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Rotting in drug menace sinking hole



ZIMBABWE’S young generation runs the risk of being decimated by drug abuse, amid revelations that private rehabilitation centres are charging exorbitant fees ranging from US$500 and US$1 700 per month, The NewsHawks has learnt.


The fight on drugs is in a shambles, with a recent policy document by governance institute Accountability Lab Zimbabwe (AL Zimbabwe) showing that the country has only 17 psychiatrists, six clinical psychologists, 13 clinical social workers and 10 clinical occupational therapists.

While rehabilitation centres could ordinarily play a key role in reducing the impact of the drug scourge, their monthly charges are beyond the reach of many, amid a crippling socio-eco[1]nomic crisis.

For example, according to the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the food basket for a family of six increased by 22.66% from ZW$2 958 460.70 (US$477) to ZW$3 628 944.20 (US$586) in January 2024, with some basic commodities now being charged exclusively in United States dollars.

According to the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz), an average rural teacher has been getting approximately ZW$800 000 (US$129) and a taxable United Stated dollar component of US$250.

This week in Parliament, Goromonzi West MP Biatah Nyamupinga-Karimatsenga implored the government to ramp up social support while curbing corruption, amid a spike in private rehabilitation centres.

“I do acknowledge the current efforts by government, including work by the National Technical Committee on Drugs and Substance Abuse. Their efforts are commendable with very limited budget provisions,” Nyamupinga-Karimatsenga said.

“However, given the degree of prevalence of abuse, the current processes in place are inadequate with current efforts on identification and rehabilitation, that is mainly at Sally Mugabe, which is the former Harare Hospital, and Parirenyatwa.” 

“Those are the two institutions that we have and they are greatly congested and inadequate. There is need for government to increase institutions where victims of drug and substance abuse can be admitted, treated and rehabilitated.” 

 Nyamupinga-Karimatsenga added: “There are lots of private institutions, but they are very ex[1]pensive and they range from US$500 to US$1 700 a month and are not affordable to many.  These will remain elite institutions whilst the majority will continue to be afflicted by the problem.”

 She said while there have been commendable efforts by anti-corruption agents to tackle illicit drug dealings, corruption has been worsening the burden of abuse, with peddlers not being arrested.

“How do you get a bribe for something that is destroying a bread winner? If you have destroyed a bread winner, it means you have destroyed the family that he was sending to school,” she said.

 “You have destroyed the families that person is looking after and you go bragging that you have received a bribe. It is heartless, Mr Speaker Sir.”

“Surely, there is a need for this Parliament to actually advocate for the Social Welfare minis[1]try to get more funding to have rehabilitation centres in every province, maybe every district, if not every ward.”

According to a cabinet briefing in December last year, a total of 1 559 people, comprising 112 suppliers and 1 447 end-users, were arrested, while a total of nine hotspots were identified, with nine drug dens destroyed in Harare and Beitbridge.

ZW$352 528 150 worth of drugs were confiscated, while a total of 30 drug suppliers were convicted, bringing the cumulative convictions since January 2023 to 809.

 While the government says it will transform former Covid-19 holding centres into rehabilitation asylums, campaigners say there is a need for it to partner independent organisations to avoid disaster complications that arise from rehabilitation centres, including the abuse of human rights.

Anti-illicit drug activist Savannah Madamombe recently told the NewsHawks that while it is important to promote rehabilitation, it would also be easy to promote violation of rights if improperly done.

“There is a documentary I watched where an African country, heavily Muslim, where they would take young drug addicts by force and put them in these places (rehabilitation centres), but it almost became like a concentration camp, where they would force them to drink from some coffin and beat them up,” Madamombe said.

 “That is not what I hope will happen. We hope there is going to be a place where there is peace and understanding. This is going to play a key role in overseeing and teaching people because this is going to play a key role in helping people we are seeking to help, because there are mental health issues and violating their rights is very easy.”

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