The South African National Drug Master Plan 2013-2017: A critical review

Authors Simon Howell, Katherine Couzyn

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: URC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town; Library and Information Manager in the Centre of Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 28 Issue 1, p. 1 – 23


In August 2013 the South African government released the newly revised National Drug Master Plan 2013-2017. The plan is intended to provide a central reference for the country’s drug regulation and elimination efforts. As this article documents, the plan is however riddled with internal inconsistencies and impractical resolutions. As a result, it will be extremely difficult to implement and unlikely to find utility in many South African cities and communities. The authors further argue that the plan has been designed in such a way that it absolves the government of any responsibility should it fail. It does so by subtly ensuring that blame for drug use can continue to be placed on the individual. This requires a punitive understanding of drug use, which is in direct contrast to the stated framework of the plan. As such, we argue that while the plan speaks the language of reform, it is actually far more concerned with continuing to treat drug regulation in South Africa as a matter of criminal justice.