Drug abuse cause havoc among girls in Bulawayo
By Nomzamo Gwebu
Nobuhle Moyo (20) who resides in Pumula High density suburb in Bulawayo metropolitan province says she got pregnant at the age of 18. Her pregnancy was unplanned and she was not ready to have a child. This stressed her and she resorted to drugs to numb her pain.
A few months into the pregnancy, Nobuhle says she had become hooked and was taking drugs several times in a day. She continued to keep her pregnancy as a secret and this worsened her stress.
“I started taking marijuana, locally known as imbanje. I then moved on to BronCleer. My male friends were the ones who introduced me to the drugs. They knew where the drugs were sold and we would spend most of our times together using the drugs. After taking the drugs I would feel good and not stressed about the pregnancy anymore,” says Nobuhle.
BronCleer is a prescription cough syrup manufactured in South Africa. It contains alcohol and codeine. According to the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, BronCleer is not licensed for sale in Zimbabwe, even with a prescription. However, 100ml bottles are sold illegally for as little as US$7.
Nobuhle says BronCleer is very popular in her neighbour where it is known as Ingoma. She says many young people in her community use BronCleer because it is readily available from scores of drug peddlers in the community.
Nobuhle says her friends started to pester her to contribute towards the purchasing of drugs. She says she did not have any money, so she stole money from her family members. She says she got into trouble with her family when they realised that she was the one stealing money. Looking haggard, shabby and older than her actual age, Nobuhle says she has continues to use drugs even after giving birth. She says she cannot stop herself although she knows that drugs are harmful.
Another drug abuser, Faith Tshuma (16) is a student at a local high school in central Bulawayo. She says she started to take drugs at the age of 14 when she was in her first year in high school. She says she was introduced to drugs by her boyfriend.
“My boyfriend was an addict. He told me that using drugs calms down the mind and that it makes one to feel energetic and be capable of handling school pressure. One day I said I wanted to try the drugs and that is how it started. After a few months I was hooked to the drugs. I would go with some of the mbanje to school and share with my friends because I had told them how the drugs work,” say Faith.
Faith says girls who use drugs put themselves at great risk of being raped. She says some of her friends have dropped out of school because of drugs. Although she is aware of these hazards, Faith says it is difficult to stop using drugs. She says since getting hooked to drugs, her academic performance has drastically gone down.
Although law enforcers occasionally raid and arrest drug dealers, the selling and use of drugs has continued to skyrocket. Some female dealers masquerading as fruit and vegetable vendors are always in the streets selling drugs even to school going children.
One of the female drug peddlers is Melissa Mpofu (34) who plies her trade in Pumula high density suburb. Melissa says she sells drugs because that is the only way she can raise money to support herself and her family. She says the majority of her customers are boys and men. However, she says many girls use drugs but they send some young men to buy.
“Life in Zimbabwe is now very tough and for me, drugs are the only source of income that I have. I used to sell groceries and second hand clothes but it seems everyone is now doing it. Drugs give me quick returns.
Melissa says she gets her supplies from South Africa. She says the drugs she gets from South Africa include marijuana, BronCleer and cocaine which she smuggles into the country. She says she sells a twist of marijuana for R20 (South African Rand), a bottle of BronCleer costs R100 and cocaine costs R150 per sachet.
Melissa says she knows the negative impact of drugs but she has no other way of raising money for her family.
“Many women and girls are now using drugs in our community because they are stressed and they have nothing else to do. After using the drugs some women engage in violence with family members, some resort to stealing or sex work. It is bad, but what can I do. I also needs to survive,” say Melissa.