Bluetooth nyaope, dagga, dealers and associated rhetoric often dominate the headlines on the issue of drug use. The supply and consumption of drugs — legal or illegal — is blamed for all manner of social ills, including crime, unemployment, corruption and the “moral decay” of communities. Meanwhile, political campaigns promise the unreachable dream of a “drug-free” community.
In this context, human rights violations against people who use drugs and militarised approaches to policing, such as police carrying automated weapons when they raid drug dens and cordoning off whole communities to “search for drugs”, are often considered justified. Certain members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and politicians with a “moral” agenda continue to oppose health services, such as needle exchange programmes, for people who use drugs despite official health department support for these initiatives.
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Thumbnail: CC Flickr Todd Huffman