HOOKED: Homeless addicts near the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow, Joburg. Picture: Dumisani Dube
HOOKED: Homeless addicts near the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow, Joburg. Picture: Dumisani Dube
HOOKED: Homeless addicts near the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow, Joburg. Picture: Dumisani Dube
HOOKED: Homeless addicts near the Windybrow Theatre in Hillbrow, Joburg. Picture: Dumisani Dube
Wathint’abafazi, wathinti’imbokodo (you strike the women, you strike the rock).

These powerful words stem from the rallying call of South African women during the 1950s, when more than 20000 racially diverse women from across the country marched peacefully yet determinedly to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to register their displeasure at black women being compelled to carry the humiliating pass books in urban areas, while also expressing their anger at the apartheid regime.

The reference of women as rocks in the rallying call accentuates their importance as society’s pillars of strength, playing pivotal roles throughout history whenever there were evils that needed rooting out.

This time-honoured trend of women being bastions against evil is perfectly reflected by the women of the Methodist Church Orlando Circuit 0912 in Soweto, who told The Star that the drug and other substance abuse they saw in their community was destroying their children and grandchildren’s futures.

In light of this, the women have joined forces with the Anti-Substance Abuse Social Movement campaign, which was launched in December last year to wage war against substance abuse in Gauteng townships, especially among the youth.

The women are signatories of a petition that will be sent to the Justice and Correctional Services Department, asking it to “review the policy on drug suppression and jurisprudence to ensure that the possession of category 1 illicit drugs for the purpose of disposal carries far more severe penalties such as a life sentence and the seizure of property and assets. We also pledge support for the banning of alcohol advertising, as alcohol and cigarettes are the gateway drugs”.

For one of the women, Elizabeth Mahlangu, this fight against substance abuse is personal because she lives with her 36-year-old son, who has been abusing drugs and other substances since he was about 13.

Mahlangu said her son started stealing from their home and other people’s homes when he was still in high school, regardless of the fact that she sent him to prestigious schools around Joburg, hoping that a decent education would help set him on the right path - but to no avail.

“He has let up a bit from the stealing but there was a time when he used to steal a lot - not only from us here at home but also from other homes and people within our community. People would come to me many times to complain about his stealing, which is a very painful thing to deal with as a parent - especially as a mother.

“My son becomes a very violent person when he has used drugs - he becomes very dangerous. I believe the drugs have affected his mentality to the point where he can’t tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong.”

Mahlangu, however, did not know the type of drugs her son took. Rather, she said her role was to ensure that other women didn’t feel the same pain she had felt for more than 20 years, while comforting other mothers who were experiencing what she had gone through to let them know they were not alone.

“All mothers going through what I am experiencing need a strong support base. I wish all these people who produce and sell drugs could just stop now because our children are losing their future due to these drugs.

“I still love my son and will never give up hope of him becoming better again. This is why I’m strongly against drug abuse in my community, because I don’t want other mothers to suffer as much as I have suffered.”

Mapula Yende, another member of the Methodist Church, said their petition to the government and the wider substance abuse campaign would not be a lost cause as they were in this fight for the long haul. She said they were going to force the government into action because they were tired of the “sickening acts” that went together with substance abuse.

“Today we have these sickening acts of young men raping their grandmothers because of drugs. We also have our young women and girls being sold to a life of prostitution because of drugs.

“So we are very angry. We want our government to start putting South Africans first.

“If the police do not arrest these druglords, we will have no choice, as women leaders of the community, to take the law into our own hands.”