Zvamaida Murwira recently in JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
Sadc Parliamentary Forum legislators have called for a drug policy in member countries so as to deal with abuse of substances in a manner that combined empathy and the desire to eradicate the scourge. Legislators from the region said legal instruments alone were not a panacea to deal with vices such as drug abuse, abortion, transmission HIV/AIDS, same sex unions among other challenges related to public health.

The Members of Parliament said this in separate interviews on the sidelines of a Sadc PF joint session of Sadc regional standing committees for capacity strengthening on criminalisation and stigmatisation of public health challenges.

Zimbabwe was being represented by Matabeleland Senator Tambudzani Mohadi, Manicaland Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, Zaka East MP Cde Samson Mukanduri (all from Zanu-PF), Mutare MP Mr Innocent Gonese (MDC-T) and Bulawayo Metropolitan MP Ms Jasmine Toffa (MDC.)

In an interview, Mr Gonese said there was need to formulate a policy on drug use.

“In my view, Sadc and member countries need to develop a drug policy that combines both empathy and the desire to eradicate the problem. Decriminalisation on its own would not be effective without sensitisation of the community. That would not help. Decriminalisation is not an end in itself, but simply one of the strategies that should be used to eradicate the scourge,” said Mr Gonese.

On decriminalisation of transmission of HIV/AIDS, Mr Gonese said there was need to draw a line between malicious and intentional infection.

“If criminal penalties are to be retained, there is, in my view, need to narrow down to those issues of malicious transmission,” he said.

Mrs Patricia Kanga Nangozo of Malawi said there was need to have a deep understanding on the public health challenges like drug abuse and abortion and come up with a policy to that effect.

“This is because these things affect our children. The danger with criminalising is that you might cause more problems for our children. It is high time that we brainstorm on these issues and come up with a common position to deal with them,” said Mrs Nangozo.

Sadc PF standing committee on Human and Social Development chairperson Mr Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam from South Africa said there was need for greater collaboration among Sadc countries to eradicate the public health challenges.

Ms Toffa said after intense deliberations in South Africa, she now concurred that there was no need to criminalise public health issues like drug use and abortion.

“After listening to the pros and cons I have realised that criminalisation might fuel the scourge as people would continue doing it underground,” said Ms Toffa.

Cde Mukanduri said there was need to explore ways to rehabilitate those who use drugs because it was a public health challenge.

Sen Mohadi echoed the same sentiments saying she had learnt a lot from the deliberation made by several resources persons invited by Sadc PF.

She said imposing criminal penalties might not produce intended results.

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