Deputy Minister of Social Development launches the South African Network of people who use drugs

The Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, officially launched the South African Network of People Who Use Drugs (SANPUD) in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal Province on 28 October 2020. 

Established in 2017, SANPUD aims to support its members – regional networks of people who use drugs by providing them with financial, logistical, administrative and technical support.

The network envisions a world where people are able to make conscious, well-informed decisions about how and when to use, or not to use, drugs. The vision of the network is of communities where drug policies do not increase the harm to people who use drugs, restrict access to health care or limit autonomy.

In addition, it advocates that responses to people who use drugs should not bolster marginalisation, stigmatisation and economic exclusion.

In June, the Department of Social Development launched the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) – a five-year programme of action focusing on demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction strategies in the general population – particularly on the youth and high-risk and vulnerable groups.

The NDMP is premised on the understanding that the scale of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in South Africa requires the mobilisation and the resolve of all key sectors of society and local communities.

It calls for a new approach to people who use drugs and recognises that there are significant harms caused by the criminalisation of people who use drugs. The plan lists the principles for an evidence-based, people-centred, inclusive, and participatory response to drugs and to the people that use them.

Principle five of the NDMP states that people who use drugs must be consulted in its implementation and development. For the first time through a series of consultative workshops, the Central Drug Authority (CDA) met with people who use drugs who have been most affected by the criminal justice response to drugs.

The NDMP mandates the Department of Social Development to develop programmes and support initiatives aimed at the prevention and treatment of substance abuse. The slogan “nothing about us, without us” is a call for the right to self-empowerment and self-determination.

The Deputy Minister will launch SANPUD as part of the annual Social Development Month’s activities. Commemorated in October annually, this year Social Development Month is celebrated under the theme: “Strengthening our response to recovery through DSD services”.

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