Feature: Drugs blighting Zim’s future generation

It is 5am, but his friends are already treating themselves to Zimdancehall music, imbibing an illicit alcohol commonly known as mukozodo, in street lingo. In between, other drugs exchange hands and the merriment ensues.

DIVINE Muchirahondo (26) purposely walks down Musa Street to Sakubva Beit Hall, Mutare where his friends are already waiting.

It is 5am, but his friends are already treating themselves to Zimdancehall music, imbibing an illicit alcohol commonly known as mukozodo, in street lingo. In between, other drugs exchange hands and the merriment ensues.

Muchirahondo, a holder of Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, is unemployed and has joined an army of men and women who have taken up drugs to smother the pain of joblessness, albeit the many risks lurking in the drug world.

“I have no option, but to find ways to forget my sorrows and at least find happiness by taking drugs. My brother, I need social freedom, I need a job, I want money. I cannot continue living like this,” he mourned.

But the drugs and illicit alcohol are taking a toll on the young graduate who now looks much older than his age.

Muchirahondo lives with his mother and two sisters at their family home in Muchena, a sprawling location located at the heart of Sakubva high density suburb, which, like other parts of the country, has become a notorious home for drug dealing and abuse.

In the area, intoxicated youths have been accused of wreaking havoc because their immoral behaviour is negatively affecting the moral fabric of society.

Manica Youth Assembly director Jussa Kudherezera said the issue of drug abuse in the communities has reached alarming levels.

“The situation has gone out of hand. We have school boys who have refused to go back to school because they are now into drugs. They have been tempted by drugs and alcohol and they have opted not to go to school,” said Kudherezera.

“For school going girls, some of them have been impregnated, while others have been married. We also noted with concern that the young people who are into drugs have married each other. There is a rise in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

“The youths are either under rehabilitation or are facing mental health challenges. Unfortunately most of the rehabilitation centres are pricy and out of reach for many parents and families. This has resulted in most families failing to access the services.” 

Conscious for Development and Empowerment Trust director Vimbai Berete said government’s failure to create employment and economically empower youths has led to continuous disgruntlement among the young generation, which is a ticking time-bomb.

Berete, whose organisation has established the Cultural Information Café — an inter-generational information sharing platform that discusses such issues — said: “The objective of this Cultural Information Café is to look at youth capacity in terms of their participation in communities and government programmes. We share information on the challenges they are facing and providing possible solutions.

“Government and Parliament must be accountable on how they craft policies on issues of drug abuse. The rising unemployment and poverty among the youths have forced them to take drugs as recourse. The youths have been to colleges and universities, but they do not have jobs.” 

Community-based organisations have urged the government to create a conducive environment for industries to thrive and create employment opportunities for youths to curb the incessant drug abuse.

Speaking during a Mutare Peoples’ Assembly, a get-together initiated by Fight Inequality Alliance Zimbabwe in Mutare recently, Harriet Munyakwe, a resident and community leader said it was government’s obligation to create employment opportunities for the youths to fight drug abuse, among other vices.

“It is the duty of government to see to it that the youths are well looked after. It is also the obligation of the government to create opportunities for its citizens including youths. The reality is that our children are now resorting to drugs because they do not have anything to do despite the fact that some of them are educated,” Munyakwe said.

Human rights activist and LEAD president, Linda Masarira said: “We desperately need empowered and financially independent youth. Scaling up programmes to end the new menace of drug and substance abuse is not enough. We need commitment from the health ministry to classify crystal methamphetamine popularly known as crystal meth or guka as a dangerous drug.

“Furthermore, we need the Justice ministry to criminalise distribution, sale and use of the same drug and the police to be empowered to clean up the streets of Zimbabwe from this mutoriro pandemic. Any police officer found taking bribes to protect drug peddlers should be given a stiff penalty, that is the only way we will be able to deal with this mutoriro pandemic,” said Masarira.

Youth Empowerment and Development minister Tinoda Machakaire said government has established an inter-ministerial committee that is addressing substance abuse menace among the youth.

“As government we have intensified the prevention, harm reduction, treatment, rehabilitation, reduction of demand and elimination of supply and availability of illicit and over the counter substances and drugs on the market,” he said.

“We want to identify the causes of the problem in order to come up with precise interventions that will also research, document and disseminate information on drugs and related issues in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Among government measures to deal with the substance abuse scourge is the operationalisation of the Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan (2020 to 2025) and Treatment and Rehabilitation Guidelines of Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder of Zimbabwe, Machakaire added.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has also established a National Committee on Drug and Substance Abuse to fight drug abuse.

The chairperson of the committee, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said in addition to naming and shaming drug peddlers, more measures are being put in place to strengthen the identification and punishment of drug peddlers especially those targeting minors.

“The message for the new year is to warn drug peddlers. The law is coming after you. No stone will be left unturned in 2024 to hunt you down,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.

As the situation continues to deteriorate for the country’s youths, fears of irreversible damage to the future generation abound.

All youths like Muchirahondo can do is to hope and pray for a better future.

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