Faith-based drug rehab programmes proving vital in WC's drug abuse fight

The Western Cape Health Department spends more than R18 million a year on rehabilitation programmes but that's nowhere near enough to deal with all the addicts who need help.

FILE: A heroin addict using a glass pipe or 'lolly' in Woodstock, Cape Town. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Health Department said that the only way to truly put a dent in drug abuse was through collaboration.

The department spends more than R18 million a year on dealing with issues of substance abuse but that money only goes to treat those who actively seek help.

That meant that thousands of addicted people were left without help.

But the Health Department said it was encouraged by the numerous programmes in place run by faith-based and civil society organisations that could help bridge the gap.

Drug use and abuse is recognised as one of the key drivers of crime and violence in the Western Cape.

And for many like 24-year-old Waydin Davids, the descent into a world of addiction is almost inevitable.

"As a kid, growing up with my granny wasn't easy for me, because my granny was dealing, my uncle was dealing and I looked up to guys on the streets that were in gangs and on drugs."

Davids was 16 when he became a gang member. It's a typical age to get involved in gangsterism, according to Western Cape Government studies.

He ended up hooked on tik, with no friends and nowhere to live.

That's when he found the drug rehabilitation program in the community called the "Tree of Life".

"At first I found it very difficult and as time went, my first couple months… two to three months, I got used to having a healthy life rhythm in place and so forth."

As part of the rehabilitation programme, people hooked on drugs are taken off the streets and housed at one the homes run by the institution and Davids maintained that it saved his life.

"The love I got here and receive here, I never received from my own parents or on the streets."


National crime statistics might show a strong decrease in drug-related crimes but in the Western Cape, issues around drug use and addiction still drive violence and crime.

The Western Cape Health Department spends more than R18 million a year on rehabilitation programmes but that's nowhere near enough to deal with all the addicts who need help.

The Social Development Department also helps fund a number of community projects aimed at helping people get clean.

"For me personally, I feel like this is not just a job but it's something which has been my life, it's like a calling… something which I found and want to be part of and want to live in."

Leon Daames (40) helps run the faith-based Tree of Life project, an initiative focused on providing a safe-house for young people wanting to free themselves of gangs and drugs.

"So it's creating the opportunity for them to have space to think about their future, think about how they want to go forward but also create a space that they could have a sober life or sober-driven life."

Looking at the statistics, it is young boys and men who were most likely to wind up in treatment for addiction.

According to records from the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use, there were just over 3,100 patients who were treated drug addiction at specialist treatment centres during the first six months of 2018.

More than 2,200 of them were men.

The organisation Daames runs is one of 13 currently receiving funding from the Western Cape Social Development Department.

Officials said that these programmes were vital and augmented the subsidised in-patient treatment centres they ran.