Patched on a stone and with eyes darting around to see if there is anyone watching him, notorious Norton drug lord Lawrence struggled to light a matchstick while his friend Hastings holds a florescent pipe to his mouth.
After a moment of sniffing, he puffs a cloud of smoke while gazing to the skies.
For a moment he holds still, his eyes unblinking.
His face suddenly lights up, but just for a moment, as he violently coughs while trying to exhale the toxic smoke.
Hastings also takes a puff from the burning liquid.
He recounts his journey to addiction, a journey which he says started when he lost both his parents and failed to pursue his education endeavors.
“l took to drugs as a source of comfort since my extended family treated me like a piece of trash and did not want to associate with me.
“I am an Advanced Level drop out and as much as l would like to be sober my future holds nothing l have no one to look up to
“It’s not my desire to be a drug addict but l had no choice. If l took drugs for a while l do not have stress in my life,” Hastings said.
He said he was forced to stay alone at a tender age and distributing drugs for drug peddlers like Lawrence became his only source of income.
Norton has a very large number of unemployed youths.
They spend most of their time trudging the dusts streets of Katanga and other residential areas in one of Harare’s dormitory towns.
Twenty-year-old Simbarashe readily agrees that he has found solace in illicit drugs
“Drugs may not be the permanent solution to my problems but for a while l have peace of mind as the burdens of this earth continue to come on my family.
“My father was retrenched when companies where given the go ahead to retrench workers on three months’ notice without compensation. My 20-year-old young brother also suffers from mental challenges.
“This is too much pressure for me and my family. I started smoking weed (marijuana) and drinking Bronclear in search of peace but still l haven’t found it.
|I ended up experimenting with crystal methamphetamine. Initially, I took it as an adventure but I did not know that I would end up getting addicted to this drug,” he said.
Simbarashe said the only escape while struggling with anxiety and depression was drugs with the illicit substance helping him forget his problems
As the consumption of drugs has risen up with an alarming number in Zimbabwe, the mental health problems among addicts is unbearable.
According to narcotic experts in Harare “six out of 10 patients admitted to mental institutions suffer drug-related issues. About 30 percent are hooked on drugs”.
An estimation of 10 young people die in a space of five to seven days with drug-related illnesses with crystal meth claiming many of the victims.
With the rising rate of unemployment in Zimbabwe, youths are trapped in a conundrum as they turn to drugs which have, however, caused deep-seated social problems.
Most urban centres, residential areas and locations, there is a base were young people buy their drugs.
The problems are not all related to young men only as young females also indulge in the drugs.
Nineteen-year-old Melody from Kuwadzana said young girls have been drawn to prostitution and drug abuse.
“I started drugs in 2020 with my friend as they were plenty since the country was in lockdown. It was an experimental urge with mbanje then we moved to smoking crystal meth.
“To get the drug, I barter trade food, clothes, or shoes because I do not have money,” she confessed.
Melody said sometimes she even offers sexual favours to men to get the drugs.
“I just do whatever is possible to get the drug. At home I always lie so that I can spend time at the base,” she said.
The search for drugs has also exposed young girls to sexual abuse.
The sexual abuse victims, who are also addicts, often fail to report .
Samantha Mukarati (24) also revealed that all drug bases are not safe.
The bases are run by abusive men who do not care about anything but money.
“At one point l failed to pay for the dombo which l was given on credit and they threatened to kill me while they demanded sex.
“Girls are being abused in these bases. They are sexually assaulted but most of them do not even report for fear of victimization,” she said.
A pinch of crystal meth in Sunridge costs US$5, an amount that is far from the reach of the unemployed youths.
The addicts also turn to petty crime to fund their insatiable appetite for the drug.
Some steal home appliances for resale.
“I started doing drugs soon after high school, when I joined the kombi business as a tout. I was introduced by a friend who was coming from Mbare. He told us that the drug would give us energy and then he became my supplier,” Reward said.
He said his friends can do anything for a “fix”.
“Sometimes they bring clothes, phones or anything to trade so that they get a fix. Others risk trading their parents’ property just to get a fix. Most of these drug addicts hustle for a living,” he said.
“Girls have also become his most regular customers while boys as young as 14 years have also joined the ruinous train of illicit drug abuse.”
Harare-based health expert and medical practitioner, Dr Benson Moyo said crystal meth is a highly addictive stimulant and users love the drug for its powerful euphoric qualities.
The drug is also known as mutoriro, makafela, guka on the streets.
Some people prefer crystal meth to other illicit drugs because the sense of euphoria it gives can last for up to 12 hours. This is a much longer duration than cocaine, a drug with similar effects
“The excessive use of crystal meth has led to several side effects that include decreased levels of attention, higher levels of activity, decreased appetite, reduced fatigue, a feeling of power and euphoria.
“Other effects include high blood pressure and dry mouth,” DrMoyo has said.
Youths who abuse crystal meth also suffer from hallucinations and paranoia known as “kutsomwa” in street lingo.
“If you take an overdose of the drug, you will end up with irregular sleeping habits as a result one will end up behaving like a crazy person. Crystal meth is a highly addictive, illegal stimulant drug that has a long-lasting euphoric effect,” he said.
According to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, 93 drug peddlers have been arrested while drugs worth $8.2 million have been recovered.
However, there are concerns that the overwhelming drug problem is far from over in Zimbabwe.
The drug peddlers also known as distros in most of the urban areas are often released on bail and left to resume their illegal operations.
The police have also been accused of working in cahoots with drug peddlers.
Details are also accused demanding payments in cash drugs from peddlers.
The arrests are largely seen as a smokescreen to hoodwink the public.
As the problem seemingly continues to grow the Criminal Investigation Department’s drugs and narcotics section in April launched the “No to Crystal Meth” operation following a public outcry over rampant drug use.
More than 200 drug peddlers were arrested but none were prosecuted.
Crystal meth is also known as ice or glass among the affluent users in Zimbabwe.
It resembles shiny “rocks” or fragments of glass of varying sizes.
Light bulbs are one of the most common accessories used in the consumption of the drug.
It can also be smoked in pipes, snorted, injected, swallowed, or ingested rectally.