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The following is an extract from a speech delivered by City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, at the Matrix Clinic graduation of 140 clients held at the Kensington Civic Centre today.

On 26 June 2012, almost exactly four years ago today, I made a commitment.

We were launching the first phase of our Substance Abuse Campaign called ‘Don’t Start, Be Smart’.

I said that this campaign would be part of a gift of a better life for our youth.

On that day, I said that we are serious about saving our youth.

We had just identified substance abuse as a priority area in our Integrated Development Plan because of the high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse in Cape Town.The Don’t Start, Be Smart Campaign focused on the drug user and encouraged young people to refrain from experimenting with drugs.

The following year we had the ‘I have a drug problem’ campaign, which was centred around the fact that drugs don’t only affect the user, they affect every one of us as well.

In 2015, we had a continuation of the ‘I have a drug problem’ campaign and our message was that combatting drugs is everyone’s responsibility.

We urged residents to report drug dealers in order to target the supply side of drug usage.

Today I can say with pride that the City of Cape Town has never stopped fighting.

Two weeks ago we launched the fourth phase of the substance abuse campaign we started four years ago.

This time around we are sharing a message of hope with those who are currently battling with substance abuse.

Since 1 July 2011 to the end of March 2016, we have provided assistance to 7 502 clients at our Matrix treatment sites.

This fight against substance abuse was never going to be an easy one.

This is something which has plagued the streets of this city for decades.

But it was a fight we took on with conviction, because we knew that it would be worth it.

We knew that every life lost to drugs would be worth fighting for.

Each life is part of a family that is also torn apart because of drugs.

Each family is part of a neighbourhood, and a community who are robbed of freedom, fairness and opportunity by drug dealers and drug abusers.

They are the people who are so often attacked and stolen from.

This year we are telling the stories of three previous clients called Zoe, Vernon and Ntando.

These are real stories.

These are three real lives that were changed for the better through the assistance provided by Matrix clinics.

For example, Zoe saw her addiction to alcohol start at the age of 13.

She kept going for 30 years, putting herself in so many dangerous situations as alcohol dissolved her inhibitions.

On the radio ads we have running at the moment, she tells how the Matrix clinic gave her the opportunity to rebuild herself and gave the skills needed to deal with challenges she previously thought could be solved with alcohol abuse.

Vernon, who was addicted to mandrax and then tik, says that the Matrix clinic gave him the support and inspiration to stay clean, especially with the aftercare support systems in place.

Nthando, who started using after his mom died, just wanted someone to talk to and needed someone to listen.

He started the programme after being referred to the Town 2 Matrix treatment site by the staff at a local clinic.

Our message is simple.

We are losing one in five children to drugs.

And we are here to help them beat the problem. Together.

But today, all of you here before me are over 140 stories just like that in the making.

You have done the hardest part already, which was to choose a better life and to fight for it.

I am incredibly proud of each and every person here today.

Thank you for your bravery and courage. Thank you for giving yourself a second chance.

We reached out because you weren’t just drug addicts.

You are the sons and daughters of this city.

We have learnt so much in the last five years.

We have seen the effectiveness of the work at our Matrix clinics.

If we are afforded another chance to serve the people of Cape Town, we will invest in more Matrix centres and awareness programmes and in more policing interventions, including raids and roadblocks.

I want to remind residents that help is a free phone call away on 0800 43 57 58.

A new life awaits you on other end of that call.

I thank you.

God bless.

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