As my regular readers will know, i’m deeply concerned and frustrated that Knysna Municipality is not prepared to tackles the dilemma of drugs head on. Mayor Georlene Wolmarans and Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman do not even talk about it publicly. It is eating up our beautiful town and spitting it out through crime. CRIME IS MASSIVELY on the increase. If any official report contradicts then it is a lie. This past weekend, my neighbours got robbed for the 7th time (i’ll write more about that and others soon).
This emergency demands attention. Being educated and understanding it is essential. To this end, i refer you to an article by Greg Nicolson which was published on the Daily Maverick this week. I highly recommend that you sign up for their free morning news which will get delivered to your Inbox.
The location of the heroin addict doesn’t matter. The topic applies to all South Africans, even more so to little towns such as Knysna where the youth have little future and employment is extremely high.
When it rains, work stops for these guys. They run from each corner of the intersection carrying their plastic bags of rubbish and cardboard requests to the roadside shelter where they sleep. “If you don’t work, you don’t smoke,” says Tshepo, 23, as he slips into a crumpled jacket. His day’s are the same: when the traffic lights turn red he walks through the line of cars, pausing at each with a bow and prayer, then walks back. “You’re just going to go and smoke glue,” says a lady in a black Corolla when the rain eases. “Ah! I’ve never smoked glue,” he responds and moves on. Most drivers ignore him, purse their lips or shrug.
At night the headlights of passing traffic illuminate the storefront where the men sit on blankets surrounded by their few belongings. Some have crumpled newspaper scraps of zol (marijuana) to roll in a Rizla with tobacco and heroin. Others put pieces of “rock” in a metal pipe, slightly larger than a cigarette butt, melt the small white pebble and then smoke it. The two men cocooned in their blankets occasionally grunt in their sleep. Two others speak gibberish in-between sniffs of glue from a milk carton.
“We’re slaves. We’re slaves to this. We’re slaves to the Nigerians,” says one man, referring to their dealers in Hillbrow. They have to smoke something. Always. Withdrawal feels as though your intestines are being squeezed. You can’t eat and you can’t sleep, they say. They all want a different life, but some are more serious than others. “This isn’t a life,” says Tshepo, whose voice is high-pitched as he tries to hold the smoke after inhaling. “I’m a man and I want to have a family and take care of my mother.”
Tshepo was raised in Soweto with his father, a “mafia”. His dad specialised in cash-in-transit heists and used the money to buy taxis, cars and fund his taste for women. When he was six years old he saw his father’s “friends” walk in the front door and shoot him. His dad lived, but now neither father or son wants anything to do with the other. When Tshepo was a teenager, he went to live with his mother in Alexandra and that’s when he tried drugs.
The life of an addict is woven into a life of crime. Tshepo started on zol at 14 and soon tried new drugs around friends. The sensation was intoxicating. “It made me feel good, strong,” he says. He thought he could get the most beautiful girls, the best things. He kept using and dropped out of school. He started carrying a gun and learnt to drive so he could help friends on hijackings. Some of them were killed in shootouts with the flying squad and Tshepo landed in “Sun City” prison for nine months with five years suspended for drug-related charges.
Scars mar his face, neck, chest and back from a stabbing in Hillbrow. In daylight he was jumped after buying drugs. The attacker tried to kill him. Tshepo was trying to get the knife when a car pulled over and the driver yelled for them to stop. The driver got out of his car and picked up a brick, enough of a distraction for Tshepo to run. His clothes were covered in blood and he sat down on the footpath and fell asleep. A security guard spotted him and called an ambulance. But he couldn’t stay in hospital – after the first day he was having withdrawals. He pretended to sleep and then escaped. He went and begged so he could get high.
He started acting like a “mafia” again when his dealers pressured him into selling cocaine. His clients were usually wealthy and from the suburbs and Tshepo would bring in big money. But when he asked to be paid, the dealers gave him a gun and told him to rob someone and bring the gun back. “That’s your pay.” To an addict, drugs are worth killing for and that’s what happened. He killed a man who refused to hand over his wallet. Recalling all he’s done, he wants to numb the pain with more drugs.
Read the rest of the article here.