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Nyaope addiction: has SA been sitting on a pandemic all along?

Some people say their children are slaves to nyaope, and the addicts themselves agree that the situation is dire.

JOHANNESBURG - Ebony Park residents in Midrand described nyaope addiction amongst the youth in the community as a pandemic, adding that even primary school children were being lured.

Nyaope has ravaged many South African families and impoverished communities and in Ebony Park, youth unemployment is evidently rife. Young men struggling with addiction spend their days at the local parks and taxi ranks with little else to do.

Mthokozisi Mathibanais one of them. He told Eyewitness News last week that he stands around a busy intersection helping commuters catch taxis and makes about R200 a day to fund his drug use.

"We have no jobs and we need cash because some of us, we do smoke. And I won't go ask my mum for money for a smoke, I wont go ask my dad, because they didn't teach me to smoke."

But when they don’t make enough money for their next fix - as 20-year-old Pontso Moeti, who started using nyaope at age 15 - says they resort to crime.

"Those are the challenges that we encounter. When you smoke and you don't have money. we don't have a choice but to steal."

Most of the young men struggling with nyaope addiction in the community have told Eyewitness News they are open to going to rehabilitation centers but believe they will relapse due to high unemployment and lack of youth development opportunities in the area.

However, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has stressed that most of its programs are targeted at specific individual needs. Once a patient is discharged from a rehab facility they are enrolled in an aftercare programme in their community, which is aimed at preventing a relapse.

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, says The Conversation Africa. "A whopping 63% of its young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years are jobless. A large proportion of these young people have never worked in the formal economy," it states.

Affected parents in Ebony Park have resorted to launching an organisation called Operation Thiba Nyaope to help the community fight drug abuse. They say their youth are enslaved by drugs. Terance Dzeli is one of Operation Thiba Nyaope's founders.

"We saw a new trend in the community. Clothes were being stolen from the washing lines and household items such as irons, pots, TVs were going missing and we decided we need to do something to stop this."

Mishack Mdlalose is also a member of the organisation. He says police do little to nothing to assist with the drug problem in the community.

"We need to treat this as a pandemic just like gender-based violence but it seems like things that threaten the future of this country, we take them for granted. As parents we are losing our kids."

A woman told us that her 17-year-old daughter started using drugs when the country went into hard lockdown last year and online and rotational classes were introduced.

"When she is on the drugs, you can tell by the way she distances herself from us at home. She starts disappearing, she'll just leave in the evening and not come back until the next day."

The South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has called on communities in need to reach to out, saying it has 17 rehabilitation clinics across the country with programs to assist families and those struggling with addiction.

Originally appeared on


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