See data on how drug use has been on the rise in Gweru
GWERU: ‘I can’t do your dreadlocks unless you give me just a dollar. Kabasa aka kanoda ndakabaka (I can only do this job if I am high).’
This was the last conversation with my then youthful hairdresser, Trigger, real name Life Shoko (26).
I could not pick a lot from the conversation, full of unfamiliar slang diction.
The reality of the unusual change I had seen in Trigger struck when I met Peter P, real name Peter Muzorodzi (28), Trigger’s known workmate, as I continued on my quest to get my hair done.
“Anenge akatsomewa mfana wenyu blaz (Your young brother will be high on substance),” Peter quickly said when I asked about Trigger.
Peter added, “…we have since moved from the old saloon and that’s why I asked you to come here. He was becoming a nuisance, and we just had to give him space. Back home, he still makes trouble though.
“We have to follow him to the base where he accesses drugs every day. He no longer eats well and sleeps with his shoes on, feet on the floor while the upper top part of the body is on the bed. Odd, isn’t it?”
Trigger has since been taken back to Mberengwa, his rural home but his friends are still worried whether he would reform or further spread the penetration of hard drugs to rural communities.
“We had tried our best to assist him including taking him to the hospital for rehabilitation. After being discharged, he got back to his old habits just two days later. That how the decision to take him back home came and we pray the same does not catch up with him in the new community,” Peter further said.
While rehabilitation is achievable for drug addicts, experts say most drug users often relapse when they have nowhere to go but to the shanty towns where the peer pressure they faced before remains, along with the same daily problems.
The youthful hairdresser represents a large chunk of youth drowning in drug abuse and ultimately ceases to dream of what the future holds for them.
Crystal meth is what took away Triggers’ set goals and dreams off the radar.
Besides crystal myth, bronclear and dagga remain some of the widely used drugs by youths in Gweru.
Methamphetamine, as it is intellect-known is a highly addictive stimulant, sought for its ecstatic upshot.
Worryingly, Gweru as of 2021 had seen a rise in consumption of new drugs, crystal meth in particular.
Although the drug has been used in Zimbabwe for years, its use has grown in the townships as the economic crisis grips the country, leaving few job prospects for its young people. Zimbabwe has nearly 90% unemployment, with young people worst affected.
With this background, some youths still find a way to tame their drug thirst.
In the 2021 Drugs and Narcotics annual report, Midlands Police says the rise in the use of drugs especially by the youth is because of the bad economic environment.
“The country’s economic environment in a way contributes to drug abuse. The unemployed citizens especially the youths are resorting to drug peddling to earn a living,” part of the report reads.
The report also noted an increase in cases involving hard drugs as compared to the traditional dagga crimes in the past years.
“A total of seven cases of dealing or possession of hard drugs were taken over during the period under review as compared to three cases taken over in 2020. Hard drugs include cocaine, mandrax, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, amphetamines, crystal meth, khat, and ephedrine among others. During this period, the station did not seize cocaine but managed to seize 149 grams of crystal meth,” the report also highlighted.
CommuTalk also managed to establish that there were 12 cases involving 20 people who were brought to the courts for selling drugs.
Of the 12 cases that were before the courts, two are on wanted lists as they defaulted court hearings, four were prosecuted and six cases were still on remand as of 31 December 2021.
The youth constituted most of the people arrested as two were below 20 years old, two between ages 20-25, five between ages 25-30, eight between ages 30-35 and two were above the age of 35.
With many young people battling drug addiction, the health system has been found wanting. Zimbabwe’s hospitals cannot treat addicts and the few rehabilitation centres are expensive.
Rehabilitation and mental health specialists in the Midlands Province however say there is a ray of hope if facilities to handle such cases are given enough support.
“There is hope if only we are going to get enough capacity to handle rising cases. Working space and funds remain a challenge. If capacitated, training in areas such as drug sensitization, community-based treatment and care, individual, group, and family therapy and harm minimization, detox, and diversional therapy will help in the fight against drug abuse.
“COVID-19 was also another blow to dealing with patients but we however did our best through tele-counseling. The effort saw us record success stories as some people we engaged fully recovered with some managing to resume normal life and initiating income-generating projects,” said Queen of Peace Rehab Center Mental Health Practitioner, Stella Khumalo.