Drug misuse takes centre stage in Harare’s CBD
By Sofia Mapuranga
Several youths including vendors in city centre can be seen milling around a particular vending stall at Charge Office bus terminus.
With their stupor obviously reflective that they are under the influence of drugs, the youths seem not to care as they go about purchasing the ‘wise waters’ in broad daylight.
The colourless liquid is poured in empty water bottles in varying quantities from a quarter to half or a full bottle, depending of course on how much one folks out from 5 Rand to $2.
Red eyed, the consumers of the ‘wise waters’ are visibly dirty and once in a while, they are engaged in first fights. The smell of liquor such as blue diamond, the home brewed kachasu and bronclear cannot be wished away and it is clearly evident in the smell that the majority are exuding from their mouths.
Dressed in a blue work suit, one of the youths is trying all means to pick a fight with the tout sitting next to him, who seemed too drunk to notice his colleague’s actions.
He showed off his pathetic muscles, much to the amusement of passengers boarding the public commuter omnibuses to Seke before he shouted, “Monya yangu ndini” meaning I am my own bouncer sending into laughter the people watching this free drama.
Just then, one of the youths started shouting at a female vendor sitting at the terminus whose card box stall had various items including cigarettes, sweets, single packets of maputi and jiggies.
The two exchanged harsh words and the youth expressed dissatisfaction over being short changed.
“You gave me too little for my money,” he said, before the woman replied that he got the equivalent of the value of his money.
He continued, ”Besides, your stuff tasted like it is diluted. I want more for free.”
The woman waved him off telling him to go hang.
Charge Office bus terminus is a typical example of how peddlers of illegal drugs have taken over activities in the city.
Drug dealers, who disguise themselves as ordinary vendors are peddling their drugs, a stone’s throw away from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)’s Harare station.
At Charge Office, various drugs including bronclear, blue diamond and kachasu that is being brewed in suburbs such as Mbare and Epworth are being sold in broad daylight right under the nose of the law enforcement agents.
“It cannot be true that the police are not aware of these activities but maybe they do not act on them because they are given a kickback,” said one passenger aboard a bus to Chitungwiza.
Sharon Mukonyora, also from Chitungwiza said the drug dealers had taken to commuter omnibus terminuses because that is where the majority of their customers were found.
“Touts and other vendors especially the youths are their biggest clients and they want to be right where the business is. This is why they are operating their businesses here,” added Mukonyora.
According to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), over 5000 Zimbabweans were convicted for drug related crimes in 2015.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, the ZRP Spokesperson revealed that in the period from January to December 2015, a total of 5 445 people were arrested on various drug related crimes.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that over 246 million people used an illicit drug in 2013 and that some 27 million people globally are problem drug users.
In Zimbabwe, the 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) established that 29, 6 % of men and 2 % of the women in the 15- 49 age group used alcohol.
According to a research by the Health Professionals Empowerment Trust in Zimbabwe, 50 % of all admissions to mental institutions including psychiatric wards was a result of substance induced disorders.
The Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and drug Network (ZCLDN) Director, Wilson Box, said it was disheartening to note that the sale of illicit drugs including bronclear, histalix, marijuana, ZED, blue diamond, glue, cocaine, prescription medicines and psychosis medicines among others was rampant in the country.
“This is why it is important to invest in harm reduction,” said Box.
He said because drug abuse had no barriers, it was sad that even youths from the well to do families were also affected by the phenomena.
“It is not an issue of poverty, because we have youths from well to do families who are misusing drugs,” he said.
Added a social worker, Sheila Nyamayaro from Chitungwiza,”There is a misconception that drug misuse has no immediate health or social repercussions.
“Substance misuse has a lot of effects including memory loss, strokes, liver cirrhosis, depression, addiction, throat, mouth and lung cancer, malnutrition and organ failure among other,” she said, adding that it also increased one’s risk of engaging in early sexual debut, contracting sexually transmitted infection, being impregnated or being raped among a host of other problems.
“There is increased family disharmony and some have committed serious crimes which they live to regret for the rest of their lives because they were under the influence of substances,” she said, emphasising the importance of youths to desist from substance abuse.
Nyamayaro emphasised the importance of communities and families in supporting the rehabilitation of substance abusers.
“We do not have adequate drug rehabilitation centres vis a vis the magnitude of the problem in our country,” she said calling on society to play their role and contribute towards the reduction of drug abuse especially among the youths.
“As a nation, failing to address this challenge means we are breeding a nation of substance abusers, the majority of whom will lead unproductive lifestyles that costs the national fiscus,” she said.
Judith Kaulen, the director for Poverty Reduction Forum (PRF) said youths had a role to play in poverty reduction and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.
She said it is government responsibility to ensure the provision of healthy lifestyles for its citizens as enunciated in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.
“A healthy lifestyle is a right but citizens also have a responsibility to play their part. There is high unemployment in the country, a factor which is said to have fuelled increased substance abuse among especially youths,” she said.
According to SDG3’s set target, government aims at strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol by 2030.
The Health minister, David Parirenyatwa also lamented the abuse of various substances by especially young people, attributing the increasing numbers of mental disorders to drug and substance abuse, which is estimated at 1, 3 million.
This is despite that Zimbabwe has a Dangerous Drug Act in place, which has been described as penal instead of rehabilitative by analysts.