Substance abuse leaving girls vulnerable to other forms of gender based violence

by Loveness Nyathi

MPOPOMA residents have bemoaned the increase in substance abuse which has become rampant in the city saying it is leaving many a vulnerable young woman open to all forms of abuse.

Speaking during a multi-stakeholder meeting held at Mpopoma High School last week, one of the Councillors for Mpopoma Suburb in Bulawayo, Mr Donaldson Mabuto said the girl child is an easy prey of abuse when they get exposed to drugs. 

Mr Mabuto said the suburb has been hit by growing drug abuse cases among youths and this has seen girls as young as 14 years old and in school partaking in the illicit behaviour. It is suspected that the various drug substances taken by these children is being sold to them by their elders in the community.

“I was summoned by a parent of two form two (2) girls who told me they were now on drugs and showed me where they buy the drugs, who sells them. She informed me that these girls sleep with men after taking drugs. I cannot mention the names of the schools and the names of the drug sellers because the cases are still under investigation”, he said.

Councillor Mabuto also said that school children buy cakes, super cools and popcorn all believed to be laced with marijuana and other drugs. The cases are so out of hand that even over the counter medicines like Depression tablets,  Bronchitis medicine, Asprin are now being used by these teenagers recreationally.  

Addressing Mpopoma and Entumbane residents in a meeting themed “Taking strides to a drug free, healthy, stable and non-suicidal productive community”, Honourable Minister of State for Bulawayo Ms Judith Ncube said the police force is compromised; stating that some in the police force are working with criminals and that is why drug dealers get away with crime every day. This comes after a police officer was recently convicted for drug trading in drugs in the city.

Patricia Tshabalala a Mpopoma resident who is also a women and children's rights activist said girls should stay away from drugs and they should not deprave themselves.

“Girls, stay away from drugs, you should not deprave yourselves, know who you are know your pride and there are a lot of other productive things you can do rather than taking drugs”, she said, adding the drugs problem in Mpopoma has been worsening since 2014.

She said a well known drug dealer selling dagga cakes to school children for a long while is going scot free as police are not acting to arrest her.

Tshabalala who runs Vulindlela Orphanage Care in Mpopoma urged women to fight for their children because no one else can.

“Women bring children to this world and it hurts to see them wasting their lives like this. Women are powerful and if we act together we can fight these monsters selling drugs to our children.

“Children now beat their parents and steal from their homes while girls get drugged and then  raped. These children have become aggressive; women should stand up and fight this drug issue which started around 2014”, she said.

Inspector Chinyama the Officer in Charge of the Crime Unit at West Commonage police station said that the drug issue is not a policing problem but a societal one.

Commenting on the issue that the police work with drug dealers, Chinyama said it would be futile to just arrest drug dealers without gathering evidence first as courts would release them.

“Parents know their children more than the police and they should investigate where their kids get money to buy drugs. Sometimes parents spoil their children,” he added.

He urged parents to look after their children because using drugs has a bad end result as some end up committing suicide.

Inspector Chinyama also said that there are issues of human rights in Zimbabwe and if you take a drug dealer to court and they are given community service you see them out then you blame the police not the judiciary.

Amakhosikazi Media spoke to Khaliphani Ndlovu a Development Studies student at Lupane State University who said as youths they lack entertainment hence they end up falling prey to drugs, which however is not the answer to their idleness.

She also said that once a girl child is exposed to drugs they are easy prey to sexual abuse and risk getting sexually transmitted diseases. She added that they end up becoming victims of human trafficking, prostitution and also get early pregnancies.

The meeting was also graced by a local entertainment group Bambelela Arts who performed a play on drug abuse, how children steal from their parents and the use the money to buy drugs. 

Also present were representatives from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, District education Inspector Mrs R. Moyo who urged mothers to empower the girl child; Ward Aids Action Committee, Residence Association and Child Protection Commission working under the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Matthew Nkiwane, District Administrator for Mzilikazi said the stakeholder meeting was organised after residents of Mpopoma suburb came to their offices after realising that children are using drugs and members of the community were the drug peddlers.

Mpopoma Councillor Mabuto said awareness campaigns should be done to engage the government and test kids so that proper mechanisms can be put into place.

“We have got a generation we are losing if children are not rehabilitated and if we don’t do this we will lose them”, he added.

Youth rights organisation have often pointed out that youth centers, parks, vocational training centers that in the past kept young people busy and entertained were increasingly being left to fall apart or used as cash cows as they were being rented out to churches instead of young people. This they say is leading to many unemployed youths, many of them educated and with good high school and college grades with nothing better to do. 

Early this week women demonstrated twice in Entumbane and Mpopoma against drug dealers and police inaction against them. This publication also reported on how some women were detained for a whole day for demonstrating peacefully without seeking police clearance.