Zille: Heroin easier to buy than hamburgers

Heroin is more easily obtainable than a hamburger nowadays, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille told an anti-drugs and anti-child-abuse rally in Johannesburg on Saturday.

This was after she led 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 is 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, as well as a crackdown on 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.

A main concern is that drugs are being brought in to areas once considered safe for children, said Westsiders Against Addiction group chairperson 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 is time the government makes good on its promise to put children first.

“Reinstating child-protection units and the South African Narcotics Bureau would be a start,” she said.—Sapa

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