Pretoria - As cases of drug-related suicides rocket in Eersterust, the community has called on the government and law enforcement to urgently intervene to help save hopeless youths who are smoking their futures away.
Affected families and other community members want early intervention programmes to curb the prevalence of drug use in the Tshwane township.
The impassioned plea comes after another youngster in the area succumbed to a drug-related suicide, the third case this year.
Loreal Martins, the aunt of 32 year-old Elrico Ashwin May who passed away last week, said she was devastated by the death of her nephew, who had been battling drug abuse for some time.
Without disclosing how he took his life, Martins said that May was very quiet, loved people and a fun guy to be around, but he somehow got caught up in drugs, which led to him being depressed.
Martins said he had his days battling the addiction where sometimes he would fight with his family. However, she added the family did not expect him to commit suicide.
“He’s been in and out of rehab numerous times and even had a chip at one point, which he eventually took out after just three days. In the end, the drugs won.”
Martins said the community was in a desperate state as the drugs were destroying families and the relationships they had. “If you look around, you shouldn’t ask who is using drugs here, instead you have to ask who is not using drugs in Eersterust because that's how bad the situation is now.”
Martins said the community felt the police were simply not doing enough to curb the spread of drugs or to rid the area of known suppliers.
“We know nothing will bring him back but we just want Eersterus to be drug-free and for children to be able to play freely because if they can’t, we as parents can’t relax as right now every second person is on drugs.”
Desiree Fisher, from the Concerned Parents Association of Eersterust, which deals with the drug issue in the area, said in most cases the youngsters came to their doorstep for help when the situation was already chronic.
Fisher said while the group was able to refer the users to the various facilities available, they needed government assistance and in particular help from the Department of Health as drugs were a public health issue.
She said although the Department of Social Development was more active in this regard, the challenge was that it only stepped in when the issue became chronic.
“There is a need for a wellness centre where someone can get help and early intervention … The Department of Health needs to play a more active role so they can assist and absorb them in the beginning stages before it gets too late.
“We also need law enforcement to have a proper plan on how to deal with the drugs and their suppliers because it becomes difficult for someone to recover whilst the dealers are at their doorstep.”
Feziwe Ndwayana, spokesperson of the Gauteng Department of Social Development, said the department had no knowledge of accusations that they only responded to drug abuse when the situation turned “chronic”. She said that the department would investigate the matter and take it from there.