“I am in pain and my heart is bleeding. I no longer have peace of mind,” Neliah Madziya (38) cries uncontrollably as she narrates her ordeal.
Sitting on a patched floor in her dining room in Seke, Chitungwiza, about 20 kilometres from Harare, Madziya gazes into the rugged roof in melancholy. She is worried about her daughter Tandi (18) who eloped with a drug dealer.
Tandi got involved with a drug dealer after writing her Ordinary Level examinations last year. Stuck at home with nothing to do, Tandi turned to smoking cannabis and other illicit drugs with her boyfriend Markie.
Her life has never been the same.
Raised in a religious home, where her father is an elder in an apostolic sect, World Gospel Church, Tandi was never exposed to drugs and smoking marijuana.
Endemic drug abuse in Zimbabwe continues to affect people from different social and religious backgrounds.
An introvert, Tandi had never shown signs of rebellion as she grew under strict biblical teachings.
“I never thought my daughter would ever go against what we have taught her from a tender age. I raised her well. After all the teachings, she decided to elope,” Madziya tells The NewsHawks as she sobs quietly.
But Tandi’s relationship with Markie has changed the once sweet and well-mannered girl.
From a friendship that blossomed into a love relationship, Tandi and Markie’s bond appears to have been fortified through substance abuse.
Her neighbours have also expressed shock over Tandi’s decision to elope.
Family friend, Shylin Godhi (61) said Tandi had been driven into a lifestyle of drugs due to peer pressure.
“I would see Tandi on different occasions with Markie, drinking and smoking weed together. I noticed that they would spend most of their time together and he was definitely the wrong person for her,” Godhi said.
“Our children are being destroyed by these drugs and something must be done.”
Upon hearing that Tandi had eloped, her family demanded that she come back to get tested for pregnancy and HIV.
Her enraged father has been demanding to see Markie, while Tandi’s sister Tatenda is also worried about her sibling’s addiction to drugs.
Tandi told The NewsHawks she was living her best life and would never return home.
“I do not want anyone bothering about my whereabouts. I am currently living my best life and no one should look for me,” she said in a telephone interview.
Zimbabwe’s growing drug problem has ravaged the country’s townships, with girls eloping to stay with drug lords.
The NewsHawks has interviewed several girls who have been abused in drug dens, popularly known as mabhesi. In the drug houses, girls are forced to perform vile sexual acts and orgies in the full glare of druggies.
In places like Kuwadzana high-density, girls as young as 14 are eloping to stay with drug peddlers.
Markie cannot pay lobola/roora for his new bride and only has US$15 for Tandi’s family. With that US$15, all Markie is thinking about is to get another fix.
Drugs have been a catalyst for social ills, particularly early pregnancy, child marriage and the girl child has borne the brunt of the country’s growing drug problem.
During the long break from school due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most school-going children were exposed to drugs and other dangerous substances.
Peer pressure has also been a major driver of teenage pregnancies and eloping. Drugs have been blamed for stimulating sexual hormones, leading to premature sex.
“Peer pressure has led most of us to drug abuse, doing nothing at home, having and interacting with most of the boys and girls who are always doing drugs most of their time leaves you with no choice, but to indulge in it to because to them one who does not do drugs with them is called a sellout. A child, ‘mwana’, is what they call one when mocking us in their circles and no one likes to be called one,” one woman said.
“Drug abuse problem is now rampant and parents are now helpless,” one of the girls said.
Tatenda completed school two years ago and now has started her own business of selling clothes.
Tandi, the younger sister, wrote her Form Four examinations last year and did not come out with flying colours and was apparently doing nothing at home except helping her mother with house chores.
Endemic drug abuse in the country’s townships has caused social upheaval, with families struggling to cope with the growing number of youths hooked on crystal meth and other illicit substances.
Crystal meth is sweeping across the country and has been described as a silent epidemic, threatening to destroy a generation, amid calls for urgent action to rescue suffering families.
Following a series of stories on drug abuse, the government has set up a ministerial taskforce to tackle endemic substance abuse, amid calls for public rehabilitation.