Substance abuse and domestic violence were discussed at length by high-ranking government ministers during an imbizo in Hout Bay last week.
While the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign officially concluded on December 10, Deputy State Security Minister Ellen Molekane and Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty visited Imizamo Yethu on Thursday December 13 to emphasise the importance of stamping out abuse in the community in order to safeguard children’s futures.
After a walkabout in Hangberg, the ministers addressed a packed audience at the Iziko Lobomi community centre. The gathering included residents and community leaders.
The audience also had an opportunity to highlight additional concerns in Hout Bay, including the struggle for adequate housing.
One of the keynote speakers, Dr Shongwe Makhambeni, said alcohol and substance abuse were guaranteed to bring down a home’s quality of life.
“Situations arise where moms and dads have to lock up their belongings every time they leave the house, or they are abusing substances themselves. Single-parent or even child-headed households then materialise, and then children go out on the street and abuse alcohol and drugs,” she said.
“Something else we find in our communities is that when people abuse substances, they don’t take their antiretroviral medication if they have been diagnosed with HIV. We have this medication available now, and it means people can live normal lives, but people cannot abuse drugs while taking it.”
She implored people to treat the children of others as their own in order to make a difference in fighting the drug scourge.
“In Hout Bay, there are a lot of rehab centres, but these can also serve as sources of information, so I appeal to you to visit them for this purpose.”
Mr Surty said mothers consuming alcohol during pregnancy were “betraying the future of our children”. A worrying statistic, he added, was that the Western Cape had the highest number of girl pupils consuming alcohol.
“The responsibility to turn this situation around lies with all of us,” he said.
Mr Surty expressed his disappointment that the Western Cape had forged ahead with the Education Amendment Bill and the sale of liquor being allowed at schools under certain conditions. The provincial government has said the move is not about serving alcohol to children, but parents attending fund-raising events on school property.
He said the government was doing everything in its power to prohibit the sale of alcohol at schools as ultimately “children will be the victims”.
He said the national education department was making great strides in the Western Cape in terms of building state-of-the-art schools.
The education department had also developed a special syllabus focusing on sexual education and behaviours. “Our programme has even been commended by Unesco.”
Another achievement was that the government fed 9.3 million schoolchildren every day, he said.
However, he said the government couldn’t make a difference alone. “Every parent also needs to assume responsibility for children.
“I also ask that we please teach our boys to respect women and girls.”
In her speech, Ms Molekane reiterated these sentiments. “We need to teach boys that women must be their queens. Your girlfriend is your princess, your mother is your queen and your grandmother is the queen of queens,” she said.
“Our constitution guarantees equality between men and women, so as women we must use our rights. Women are free today because of women like (struggle hero) Albertina Sisulu. What people like these taught us is that despite terrible adversity you can succeed.
“You have to think outside the box.”
One audience member pointed out that the lack of recreational facilities in Hout Bay was a problem, as bored children turned to drugs and alcohol.
Lulama Bini, of the Imizamo Yethu Movement, suggested that police needed to do more to safeguard communities. Often, he said, neighbourhood watch patrols caught people with drugs which were then turned over to police, but suspects were not arrested.
Roscoe Jacobs, of the Hout Bay Civic Association, said adequate housing in Hout Bay was badly needed, as parents and children had no sense of privacy and this was contributing to substance abuse.
The ministers were introduced to three young local entrepreneurs who had risen above their circumstances to succeed in their respective endeavours.
Nandipha Breakfast appealed to them to establish a 24-hour safe house for young girls and women in Imizamo Yethu.
“These young women are raped and abused, but they have nowhere to go. We need a place for them.”
Ms Molekane said she had taken note of all the issues raised and would work with local community leaders on finding solutions. Various government ministries would also be made aware of the residents’ concerns.