I recently attended a meeting generously hosted by the Department of Social Development. The invited audience, except for myself, all had one thing in common. Each was a representative of an unregistered rehab located in and around Cape Town. The purpose of the meeting was to bring these aberrant operators into the fold and provide them with a step by step guide in how to register their facility, as if they did not know. It is an important matter, as there are currently 29 registered facilities in the Western Cape and 41 known rogue operators.
However, the problem is simple and the solution uncomplicated and probably did not require a full morning seminar. In virtually all instances, the only obstacle to successful registration with the DSD of these facilities is either the incorrect zoning of the property or the absence of a land use departure, which is a temporary certificate that the City Council provides, as long as the neighbours of the property do not kick up a fuss. Most neighbours or resident’s associations do object to a rehab in their backyards, so people who start rehabs without the requisite zoning, take a calculated business risk and hope no one will notice – until the Department requests the zoning certificate as part of a registration application. This is where the problem begins and ends because the Department has to decline the application in terms of the regulations. The Department is obliged to act within the constraints of the municipal bylaws. There is nothing mysterious in the process.
But I have another related and more important issue. The laws regulating substance use in this country are governed by an Act of parliament – Act 70 of 2008, to be specific. The guidelines pertaining to the registration of treatment facilities are contained in Section 19 of this Act. The very first clause of Section 19 clearly and specifically states that no one may operate a treatment facility without the requisite registration and clause (13) of that same section clearly states that anyone operating an unlicensed facility is guilty of an offence punishable by a fine or imprisonment. It is written there in black and white with no ambiguity.
So here is the kicker – if the law that provides the regulations required for registration of a facility are so assiduously implemented, why are the facilities that openly flaunt these regulatory requirements not prosecuted in terms of the selfsame law? It is like having a speed limit and then not bothering to fine people who get caught speeding. Hardly a deterrent!

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