DRUGS ARE KILLING SA
Young people’s use of drugs such as nyaope has reached alarming levels, and illegal substance abuse is affecting children as young as four, writes Thembalethu Mtshali
They are sometimes mistaken for entrepreneurs who are tirelessly collecting and trading scrap metal and other recyclables to earn a living. But cousins Sabelo (22) and Surprise Buthelezi (24), from Katlehong in Ekurhuleni, admit to City Press that they are both addicted to nyaope, which forces them to wake up at dawn to hunt for recyclable material to feed their habit.
The cousins say they earn enough money – a minimum of R40 per day – to get high every day.
Sabelo, whose older brother died after a nyaope overdose while in prison, says he began smoking nyaope in 2010 during the soccer World Cup at the age of 15.
“I thought I would quit soon after the tournament ended. But I couldn’t stop because my intestines would tighten up whenever I tried. So I gradually stopped smoking it and started to inject the drug in my arm,” says Sabelo, who gets syringes from the local clinic’s waste bins.
He admits, however, that he regrets his choice and curses the day he started experimenting with drugs.
“I have been alienated from the community and almost everyone around me. I quit school to focus on feeding my addiction and things got worse when I lost my brother. Often, I spend about R120 on drugs each day and only around R20 on food. I trade my recyclable cans for cash and sometimes I trespass and steal items from people’s yards ... it’s not nice,” he laments.
Asked if he would agree to go to a rehabilitation centre if given the chance, he says he will stop voluntarily when the time is right without the help of an institution because he started the habit on his own.
Surprise says he used to smoke Mandrax and only started using nyaope after selling it to users on behalf of a druglord who encouraged him to smoke it, especially when packaging the product at night.
“I now inject myself with nyaope ... I once missed a vein which resulted in the excessive swelling of my arm. I also want to quit. I want to get help, but don’t know how or where to start,” he says.
Young people’s use of drug combinations such as nyaope has reached alarming proportions, according to the Central Drug Authority.
The body says illegal substance abuse is affecting children as young four years old, with the SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s affiliated organisations admitting to providing treatment to addicts aged four to 13 (3%), 14 to 17 (23%), 18 to 21 (16%) and 22 to 35 (41%).
South Africa’s drug problem is twice the world norm. An estimated 15% of South Africans are addicted to drugs, with marijuana, alcohol, nyaope and heroine being among the most favoured drugs.
According to crime statistics recorded between April and December by the SA Police Service, drug-related crimes had increased by 11%, while incidents of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs increased by 2.3%. A total of 215 941 drug-related crimes were recorded, up from 194 535 the previous period.
Nomusa Radebe (51) from Katlehong says the pain of having an addicted child is inexplicably devastating. Her sonin-law is addicted to nyaope.
“My heart drops to the floor every time I look at him. Tebogo was a handsome boy who attended school and played soccer. Now he moves around rubbish bins searching for recyclables to get his fix. He hides when he sees me because he is ashamed of what he has become.
“My grandson Sihle loves his father no matter what. He still runs to Tebogo, not minding the strong stench his father carries,” she says.
Radebe says they have taken him to rehab, but then he disappeared for several days before he was seen roaming the streets again.
For 21-year-old Agnes Sibeko, who is also from Katlehong, it is better to smoke dagga because the “worst thing it will do to you is to make you lazy at times”.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini says that, despite the concerning statistics, police continue to combat a variety of illicit drugs, especially nyaope, which is identified as one of the root causes of drugrelated crimes.
“Gauteng has all kinds of drugs, and nyaope is now the biggest problem because it is cheap, widely available and extremely addictive.
“The police depend on information from the community to deal with druglords. Community members must stand up and assist police with information about drug trafficking,” he says.
While some drugs are produced in South Africa, the 2014 UN World Drug Report warned that the country was also a major transhipment hub for importing and exporting drugs.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo believes South Africa is greatly affected by the globalised illicit drug trade.
“In recent years, southern and east Africa form part of the ‘southern route’ for heroin that is trafficked from Afghanistan via the Indian Ocean to our region,” he says, adding that, internationally, authorities have heightening vigilance regarding drug trafficking in and through South Africa.
“Through integrated intelligence-led operations, the SA Narcotics Enforcement Bureau and the police are detecting the drug-trafficking networks. With heroin being a major ingredient in nyaope, we are more vigilant on herointrafficking developments affecting South Africa,” he says.
Naidoo says the police normally make their biggest busts at ports of entry and illicit laboratories.
FIX ME Nyaope addicts have resorted to sharing their own blood when trying to get a fix around Gauteng and North West