Tshwane, in its previous life as Pretoria and seat of the National Party government, was anything but enlightened. So it is surprising to see it leading the country in proactive measures to reduce its drug problem.
While law enforcement has not been abandoned – and drug busts still happen regularly – mayor Solly Msimanga has laid out the same sort of innovative interventions which have been successful in liberal European countries for some years.
In total, the city has budgeted R40 million for 2017- 2018 for a number of different programmes to help reduce the harm done by drugs, recognising that the hard fist of the law is not always appropriate when it comes to long-term health and addiction issues.
A new “needle exchange” project has just been set up, where hard drugs users can get new, clean needles with which to inject themselves. This, it is hoped, will reduce the spread of HIV/Aids and Hepatitis C. Also, the municipality is supplying methadone to help wean addicts off heroin and other opiate drugs.
Already, there are almost 500 people on the programme – the biggest in the country.
We hope other cities follow the example of Tswhane in taking practical steps to tackle the drugs curse.