THE Midlands town of Redcliff has seen an upsurge in drug abuse, mostly among school children, following the closure of the government-owned Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) more than a decade ago.
The company, at its height the second biggest integrated steel company in Africa and employing more than 4,000, was the economic backbone of this once thriving town as well as nearby Kwekwe.
However, it was forced to stop production in 2008-9, weighed down by under-capitalisation, corruption and mismanagement.
Since then, life has become unbearable for most families, with many hardly able to afford a single meal per day prompting an upsurge in violence and drug abuse.
In a recent interview, Redcliff MP Lloyd Mukapiko, said the issue of drug and substance abuse has become a huge headache for which solutions must be expeditiously sought.
So serious is the challenge that at least three local high school students have since committed suicide in suspected cases of drug and substance abuse.
“The situation here in Redcliff is very pathetic,” he said.
“Since the closure of ZiscoSteel life has been unbearably tough for the general population. The iron producer was not only the mainstay of the economy but was also the source of livelihood.”
He said depression and rampant drug abuse were now the order of the day.
“Most people here are living in depression. It is sad that families are going to bed without knowing where they are going to get their next meal,” he said.
“While some learners are dropping out of school because their families can no longer afford to send them to school.
“In the process, the future of these children has been destroyed as some females are turning to prostitution while males are turning to gold panning.”
He continued; “In our community the issue of drugs and substance abuse has become a pandemic; and it is destroying young lives. Something needs to be done.
“School going children have not been spared from this scourge. So far we have lost at least three high school students to drugs who were learning at Batanai (Zisco) High School.”
Director of Eizer Drug Rehabilitation, an institution which deals with issues of drug and substance abuse in Midlands, Philip Ndaba said the issue of drug and substance abuse is a serious challenge not only in Midlands but the country as a whole.
He said, in the province, at least 60% of the population was hooked on drugs.
“At least 60% of the population in the Midlands is hooked on drugs. The numbers increased during the Covid-19-induced lock down as some people lost their jobs,” he said.
“Depression, boredom and experimentation are amongst some of the reasons which led to a spike in drugs.
“This challenge of drugs and substance abuse has been a nightmare for the country, for the communities and even the families where we are coming from.”
Ndaba said law enforcement is generally poor when it comes to drug and substance abuse as some police officers are known drug peddlers in the communities.
“Rehabilitation strategies have been failing because they have been trying to use one method to cover all areas yet in all those areas issues of drug and substance abuse are varied,” he added.
“In our psychiatric units the secondary cases which are being reported are not new cases but old cases where people are relapsing.”
“The law enforcement has been there to control the issues of drugs and substance abuse but we have noted that is where the challenge is emanating from. Some officers are peddling drugs. In the hot-spots.
“Most people in the community do abuse drugs but there is no referral system. We need community treatment models with a referral system and rehabilitation centres. In Gweru there is only one drug rehabilitation centre, Queen of Peace,” Ndaba said. – NewZimbabwe