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ADA-SA: War on drugs ineffective

The alliance says government spends in excess of R238 million a year on drugs.

Kliptown residents hold up banners against drugs. President Jacob Zuma addressed some of their concerns regarding the high drug rate in the area. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Anti-Drug Alliance South Africa (ADA-SA) on Monday said money spent by the government in the war on drugs has had little effect on the widespread use of illegal narcotics across the country.

According to the group, government spent around R283 million a year to arrest, detain and investigate criminals.

ADA-SA further alleges the country simply doesn't have the capacity to detain criminals, which is why so many of them end up going back into the drug trade.

The alliance tracked 12 random drug related cases for several months.

Out of the 12 cases tracked, three accused had previous convictions for drug-related offences.

There were only nine cases in which penalties were actually handed down.

Of the nine cases, five may as well have been struck off the court roll following four months of postponements and poor prosecution.

Forensic reports were either lost or not ready yet.

In one case, a person pleaded guilty on their first appearance.

He was given an admission of guilt fine and sent away with a "stern warning".

Two accused were untraceable and absconded.

In one case, a person was sent for rehabilitation as requested.

On completion of rehabilitation, the case was struck off the roll.

The other nine cases were all first offences.

Subsequently, over 23,000 arrests have been made as of 26 September 2013 costing the country R329,21 per day to keep a convict in prison - R9876,35 per month.

Cocaine bust at OR Tambo International Airport. Picture: SAPS

ADA-SA's Quintin van Kerken says change needs to happen, referring to decriminalisation of personal use of drugs in much of Western Europe, Russia, and regions of Canada, Australia and South America.

"Supervised injecting rooms and drug smoking rooms have been established in Vancouver, Sydney, and across Europe.

"Heroin and other drugs, including stimulants, are available through medical prescription, to long-term problem users in a number of countries including the UK, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Germany."

Cannabis cultivation is decriminalised in some countries/regions and licenced sales are allowed in Holland.

"There is a global trend away from harsh, costly and ineffective enforcement, towards a greater emphasis on treatment, harm reduction and approaching problem drug use primarily as a public health issue.

"It is time we realised that no amount of arrests, no amount of baseless prohibitionist arguments, and no amount of stricter laws will stop drug use in South Africa. Legalisation is the only rational and logical step forward" adds van Kerken.

An Eyewitness News investigation has revealed just how easy it is to buy narcotics in Cape Town's Long Street.

Meanwhile, Western Cape police say they are aware of Long Street's drug problem and have carried out a number of operations in the area.

The strip is popular with locals and tourists alike because of its many restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

However, Cape Town City officials say drug peddling in the city centre has become more visible and brazen, saying Long Street has become a hotspot for crime.

Officials are reviewing their crime strategies in the City Bowl.