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Whoonga, the highly addictive drug cocktail, was described by national police Commissioner General Bheki Cele recently as a “big national concern”.
He said the Hawks were investigating the prevalence of the drug. But whoonga has been around for a while - originally called “sugars” and thought to be confined to Chatsworth. It is now smoked across Durban - even in places like KwaMashu where residents in September called on police to close homes where the drug was being sold.
Experts say whoonga is just a new name for sugars.
“We discovered about a year ago that the sugars drug had its name changed. Whoonga is not a new drug; it is sugars being sold under a different name, a rebranding,” said Dr Anwar Jeewa, a drug expert and head of the Minds Alive drug rehabilitation centre.
“There has been a lot of confusion recently, with some saying that whoonga is anti-retroviral medication crushed and smoked in a dagga joint.”
“The media has made a fuss about the new drug on the streets, panicking people and worrying the government. But it’s not new,” the SAPS’s Colonel Jay Naicker said.
Idris*, a former drug dealer, confirmed this. “Whoonga is sugars. It’s the same thing, just a different name,” he said.
While a typical whoonga concoction includes brown heroin, rat poison and ammonia, some distributors are now said to be adding tik, or methamphetamine, to the mix.
“The drug dealers add all sorts of stuff to the heroin, the primary ingredient, just to increase the mass of the drug when it’s sold and make the heroin go further. A lot of the stuff has no effect and users have no idea what’s going in,” said a member of the police’s Organised Crime Unit.
Issa*, a whoonga user in rehabilitation, said he first encountered the drug while living in Cape Town three years ago and it was always referred to as whoonga. “Tanzanians in the Cape used to bring it into the country and sell it. It was heroin, rat poison and ammonia and we used to call it whoonga,” Issa said, adding that the mixture would sometimes include over-the-counter products such as baking soda and headache tablets.
Another ex-whoonga user said he first heard the name used in Chatsworth. “Sugars had become fashionable in Chatsworth and the more popular it became the harder the cops cracked down on the dealers. So people started calling it whoonga to confuse the cops,” said Rafick.*
“Whoonga is a Tanzanian word and is what sugars is mostly called in the townships. Guys used to come from Umlazi to buy sugars wholesale, but they used to call it whoonga.
“It’s so bad that when you are addicted you have to take it just to feel normal. You can’t function without it, can’t wake up in the morning. You can’t eat properly and you feel nauseous. My joints used to hurt and I would be in pain until I took it.”
Rafick said his addiction saw him turn to crime often just to support his habit. “I was stealing from my house and selling everything. I sold everything, even the pots... I would find myself staring at the neighbour’s house wondering what I could steal.
“The drug is a big problem – it’s everywhere now. It’s big in Chatsworth, but people are smoking it everywhere now.”
* Not their real names.
At last someone said that H word; this bullshit about ARVs and household detergents and rat poison was getting on my tits
Mr. Spice, wrote
why should Alcohol be banned from SA? Alcohol is meant to be a luxury and not something you can easily get addicted to. Yes it does cause accident etc but this must be blamed on the users, abusing alcohol. Drugs on the other hand are being manufactured illegally and sold widely in society. I come from Chatsworth and 10 years ago the hardest thing people did was smoke some weed. well the people i knew. Now there are people stealing food off the stove jsut to get a hit at R30. these cheap drugs are a real problem and the cops are all in the business. They make money from the dealers if not busted and business continues as normal. What we need is the public to take a stance and force these drug dealers and the users out of society. If we dont do this now, the remainding people of society will eventually fall into this death trap. I know of innocent kids and high school pupils on this drug and it is killing them and their families and they steal whatever they can...really really bad...
@Anonymous: It is unfair to blame this on ANC. The ANC does not manufacture drugs, does not seel or deal in drugs for that matter. Instead of pointing fingures let us rather come up with suggestions on how to assist the government, the SAPS in bringingig the suppliers of to book. The govt can never win the fight against drugs without our support.
Preciousjackson... It is not so much the fact that it is prevalent in the township... its more the fact that more and more people are abusing it and the fact that it becoming more readily available. Xolani, I think they have not said anything because they have realized that Huntley is a twat... Stupid ignoramus... WTF does he think Canada is any better... Wait he will get robbed at gun point and comes running back...
Yes, this drug is a problem especially in the townships but I'm surprised that the editors didn't want anyone to comment on Brendon Huntley's story.
Stephen , wrote
Brown heroin, rat poison, and ammonia - who would actually smoke that?
So now that its become a problem in a black township its a huge issue....
Alcohol is more prevalent and legal of course yet it is more dangerous than all the stuff that is smoked or inhaled. Why is Cle not targeting alcohol or even government for that matter. Almost all criminal violence is alcohol related and motor vehicle acidents and criminal activity as well. So why isn't alcohol banned or made a preion drug??
This can squarely and fairly blamed on the ANC for lax border controls and allowing millions of foreign nationals into the country. No wonder the locals want them out. The cheap, addictive drugs are destroying the fabric of society and are directly to blame for a large share of crime in SA.
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