Speaking at the Future Leaders Annual Youth Conference in Durban recently, Mthethwa said the country’s youth are the biggest target of the drug dealers.
The minister revealed that a study conducted in 2009 indicates the use of drugs among teenagers had increased over the last 10 years by more than 600%, with the average starting age of abuse at 12 years and younger.
The drug dealers are targeting schools with a 2007 report indicating that Gauteng’s youngest drug dealer was an 8-year old boy from Douglasdale.
According to Mthethwa, South Africa is both a transit and end user country with over 41 drug laboratories closed down by the law enforcement agencies last year alone.
He raised concerns over the links between growing gangsterism and the illicit trade in drugs as well as the links between drugs and violence.
The response Mthethwa says must focus on production, consumption and cross border trafficking.
Recognising the complexity of the problem, Mthethwa said government has partnered with other agencies to implement the Anti-Substance National Plan of Action.
The plan focuses on enabling policy and legislation; supply reduction; demand reduction; harm reduction; and strengthening the role of civil society in this struggle.
He challenged the youth to implement the same spirit as that of the class of 1976 to successfully tackling challenges of combating poverty, unemployment, HIV and Aids, personal development and drug abuse.
Globally, the illegal drug trade is a $300 billion global industry, which is more than some countries GDPs. About 230 million people, or 5% of the world’s adult population, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010.
In South Africa, approximately 15% of the population has a drug problem which is costing South Africa R20-billion a year. – SAnews.gov.za