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Pretoria - Drugs know no race, religion, gender or background - and some young South African women caught in the spiralling trap of drug abuse will do almost anything to get the next fix of their chosen drug.
This includes committing armed robbery, prostitution and lying to their parents.
In an interview with the Pretoria News, a group of young women in a rehabilitation camp organised by the Gauteng departments of community safety and social development shared their experiences.
Gillian Fredericks said she lied to her Muslim parents that she had found a job as a waitress in Joburg, yet she actually worked as a strip dancer at a strip club in Hillbrow where she made R2 000 to R3 000 a day to enable her to sustain her habit of taking crystal meth.
Sibongile Khumalo joined a male-dominated Katlehong gang of nyaope smokers as the only female member. By day she slept with men from the township for R40, just enough for the next fix of nyaope. At night she became part of a gang that robbed cigarette and bakery trucks in Katlehong and Midrand. She would be wearing a doek wrapped across most of her face and armed with a gun and Okapi knife.
Stacey Johnson said she left her job as a call centre consultant at Edcon to work for a popular Eldorado Park drug merchant. She would sell drugs, keep a record of sales, recruit girls as young as 14 to peddle drugs at schools while getting them hooked onto “lolly” (cocaine).
Kefilwe Masilo smoked dagga while pregnant, and in a desperate attempt to satisfy her demanding habit, grew dreadlocks and joined a Rastafari community to seduce “brethren” in the hope that they would buy her what she believed to be “holy”.
All four women said they started with cigarettes, then dagga and finally hard drugs – tik, cocaine and nyaope.
Of the four, three never made it past Grade 11, had a child each by their late teens and have never kept a steady job.
All four have been arrested for possession of drugs, robbery and assault.
The addicts said they were willing to kill for their drugs of choice, if not die.
Fredericks admitted to beating another teenager in Eldorado Park in 2011 with a baseball bat, putting her in an ICU unit. The victim had kept her waiting as she wanted to deliver a bag of dagga.
“Taking drugs is like being in a dark hole,” said the smart and very outspoken young woman, who was addicted to cocaine which she smoked daily out of a “lolly” pipe.
“I’d go home and abuse my mother because I was so frustrated with life. My entire family was afraid of me. But all I really wanted to tell them was that I’d been raped and expected them to love me.”
Sibongile Molefe stabbed a truck driver delivering cigarettes with an Okapi knife.
“I was afraid afterwards, but you must understand that when you are high you are out of your mind,” Molefe said.
As a nyaope addict, Molefe smoked 15 bags daily, which went for R40 each in Katlehong.
She said she became a thug, stealing cellphones from neighbours, money in the house and even dismantling her uncle’s shack one day to get money to buy the next bag to keep herself “stress-free”.
Molefe, still clearly angry, said she did not have a good relationship with her mother and she was to blame for her instability.
Her father died of TB a month after she saw him for the first time, when she was 20.
It was the robbery of a cigarette truck which had a tracker device that landed her in jail.
Molefe cried out to a social worker in Katlehong to help her, and went to a rehabilitation centre.
The young women have blamed the trauma of rape, fear of being judged or blamed after being raped, general lack of guidance from family, lack of love, broken homes, frustration and peer pressure as some of the reasons why they sought comfort from drugs.
Thapelo Moiloa, spokesman for the Department of Community Safety, said they do not have a figure of how many young women are into drugs because so many of them do not come out.
The Department of Community Safety intends to have rehabilitation camps every quarter, for young men and women, he said.
“Community Safety has linked up with the National Youth Service where former addicts speak and motivate school pupils as a way to heal themselves,” said Moiloa.
The department is working with Parliament and the Department of Social Development to classify nyaope, Moiloa said.
The Department of Community Safety has also started running a School Safety Programme where schoolchildren are being searched for drugs.
Maurithus Meiring from Drug-Free South Africa’s Pretoria office said awareness was a missing factor.
“We need to educate people before drug dealers do. If these young people knew what they were putting into their bodies, they most probably wouldn’t do it,” Meiring said, citing nyaope as a lethal concoction.