Pubdate: Sun, 09 Mar 2008
Source: Times, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2008 The Times


The drug heroin was more easily obtainable than a hamburger nowadays,
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille told an anti-drugs and
anti-child abuse rally in Johannesburg yesterday.

This, after leading marchers wearing DA T-shirts bearing the slogan:
"No to drugs and save our children" through the streets of Vrededorp,
in Johannesburg.

Rampant drug and alcohol abuse was a major factor driving child abuse,
Zille told them.

"When parents abuse drugs and alcohol, they neglect their children.
These children are left to their own devices, at the mercy of those
who prey on children," she said.

"And, when children are neglected and there are drug dealers on every
street corner, it is not long before they are caught up in a cycle of
drug and alcohol abuse themselves.

"Without the means to pay for drugs and alcohol, these children often
resort to selling their bodies on the street to buy drugs.

"And this is what is happening here in Vrededorp, an area that has
become infamous for having the highest rate of child abuse in the
greater Johannesburg region."

The marchers handed over a memorandum asking the police to act against
child prostitution and molestation, and to appoint specialised
officers to investigate child abuse cases.

They called for action on illegal beer manufacture in the suburb, and
crackdowns on liquor outlets near an old-age home, school and public
park and drug dealers in a park.

They also appealed to the police to show a zero-tolerance approach
towards the possession and sale of drugs, and the illegal sale of
liquor and drinking in public.

People's main concern was that drugs were being brought in to areas
once considered safe for children, said Westsiders Against Addiction
Group chairman George Pappas.

".... Our fight is against substance abuse, a problem that is growing
and getting worse everyday," he said.

"The depressing truth is that our children are not a priority for this
government, despite the (African National Congress's) 2006 election
manifesto that promised to put women and children first," Zille charged.

"In fact, instead of prioritising children, the government has done
the opposite by closing down the Child Protection Units where trained
officers specifically dealt with cases of child abuse," she said.

"Just like the decision to disband the Scorpions, the ANC has put its
own interests before the people.

"The real reason that Child Protection Unit officers were deployed to
ordinary police stations was so that government could say that it had
put more cops on the streets.

"The results are plain to see. Drug abuse and child abuse are rampant
and the government is doing nothing to tackle the problem."

Zille said it was time the government made good on its promise to put
children first.

"Reinstating Child Protection Units and the South African Narcotics
Bureau would be a start," she said.
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