BY SINDISO DUBE
Bulawayo will this year hold the commemorations of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking or World Drug Day to be held at the Stanley Square in Makokoba on June 24.
The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is celebrated on June 26, but the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN), a local initiative that advocates for the effective strategies for addressing problems associated with drug use in the country, decided to bring back the commemorations to Friday, June 24..
The day is marked every year to strengthen action and cooperation in achieving the goal of a world-free of drug use which to us is a utopia.
It is the day the global community raises awareness of the major problem that drug use represent for society.
However, in many countries the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking was seen as an opportunity by authorities to wage “war” against people who use and inject drugs.
In a bid to give sustainable alternatives based on harm reduction and decriminalisation, a global community-driven campaign Support! Don’t Punish was born in 2013.
The campaign is commemorated under the Global Day of Action banner and runs concurrently with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
“The Support! Don’t Punish campaign is a shift from the criminalisation of drug use across the world to a situation that the use of drugs is a public health issue and not a criminal issue,” said ZCLDN projects executive director Wilson Box.
“The campaign’s significance from a ZCLDN perspective is that we want to give people who use drugs support through access to treatment services, counselling, psycho-socio support and also ensuring harm reduction programmes are availed to those who use drugs so that at least we don’t leave anyone behind by 2030 in the response to HIV and Aids.”
Box said his organisation will spearhead the national commemorations to be held in Bulawayo.
The commemorations running under the local theme Drug use in Zimbabwe, a search for a sustainable drug policy, will be graced by Bulawayo Metropolitan Provincial Affairs minister Judith Ncube, senior government officials, drug experts, representatives from ZRP and rehabilitation centres, among others.
“The local theme is in sync with the recently adopted Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan, a blueprint that is viewed as critical in effectively minimising the effects of drug use within communities,” Box said.
“There are also calls for policy makers to exercise their responsibility by formulating laws that protect the rights and civil liberties of people who use and inject drugs.”
Box said among critical strategies to be implemented include the reform of the Dangerous Drugs Act Chapter 15 and the Criminal Code Chapter 9:23 (57) as well as the treatment of drug use as a public health challenge and not a criminal issue.
ZCLDN communications officer Nobuhle Maplanka said all roads will lead to the Stanley Square come June 24.
“We are making preparations for the day and we have chosen Stanley Square because it’s spacious and accommodates close to 2 000 people,” Maplanka said.
She said the programme will start with a procession from the Bulawayo’s Large City Hall to Makokoba and there will be testimonies and speeches.