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How Deep Is Zimbabwe’s Drug Problem?

How Deep Is Zimbabwe's Drug Problem?
Drug abuse in Zimbabwe has always followed certain trends similar to fashion.

I don’t know if it’s a certain naivety or that long-held belief in Zimbabwean decency but people have found it hard to believe that hard drugs are available in the country.

By hard drugs, I’m talking about cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, and oxycodone among others. Marijuana has more or less been accepted by society and the legalization of the farming of medicinal marijuana about 3 years ago added to this acceptance. Yet as much as hard drugs are seen as a bane to society it sort of feels like very little is being done about it.

Walk into any neighbourhood and ask around where drugs can be found. Chances are one in two people will know the place or they would’ve at least heard about it. But somehow when the relevant authorities have their crackdowns on drugs, a lot of these places remain operational. A few months ago the police ran an operation dubbed “No To Crystal Meth”, which targeted meth dealers specifically. Meth, guka, buwe, dombo, or mutoriro as it’s known among the youth is the latest drug rising to the levels of an epidemic in its use.

A sachet of whitish crystals is emptied into a broken fluorescent light bulb and then heated until it vaporizes and then the vapour is inhaled. This is a scene now common among many of Zimbabwe’s neighbourhoods and I get the feeling the problem is not getting the attention it should. Drug abuse in Zimbabwe has always followed certain trends similar to fashion. A few years ago the in-drug was codeine found in broncleer known to most as bronco.

Not long ago VICE did a documentary that took us inside “Zimbabwe’s cough syrup epidemic” and this initially sparked anew the conversation of the abuse of broncleer but then it just fell flat. Don’t get me wrong there have been campaigns against the drug but it seems like there’s no actual plan to get these drugs off our streets. For example, broncleer is manufactured by Adcock Ingram, a South African company and according to the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), it is not licensed in Zimbabwe so all of it that is coming is being smuggled.

So how about tighter borders? Because just this past week a consignment of broncleer was ceased at the Beitbridge border post and it was reportedly addressed to army officials. The officials said they had no knowledge of the shipment but it obviously leaves one with a lot of questions. A day before that it had been reported that two Harare women had been arrested after a high-speed chase with the police after which they had been found with crystal meth to the value of $1, 777 905.

It brings to the realization of how much bigger our drug problem actually is. For example, cocaine is a drug believed by most to not be a problem in Zimbabwe because we can’t afford it but as with most drugs, there’s a cheaper version of it. Add baking soda, water, and heat and you’ve got crack or crack cocaine which similar to crystal meth in consumption. This year alone they have been these major arrests for cocaine:

  • 6 April – A trio was arrested with 200 grams of cocaine valued at around $2 million (ZWL) at the time.
  • 8 April – A Brazilian national was caught trying to smuggle into Zimbabwe, 4,30 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $32 million (ZWL) at the time
  • 7 May – A Harare businessman was arrested and taken to court after he was found in possession of cocaine worth US$18 000 stashed in his Borrowdale home
  • 13 May – A woman was found with cocaine that weighed 945 grams with a street value of $7 560 000 (ZWL) at the time.

At some point, we have to realize that we have a drug problem. It doesn’t bode well to just respond when things are dire instead of being proactive. By the time we responded to the cough syrup epidemic, crystal meth was already taking hold of the youth and as we now wake to the meth problem, cocaine might already be entrenching its roots. A ministerial task force has been put in place to target the meth problem but I’m always worried that’s just another excuse for people to give each other allowances.

Because if the police did their job and arrested drug dealers while social welfare was there for the welfare needs of our communities and the ministry of health ensured rehabilitation centres were in place, we wouldn’t be here. According to the Institute for Security Studies, the number of drug users in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to increase by nearly 150% by 2050 and this means Africa will experience the largest growth in absolute numbers of drug users of any region globally over the next few years. Someone has to do something now before it’s too late. For Zimbabwe and for Africa as a whole.

Written by Tafadzwa Madzika, He is a Freelance Writer, Blogger, Poet, Content creator & Social media manager

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