Church women in war on drugs

They acted af­ter see­ing kids future de­stroyed

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE - KHAYA KOKO

THINT’abafazi, wathinti’im­bokodo (you strike the women, you strike

rock). These pow­er­ful words stem from the ral­ly­ing call of South African women dur­ing the 1950s, when more than 20 000 racially di­verse women from across the coun­try marched peace­fully yet de­ter­minedly to the Union Build­ings in Pre­to­ria to reg­is­ter their dis­plea­sure at black women be­ing com­pelled to carry the hu­mil­i­at­ing pass books in ur­ban ar­eas, while also ex­press­ing their anger at the apartheid regime.

The ref­er­ence of women as rocks in the ral­ly­ing call ac­cen­tu­ates their im­por­tance as so­ci­ety’s pil­lars of strength, play­ing piv­otal roles through­out his­tory when­ever there were evils that needed root­ing out.

This time-hon­oured trend of women be­ing bas­tions against evil is per­fectly re­flected by the women of the Methodist Church Or­lando Cir­cuit 0912 in Soweto, who told The Star that the drug and other sub­stance abuse they saw in their com­mu­nity was de­stroy­ing their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren’s fu­tures.

In light of this, the women have joined forces with the Anti-Sub­stance Abuse So­cial Move­ment cam­paign, which was launched in De­cem­ber last year to wage war against sub­stance abuse in Gaut­eng town­ships, es­pe­cially among the youth.

The women are sig­na­to­ries of a pe­ti­tion that will be sent to the Jus­tice and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Depart­ment, ask­ing it to “re­view the pol­icy on drug sup­pres­sion and ju­rispru­dence to en­sure that the pos­ses­sion of cat­e­gory 1 il­licit drugs for the pur­pose of dis­posal car­ries far more se­vere penal­ties such as a life sen­tence and the seizure of prop­erty and as­sets. We also pledge sup­port for the ban­ning of al­co­hol ad­ver­tis­ing, as al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes are the gate­way drugs”.

For one of the women, El­iz­a­beth Mahlangu, this fight against sub­stance abuse is per­sonal be­cause she lives with her 36-year-old son, who has been abus­ing drugs and other sub­stances since he was about 13.

Mahlangu said her son started steal­ing from their home and other peo­ple’s homes when he was still in high school, re­gard­less of the fact that she sent him to pres­ti­gious schools around Joburg, hop­ing that a de­cent ed­u­ca­tion would help set him on the right path – but to no avail.

“He has let up a bit from the steal­ing but there was a time when he used to steal a lot – not only from us here at home but also from other homes and peo­ple within our com­mu­nity. Peo­ple would come to me many times to com­plain about his steal­ing, which is a very painful thing to deal with as a par­ent – es­pe­cially as a mother.

“My son be­comes a very vi­o­lent per­son when he has used drugs – he be­comes very dan­ger­ous. I be­lieve the drugs have af­fected his men­tal­ity to the point where he can’t tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween what is right and what is wrong.”

Mahlangu, how­ever, did not know the type of drugs her son took. Rather, she said her role was to en­sure that other women didn’t feel the same pain she had felt for more than 20 years, while com­fort­ing other moth­ers who were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing what she had gone through to let them know they were not alone.

“All moth­ers go­ing through what I am ex­pe­ri­enc­ing need a strong sup­port base. I wish all these peo­ple who pro­duce and sell drugs could just stop now be­cause our chil­dren are los­ing their future due to these drugs.

“I still love my son and will never give up hope of him be­com­ing bet­ter again. This is why I’m strongly against drug abuse in my com­mu­nity, be­cause I don’t want other moth­ers to suf­fer as much as I have suf­fered.”

Ma­pula Yende, an­other mem­ber of the Methodist Church, said their pe­ti­tion to the gov­ern­ment and the wider sub­stance abuse cam­paign would not be a lost cause as they were in this fight for the long haul. She said they were go­ing to force the gov­ern­ment into ac­tion be­cause they were tired of the “sick­en­ing acts” that went to­gether with sub­stance abuse.

“To­day we have these sick­en­ing acts of young men rap­ing their grand­moth­ers be­cause of drugs. We also have our young women and girls be­ing sold to a life of pros­ti­tu­tion be­cause of drugs.

“So we are very an­gry. We want our gov­ern­ment to start putting South Africans first.

“If the po­lice do not ar­rest these druglo­rds, we will have no choice, as women lead­ers of the com­mu­nity, to take the law into our own hands.”

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