Africa Policy Day 2022


Africa Policy Day 2022

SA Drug Policy Week is the premier drug policy event in Africa – but due to COVID-19, the 2020 Policy Week and 2021 Policy Week have not occurred.

While there have been numerous webinars and virtual events, none has filled the South African Drug Policy Week agenda. An expanded African Policy Week is planned for late 2022, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event may need to be postponed again.

As an interim measure and to keep the debate alive, SA Drug Policy at TB HIV Care and SANPUD, with financial support from UNODC, OSF and the Love Alliance, are holding the African Policy Day on the fourth of February 2022.

The event will be attended by diverse stakeholders and influencers in the African Drug Policy context. It will provide the space for determining common agendas and introducing a wide range of ideas and critical discussion points to the attendees. The event will be a virtual production, taking the form of a television broadcast. Two sessions will be coordinated from a studio with a host, Africa Melane, facilitating the panel discussions. Africa will be supported by a technical producer to control the technology and a moderator who will collate comments and coordinate questions from people watching the event and feed these via an on screen ticker-tape to the panellists.

Overview of discussions

Increasingly communities are looking to government and external structures to resolve issues as diverse as gender-based violence, gangsterism, drug use and dependence, sex work, mental health, HIV and other health and community wellbeing. There is an expectation that the police and specialised health services must resolve these problems. Should we increase the presence, power, and resources allocated to police and specialist health services, or should we focus on community-led and community-based solutions that don’t need people to be unduly criminalised or pathologised?

Session one: We can’t arrest our way out of this

11h00-13h00 GMT+2

Justice Edwin Cameron, SCOB

Marco Teixeira, Senior Programme Officer, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Sibongile Nkosi, Co-Director, GNP+

Maria-Goretti Loglo, Africa Consultant for International Drug Policy Consortium

Many communities have abdicated their social contract and accountability to the criminal justice system and, specifically, the police. Drug use and sex work are highly stigmatised and criminalised, yet they continue unabated and are made riskier through criminalisation. Gender-based violence is pervasive and extreme, and the police are regularly called to task for failing to act decisively and arrest perpetrators. Many are calling for more laws to criminalise specific behaviours, adding a further layer of complicatedness to the system.

What is notably missing from the public debate is the role of society and community in addressing their issues through non-violent social contracts, social norms and mutual accountability.

Some of the questions the session will discuss include:

  • Is the legal and policy framework that criminalises drug use and sex work at odds with the constitution?
  • Can we expect the criminal justice system to resolve issues like drug use, sex work and GBV?
  • Do we reflect and respond to attrition rates related to GBV?
  • Would the decriminalisation of drug use and sex work help reduce risk and community harm?
  • Is there a role for gender-responsive non-custodial measures?
  • What is the role of supplementary rehabilitation for early perpetrators of GBV and other pervasive problems such as gangsterism?


Session breakdown

11h00-11h20  Introduction and pre-recorded messages of support.

11h20-12h00  Opening discussion between Justice Cameron,  Africa Melane and Shaun Shelly.

12h00-12h10 Statements and comments by three panellists

12h10-12h55 Facilitated discussion between panellists.

12h55-13h00 Closing

Session two: People before patients

14h00-16h00 GMT+2

Prof Harry Hausler (Executive Director, TBHIV Care)

Dr Alex Plowright, Health Systems Expert, Health & Wellbeing Lead, Anglo-American

Bernice Apondi, Researcher at Africa Mental Health Foundation

Dr Nkereuwem William Ebiti, M.B.B.CH, FWACP(Psych), Exeuctive Director, Milestones Rehabilitation Foundation

Prof Jannie Hugo, University of Pretoria, COSUP

Undeniably some populations are underserved and need equitable access to health services. However, there is a tendency to overly pathologise people, particularly those who use drugs, as expressed in the statement “patients not prisoners”. In addition, funding is often focused on specific populations, and resources cannot be shared. Interventions are vertical and focused, operating outside the existing services and health system, creating additional stigma and exclusionary and specialist services. 

We need to be asking the right questions before we can determine the right solutions. How do we meet the health and wellbeing needs of entire communities and under-served people without making health services part of the problem? How do we implement community-wide disease prevention initiatives? What are the dangers of over-pathologisation? Do we need to increase specialist services, or should we focus on prevention and public wellbeing?

We will discuss new models of healthcare that combine the best of primary care and community social services to provide attractive, relevant and effective public wellbeing services that are informed by experiences with harm reduction, HIV and stigmatised and underserved populations.

After an opening statement, Africa will lead a facilitated conversation and Q&A with Shaun’s support where needed.

Session breakdown

14h00-14h10 Opening and introduction

14h10-14h30  Opening comments by panellists

14h30-15h45 Discussion and Q&A

15h45-16h00  Closing

Register and participate:

The live event will be available on the 4th on the SA Drug Policy website as a live broadcast, and all are welcome to participate.



Please note: the event schedule and speaker list are subject to change, with the latest updates to be found here and on the SA Drug Policy website.


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