VYTJIE MEN­TOR COMES clean

After he be­came vi­o­lent and brought drugs home, Vytjie Men­tor had no choice but to call the po­lice

CityPress - - Front Page - NTOMBI­ZODWA MAKHOBA ntombi­zodwa@city­press.co.za

For­mer ANC MP Vytjie Men­tor blames her­self for her son’s drug ad­dic­tion, say­ing she “chased” work over fam­ily.

It’s been a four-year bat­tle that started with dagga and ended with tik.

“I got an in­ter­dict against him in Novem­ber last year. I have taken him to re­hab twice al­ready. He is ag­gres­sive and is get­ting dan­ger­ous. He sold all his valu­ables and he broke the flatscreen TV in his room, prob­a­bly to get a sub­stance from it,” she says.

Men­tor is one of an army of South African moth­ers bat­tling the war on drugs.

An­other was for­mer SABC board mem­ber Hope Zinde, who was buried this week. Her son Mark has been charged with her mur­der. The drug tik was found in their home in Pe­can­wood Es­tate, Hart­beespoort.

Two days be­fore Zinde’s death, Men­tor took to Face­book to tell her friends about her son’s ad­dic­tion.

“I share this once again to call SA to stand up against the un­abat­ing and un­chal­lenged flood of drugs in our so­ci­ety, com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies,” she wrote.

“This prob­lem, just like cor­rup­tion, fes­ters be­cause we keep it un­der wraps when we are deal­ing with it in our fam­i­lies. Call me stupid. Tell me not to hang my fam­ily’s dirty linen in the streets, but I am try­ing to heal by speak­ing out, and I am chal­leng­ing SA to rise up against drugs.”

Men­tor told City Press that her son’s drug abuse has caused a lot of stress for her and the fam­ily.

“Po­lice and peo­ple close to me have been pres­sur­ing me to with­draw the charges, and I be­came too stressed and I was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal,” she says.

She was ad­mit­ted for de­pres­sion and stress the day after she handed her son over to po­lice and posted about it on so­cial me­dia.

Men­tor first sus­pected her son was on drugs in 2012. “But I only got con­fir­ma­tion the fol­low­ing year,” she says.

“What made me sus­pi­cious was that he was a very dili­gent scholar, but his grades started fall­ing. There were even com­plaints at school that he started backchat­ting teachers. Then he stopped go­ing to school.”

In 2013, when she be­came a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, Men­tor says she was trav­el­ling over­seas a lot.

“I des­ig­nated a woman to as­sist my chil­dren with school work. I only knew three months later that there was a prob­lem with my son at school. He failed his grades and had stopped go­ing to school. And he al­most com­mit­ted sui­cide,” she says.

From then on, things be­came worse. And only a few weeks ago, she says, she plucked up the courage to go into his room and find some an­swers.

She got the shock of her life when she dis­cov­ered two plas­tic sa­chets of tik in his be­d­room. Then she knew she had to do some­thing.

Men­tor says she didn’t even know it was tik, but found out when a fam­ily mem­ber con­firmed it.

“My son is a very hum­ble boy. But when he started us­ing dagga, his char­ac­ter changed and he be­gan sleep­ing too much,” she says.

“There was a time when I was very hard on my­self – I blamed my­self in the early stages of his ad­dic­tion – but I’m over that now. I knew I gave him grounded par­ent­ing.”

How­ever, she says she sus­pects that some­times her son took ad­van­tage of her be­cause of her over­pro­tec­tion after he fell se­ri­ously ill when he was eight. He was in a coma for 16 days and she al­most lost him.

“The cir­cum­stances about how he fell ill are still un­clear. He was play­ing with other kids. He started sweat­ing and col­lapsed,” she says.

Even after foren­sic tests were done, doc­tors still don’t know what hap­pened to him.

“His speech was slurred. He couldn’t speak or walk; it took him two years to be him­self again. I had to re­mother him. I think he de­tected that I had a soft spot for him. I got trapped in over­pro­tect­ing him,” she re­calls.

“I did ev­ery­thing in the book and even more to raise him to be a good child – from de­priv­ing him of his al­lowance to with­hold­ing ben­e­fits. He can’t drive both my cars. I put my foot down,” she says.

Her no-non­sense par­ent­ing style led her to ob­tain an in­ter­dict against him from a court in Cape Town, com­pelling him not to bring drugs into her home. He vi­o­lated the in­ter­dict. “He is in cus­tody as we speak,” she said on Tues­day.

But on Wed­nes­day, Men­tor’s son turned 21. Men­tor said everyone in the fam­ily was beg­ging her to have him re­leased. Al­though she re­fuses to con­firm that she dropped the charges against him, the boy was re­leased from cus­tody.

“I told him that a good friend of mine, Hope Zinde, was killed by her son be­cause of drug use. He told me: ‘I would never kill you, mama.’”

Al­though he has done wrong, Men­tor’s moth­erly love for her son will al­ways be there. But he can only stay un­der her roof on con­di­tion he is with fam­ily mem­bers around the clock un­til he is ad­mit­ted to a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre of her choice.

“I’m putting him into an in­tense re­hab cen­tre and it’s a pro­gramme that lasts for six months or more,” she adds.

Her ad­vice to other par­ents is that they un­der­stand that dagga is a gate­way drug to other il­le­gal sub­stances.

“Whether it is dagga or Grandpa [headache pills], fight from the be­gin­ning. When your child changes char­ac­ter, fol­low up,” she says.

“I ask why many par­ents keep things to them­selves when they dis­cover their chil­dren abuse sub­stances or be­come drug ad­dicts.”

She says par­ents fear that they will be stig­ma­tised and they think “it’s a shame”.

“I be­lieve I tried ev­ery­thing and that’s why I’m speak­ing freely. Stop wor­ry­ing what the world will say,” she says firmly.

Men­tor is now help­ing a num­ber of moth­ers in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions with whom she has be­come friends on Face­book.

One of those is Molly Tladi, a teacher at Bait­shoki Sec­ondary School in It­soseng in Licht­en­burg, North West. Tladi says her son has been us­ing nyaope since he was 17. When a fam­ily mem­ber told her, she re­mem­bers how she felt that a part of her died that day.

Since then, Tladi has been in and out of hospi­tal for de­pres­sion.

Nyaope, the pow­dery street drug con­coc­tion, has caused a life­time of heartache not only for its users, but also for those around them. Like Men­tor, Tladi took her son to a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre two years ago, but he ran away.

“I got to the point where I was scared of my own son. When he was high, he would be­come ag­gres­sive and I would fear for my life. I was liv­ing like a pris­oner in my own house,” she says.

Tladi says that her son started steal­ing clothes, cut­lery and any­thing else he could find in the house to sell.

“He even stole from neigh­bours, who beat him al­most to death. I am wait­ing for the day I re­ceive a call to fetch his dead body,” she says, fight­ing back tears.

Tladi says she is re­lieved that her son is in prison. He was ar­rested in March for steal­ing a pair of jeans at an Edgars cloth­ing store. He’d been ar­rested be­fore.

“He is serv­ing three years. I hope he will come back a changed man. The more I speak about his ad­dic­tion pub­licly, the more I find heal­ing,” she says.

Her dream is to start aware­ness pro­grammes and teach young peo­ple about the dan­gers of sub­stance abuse.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

TALK­ING OUT Vytjie Men­tor opens up dur­ing an in­ter­view in Cape Town about her son’s drug prob­lem

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