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Drug policies in Western Cape are among most overlooked drivers of poverty and inequality

The Western Cape government is flouting an official report that calls for the legal regulation of illicit drugs to help tackle organised crime and gangsterism in that province.

Titled “Strategic roadmap towards implementation of the National Anti-Gangsterism Strategy in the Western Cape”, the report was handed to the Western Cape government’s department of community safety in February 2019.

Created by high-level inputs from members of both government and civil society (including criminologists, police, social scientists, healthcare professionals and community leaders) the content of the report has yet to be released by the authorities.

Moreover, the actions of the Premier in militarising policing in gang affected communities run counter to many of the basic recommendations contained in the report.

An entire section of the document explains why legalisation and regulation of illicit drugs is fundamental to any lasting solution to drug-related violence; and states unequivocally that, “South Africa’s drug policies act as a mechanism to maintain inequality and social exclusion” and that, “Drug policies in the Western Cape are among the most overlooked drivers of poverty and inequality. The use and misuse of drugs is essentially a social health issue which, because of illegality, creates preconditions for violence.”

It goes on to point out that, “Illegal drug markets are characterised by violence between criminal organisations and the police and or between rival criminal organisations. The intensification of enforcement efforts simply fuels this violence. It is in the interests of criminal organisations seeking to protect and expand their business to invest in corrupting and weakening all levels of government, the police and the judiciary. At best, enforcement simply displaces problems to new areas.”

The report describes the implications of drug prohibition as follows, “… there is no doubt that criminalisation of possession and use creates enormous harms – such as the contamination or adulteration of drugs and the fuelling of organised crime, violence, prison overcrowding and prison recruitment into Numbers gangs”.

On the subject of drugs and crime, it concludes that, “… in the long run, legal regulation of the drugs trade is the only way to put an end to the devastation caused by this failed war. The goal should be legal regulated drug markets that support public health.”

The report also recommends that the Premier be accountable for driving legislative changes at national level to ensure that the regulation of drugs is modelled on the current laws and bylaws that control the production, sale and use of alcohol and tobacco.

A copy of the report is available for download from the South African Drug Policy Initiative website:

[link url=""]Report[/link]

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