The Sunday News
Peter Matika, Senior Reporter
BULAWAYO is fast turning into a haven for drug peddlers, who are pushing an assortment of dangerous substances, turning gullible youths into addicts.
Sunday News discovered that so cunning are drug dealers that they have devised shrewd methods of concealing and shipping drugs around the city, and parts of the country without being detected.
They are also reportedly concealing drugs, where they reportedly add them as ingredients to bake muffins and cakes, which they openly sell on the streets.
The latest invention has seen the proliferation of muffins on the streets where those laced with drugs are referred to as “space muffins”.
Youths are also said to be hooked to a combination of some cough mixture and pills meant to treat mentally challenged patients.
According to police, drug dealers are now using late night buses to transport drugs where they stash various types of drugs in luggage compartments, which are rarely searched.
A fortnight ago police arrested a woman in Beitbridge, after intercepting a four-kilogramme load of mbanje that was discovered in a bus travelling from Chipinge to Beitbridge. Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of the woman, identified as 27-year-old Netsai Moyana.
“A 27-year-old woman Netsai Moyana of Beitbridge was arrested for dealing in drugs after four kilogrammes of dagga were discovered in a Mandeep bus travelling from Chipinge to Beitbridge. The dagga was discovered at a roadblock site and the accused later phoned the bus driver claiming ownership of the parcel and was arrested in the process. She will appear in court soon,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said another similar incident was reported last month where a drug dealer was ordered to pay a fine or be imprisoned.
“Levison Ndou (41) was sentenced to pay $300 fine or face a four-month prison term by a Beitbridge magistrate. He was found in possession of a Shangani bag full of dagga near Malindi turn off in the border town,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
However, investigations by Sunday News showed the drug menace was now a big problem in Bulawayo where the peddlers target schoolchildren.
The drugs, comprising prescription medicines and other illegal substances are reportedly brought into the country by unscrupulous businesspeople and cross-border traders who travel as far as South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, where they get supplies from drug lords.
According to an addict-cum source, drug dealers are operating at strategic points in the city centre.
“They can be found at clustered parts of the CBD, areas such as 6th Avenue where there are touts and vendors. At 12th Avenue you can find them operating near a Honda Fit taxi rank. At 1st Avenue there is a lot of activity there as there are brothels and prostitutes and also the market area. Some operate near the city centre swimming pool. Some of them have invaded places like recreational parks, and schoolchildren are not spared,” said a source.
The source also noted that some drug dealers, because of the crackdown by police, relied on regular customers, who phone before making a purchase.
“Some mostly rely on regular clients who call them when they want to get high. If you are a new customer you have to be referred by someone. So they keep their drugs in cars and deliver them to clients to avoid being arrested.
“They also even have runners at schools who supply schoolchildren with drugs,” claimed the source.
The source said drug dealers made more money from regular clients, as they were hooked on serious drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
It was also discovered by this publication that drug dealers also operate from night clubs. Other hotspots are located in Western suburbs, where cheap drugs are mostly found.
“There are cheap drugs found in the ghetto such as broncleer and mbanje. These are very common among the youths and also the unemployed. They can mostly be found at drug dealers’ houses and points such as shopping areas, where vendors operate from. This is where cheap drugs such as broncleer, mbanje and some prescription medicines are found,” said the source.
It was claimed that some drug dealers were now selling prescription drugs such as diazepam. According to an online platform — Addiction Centre, diazepam is a benzodiazepine (ben-zoe-dye-AZE-eh-peens). It affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with anxiety. It is used to treat anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or muscle spasms.
An addiction to the drug can progress quickly if the drug is used in a way not directed by a doctor. Over time, it is harder for an abuser’s brain to function normally without the drug. People who become hooked to the drug may start behaving like they have mental problems. A local parent said doctors discovered that his 15-year-old son had abused the diazepam drug after he started to behave “like a mental patient”.
“I’m told about 15 boys from that school have been to hospital with such symptoms of mental illness after taking that drug which they mix with some cough mixture. Now my boy is no longer going to school because he says he is scared, and at times he gets out of bed at 2am to watch television claiming he is seeing some strange things,” he said.
Those who push drugs have also been blamed for the proliferation of Vuzu parties where youths are exposed to the dangerous substances. At these parties, youths high on alcohol and drugs end up engaging in risky activities such as unprotected sex, rape and even violence.