Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks


New approach needed to fight drug abuse



THE Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network of Zimbabwe (ZCLDN), which provided technical support to the Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan and Treatment and Rehabilitation Guidelines on Alcohol and Substance Use adopted by the government in 2021, has made fresh calls for the authorities to replace criminal charges against drug users with civil penalties and rehabilitation systems.


ZCLDN is advocating for initiatives such as drop-in centres, similar to a model that was introduced by Kenya to curb the menace.

In its proposed plan, the organisation says criminal laws against drug lords should remain in place but removed against users.

ZCLDN is a peer-led national initiative that advocates for evidence-based and humane drug policies and effective strategies to address challenges that are associated with drug and substance use in Zimbabwe.

Wilson Box, the ZCLDN projects director, told The NewsHawks that policies that criminalise people who use drugs have proven ineffective, with convictions on users with potential in life often affected after being slapped with a criminal record.

“Over the years, we have seen an increase in new psychoactive substances in Zimbabwe despite criminalisation. Criminalisation is ineffective, damaging and costly. Criminalising people who use drugs has resulted in disproportionate investments in law enforcement and criminal justice at the expense of health and harm reduction services and social support,” Box said.

“Decriminalisation may replace criminal penalties with civil penalties like what is happening in Kenya. These could include referral to an education or treatment programme, or a fine.”

“Because of the law that makes drug use a crime, users have gone underground where they are followed by traffickers. That has actually increased the prevalence of drugs in societies. The laws we are using, some were promulgated before independence. Things have changed and a new approach is needed.”

Box said their proposed plan would work in the same way regulations are applied on alcohol which is presumed a drug also.

“Alcohol production, distribution and consumption are subject to regulations in Zimbabwe. For example, there are quality controls placed on its production; businesses must be licenced to sell it; hours of sale are restricted and there are minimum age laws and secondary supply laws to restrict sale and supply of alcohol to young people. Despite these restrictions, alcohol causes significant harm to Zimbabweans. It’s important to recognise that legalisation does not solve all the problems associated with a drug’s use and people’s experience of potential adverse impacts of that drug,” said Box.

Negative health outcomes on people using drugs are massive hence the need for new approaches that end the menace.

People who inject drugs are 29 times more likely to get infected with HIV than stimulant users. Jail is hell for them.

In addition, people living with  HIV who inject drugs are more likely to contract hepatitis C virus (HCV) when incarcerated.

Those with drug use challenges are six times likely to develop tuberculosis in prison.

Recently, cabinet approved principles for enactment of the Zimbabwe Drug and Substance Agency Bill, paving way for the establishment of a new security service and specialised drug and substance abuse elimination agency.

The agency will be responsible for the enforcement of laws that deal with drug trafficking, including use and abuse of psychoactive substances as well as coordination with other support services.

Commonly used and abused substances in Zimbabwe include glue, cough syrup, mangemba, cane spirit, marijuana, codeine and methamphetamine (crystal meth) or mutoriro.

Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who chairs an inter-ministerial cabinet committee on drugs, this week updated cabinet on principles for the Zimbabwe Drug and Substance Agency Bill.

Zimbabwe is reeling from a rampant drug abuse problem which is ravaging the nation’s social fabric, while decimating a generation of youths caught in economic and unemployment problems, leading to the crisis.

In a post-cabinet media briefing, information minister Jenfan Muswere said: “The nation is advised that the prevalence of drug and substance abuse has become a global issue and Zimbabwe has not been spared.  Drug and substance abuse has become a threat to economic development, social harmony, health and wellbeing, public order and security.”

Cabinet approved an inter-ministerial committee report on drug and substance abuse presented by Muchinguri-Kashiri, giving momentum to the process to combat the drug menace.

“Government continues to intensify its response against drug and substance abuse across the country,” the minister said.

“Since January 2024, about 6 148 people were arrested, 677 were suppliers and 5 471 were end-users.  A total of 106 illegal drug and substance trading bases were identified, raided and destroyed in Harare, Shamva, Chinhoyi, Bindura, Bulawayo and Mutare.”

“Fifty-one liquor outlets were charged for operating without the correct licences while 268 operators were also arrested for violating licence conditions, 17 outlets had their licences cancelled for violating operating conditions. A total of 311 countrywide inspections on medicine outlets were conducted and 62 lines of medicines were confiscated.”

“Awareness campaigns on drug and substance abuse are being accelerated targeting adults, youths and children.”

The government says it is moving to ensure youths are involved in fighting drug problems.

“The Youth Service in Zimbabwe training programme will start in June 2024 at Dadaya and Vumba Training Centres.  In addition, as a key measure to reduce indulgence, ensuring financial inclusivity is being heightened and a total of US$20 000 has been loaned to youths across the country for income-generating projects through the Empower Bank,” Muswere said.

“Cabinet has approved the Zimbabwe Multi-Sectoral Drug and Substance Abuse Plan 2024-2030 that outlines a comprehensive strategic approach to address the escalating threat of drug and substance abuse to public health, economic growth, national security, and social stability in Zimbabwe.”

“The decentralisation of the Drug and Narcotics Department will be expedited. Cabinet also approved the review and updating of the fine structure of the organisation and directed that suppliers must be prosecuted through  the courts and not through spot fines.”

“Establishment of outpatient psycho-social support centres and parenting groups countrywide as well as the purchase of psychotropic medicines and food provisions for rehabilitation centres will be expedited.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *