Pretoria – More than 200 youths, who are on drugs in the City of Tshwane, have surrendered themselves to be rehabilitated in various facilities in Gauteng.
The use of drugs has dimmed the light in many young people’s lives, leaving them hopeless to see whatever is left of their future. However on Wednesday, the Gauteng Provincial Government reignited the light when it led a substance abuse awareness campaign in Mabopane in the north of Tshwane.
It was at this event where drug users handed themselves over to the Provincial Department of Social Development, asking for help to quit drugs.
Gauteng Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza led a team of government officials in various activities on Wednesday, with the help of the community and private partnerships, including local drug action committees and Soul City TV series.
MEC Mayathula-Khoza said the provincial government was shocked when it learned about a new trend amongst drug users in the province called “Bluetooth”– a new and dangerous phenomenon where users share a high by exchanging blood.
“Many young black South Africans from Mabopane, Soshanguve, Winterveldt and Hammaskraal are using Bluetooth. This happens when a friend does not have money to buy nyaope. One friend will smoke Nyaope, draw his own blood using a syringe, and then inject his blood into the vein of the one who does not have money to buy, to share the high.
“That is the myth that we are here to dispel. Doctors say you cannot get high by injecting someone’s blood into your system. It is a very dangerous phenomenon. You cannot inject a different blood type into your body… If you share blood, there are possibilities of getting sick and dying,” said the MEC.
During the day, while different programmes were running, doctors were assessing the health condition of the drug users who will be going to rehab. Those who will be leaving for rehab today will stay at facilities in the province for six weeks.
The MEC said it is not an easy process, but she encouraged those who volunteered to go to rehab to persevere.
She said about R11 000 will be spent on each drug user for rehabilitation and other programmes.
“It is not going to be an easy process at all. They get withdrawal symptoms, which are very painful… When they finish rehab treatment, they are going to get into an aftercare programme where they will receive emotional counselling and psycho-social support. Most importantly, they will receive skills development training.”
They will acquire skills such as brick laying and plumbing. MEC Mayathula-Khoza said entrepreneurial skills will also be offered to those who complete the rehabilitation process to enable them to create jobs for themselves.
Never give up
Obakeng Mashike, 22, was amongst the first 100 youths who volunteered to go to rehab when Social Development officials visited Mabopane ahead of the MEC’s arrival.
He shared his story with SAnews. He looks dehydrated. His face is covered by countless scars and black spots. He is close to being worn out.
“I started smoking nyaope in 2007 back in high school. I was about 17 years. I joined because of peer pressure. I did not start smoking in isolation. We were together with my friends. We just did not know what we were getting ourselves into. I just want to stop.
“I was aware that it was nyaope but I did not know about the after effects or that I will be hooked. It has affected me badly. My relationship with my family is bad. It has destroyed my dreams and career goals. I dropped out of matric. I would love to go back though. I am actually planning to go back,” said Mashike, who grew up in Mabopane.
He said he is blessed to have a very supportive father who never gives up on him.
“He just wants me to be a better person and that encourages me to not give up on myself,” said Mashike.
Mashike’s 67-year-old father, Peter Mashike, said his son was already in the process of going to rehab when the provincial government visited his community.
He said it is hard to parent a child who is addicted to drugs because he is unable to do certain things like other parents. He always has to guard his son’s behaviour because he wants to help him.
“I have tried a lot of things. This will be the second time he goes to rehab. I have also asked social workers to step in. But I will always support him because he does tell me that he wants to quit,” said Peter.
During a community engagement with the MEC, residents pleaded with government to take a close look at police officials because they arrest drug addicts but leave drug dealers behind, and they also take bribes from the dealers. They said problems will never be solved if drug dealers roam their streets freely.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi also attended the community engagement session. He said the Gauteng Provincial Government is running a programme that seeks to empower 500 000 youth through Tshepo 500 000.
“We want each region in Gauteng to submit the names of 5 000 unemployed youth for this programme. We want to empower them with skills that will enable them to create jobs for themselves and their communities. This is not only for nyaope users, it is for all young people who are unemployed,” said MEC Lesufi.