30 November 2023 | Story Anthony Mthembu | Photo Nomasonto Skosana
Dr Maréve Biljohn

In a proactive move to address the escalating issue of substance abuse in Mangaung, the Public Service Commission (PSC) partnered with the University of the Free State (UFS) to host a roundtable discussion. The event, held on 23 November 2023 at the Centenary Complex on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus, brought together key stakeholders, including Gadija Brown (MEC for Finance in the Free State), Dr Henk Boshoff (Commissioner of the PSC in the Free State), and Dr Maréve Biljohn (Head of Department for Public Administration and Management in the EMS Faculty at the UFS). Also present were representatives from Mangaung communities and various government bodies.  

Addressing the root cause

The primary objective of the roundtable was to collaboratively devise effective solutions to combat the growing challenge of substance abuse in Mangaung. Sisa Mlisana, Provincial Director of the PSC, highlighted the link between high crime rates and drug abuse, emphasising the need for a strategic approach to address these issues.  The initiative stemmed from a citizen’s forum hosted by the PSC in 2022, aiming to establish a connection between community members and government, particularly emphasising the correlation between substance abuse and crime.

Dr Boshoff elaborated on the purpose of the roundtable, emphasising the gathering of inputs from all the participants. The engagement session facilitated a dialogue between community members and a panel of officials, including representatives from the Free State Provincial Government, South African Police Service, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Department of Social Development, Department of Education, Department of Health, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (DESTEA) in the Free State. This forum allowed community members from various organisations to express their concerns and experiences regarding living in areas affected by substance abuse, with the panel providing insights and responses. 

Challenges and solutions

Community members voiced concerns about the presence of drugs in their communities not officially recognised as illegal in South Africa, leading to challenges in legal proceedings against dealers and consumers with those perpetrators being acquitted. However, the discussion also yielded potential solutions, with some community members expressing a willingness to actively participate in street-level interventions.  

Notably, recovered drug addicts present at the roundtable shared their success stories and commitment to being part of the solution. Gadija Brown commended their efforts and celebrated their triumph over substance abuse. 

Resolutions and commitments

As the discussion progressed, a comprehensive plan of action was formulated, encompassing grievances and solutions from both parties. Dr Boshoff described the plan as a binding roadmap with tangible and practical resolutions. The PSC pledged to monitor and ensure the implementation of commitments made during the roundtable discussions. 

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