Apr 2022 1st edition

Kick the habit and take up sport instead

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is looking at alternative and interactive ways to tackle substance abuse among youth.

This is according to SAPS Section Commander for Substance Abuse Programmes Refilwe Matlamela.

Matlamela was speaking at a webinar facilitated by the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security Cluster to introduce the roll-out of substance abuse prevention awareness campaign by SAPS, Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ&CD) and Government Communication and Information System.

Matlamela said youngsters need to be inspired to make healthier choices and mentioned the Sport is your Gang South Africa (SIYGSA) tournament.

“SIYGSA forms part of an international programme targeting children and youths from challenging backgrounds, encouraging them to take up sports. Through this programme, we want to bring people affected by substance abuse together by engaging them in integrated dialogues and sporting activities.”

Sport promotes positive self-development and a healthy lifestyle, both of which result in strong young people who are less likely to join a gang or become involved in criminal activity.

The programme is a joint effort between SAPS National Head Office, Division: Visible Policing and Operations and the University of Pretoria: Department of Family Medicine – Community-oriented Substance Use Programme (COSUP). It was first introduced as part of the National Drug Master Plan 2019–2024. 

“As part of our extensive research on the development of the programme, we found that activities such as soccer, netball, virtual and performing arts, obstacle courses, and community dialogues were the most preferred. Once that was established, DOJ&CD  led and funded community dialogues on substance abuse as part of the build-up activities towards the SAPS and COSUP-led sports tournament,” explained Matlamela. 

Matlamela said the pilot project was hosted at the LC de Villiers sports grounds at the University of Pretoria, with the second event hosted at Club Sport Maritimo, also in Tshwane.

“We anticipate that the first provincial pilot will be in KwaZulu-Natal in celebration of Youth Month in June.” 

Matlamela ended her discussion by encouraging citizens to treat people who are battling substance abuse with respect and dignity. 

“We need to stop calling them names and rather try and create an inclusive environment for them,” she said. 

To report drug-related activity, call the police at 10111. To find a substance abuse treatment centre near you, call the DSD at 012 312 7500. 

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