting secondary data reviews, in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with various stakeholders involved in the fight against illicit drug use in the West Rand region in order to understand how the localization of the responses to the drug abuse scourge has been implemented and with what results. Grounded theory analysis was employed in order to make sense of the data and generate answers to the central question under discussion, that is, does the National Drug Master Plan’s focus on localization represent a social development policy masterstroke?
Keywords: Drug abuse, local drug action committee, localisation, national drug master plan, social development policy.
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