Paidamoyo Chipunza and Freeman Razemba
Abuse of prescription drugs and pills continues to be on the increase among youths in Harare, amid revelations that cross border traders are smuggling the substances into the country.
Investigations by The Herald showed that cross-border traders are smuggling illicit drugs using haulage trucks and unscrupulous bus operators, mainly through Beitbridge Border Post.
It also emerged that the drugs are offloaded at premises and services stations along Simon Mazorodze Road, where the drivers are then paid. From there, the consignments are taken to well-known and established bases for resale in single units, mainly to youths.
Some of the bases are at Copacabana, in the central business district, Mabvuku, Kambuzuma, Mbare, Glen View, Mufakose, Warren Park and other high density suburbs. The consignment largely comprise of mental health tablets commonly known as the blue tablet or cough syrups such as BronCleer, also referred to as “Bronco’’ in street lingo.
Blue tablets are used to manage mental health patients, while BronCleer is a cough mixture manufactured in South Africa.
According to the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, BronCleer is not licensed for sale in Zimbabwe, even with a prescription. A 100ml bottle of Bron Cleer costs $7.
According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, 45 percent of all mental cases are triggered by drug and alcohol abuse.
Mental health manager in the ministry Ms Eneti Siyame said statistics show that 57 percent of all admissions in psychiatric institutions are due to drug and alcohol abuse.
She said the country did not have facilities for rehabilitation of drug addicts, resulting in many of them being rehabilitated in psychiatric institutions.
“Drug abuse generally does not need admission,” said Ms Siyame.
“Only 9 percent of drug abusers need admission. The majority of drug abusers can be taken care of at day care centres, which should be located in communities.”
Ms Siyame said in mitigating drug abuse and its effects, Government was involved in prevention campaigns. She said the awareness activities were normally carried out in schools during commemoration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and through different media.
Ms Siyame said the main challenge to addressing abuse of drugs in Zimbabwe was easy access to the same drugs after being rehabilitated.
The Herald caught up with a parent of a drug addict from Warren Park who expressed concern over the country’s leniency with drug dealers.
“I have been trying to help my son quit drugs for a long time now, but nothing seems to materialise,” she said.
“One moment he is rehabilitated and the other he is back on drugs, simply because the drugs are readily available.
“In Warren Park, there is a popular place known as kwaBK and whoever he or she is, that person has been rumoured to be pushing drugs for as long as I remember.”
Emerging issues in public health involve resistance of diseases to traditionally known medications, known as anti-microbial resistance.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), anti-microbial resistance is caused by abuse of medication, among other reasons.
Police recently expressed concern over the increase in the number of teenagers committing heinous crimes attributed to alcohol and drug abuse.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba recently warned the public from buying unregistered pharmaceutical products.
“Police are warning members of the public to desist from buying unregistered pharmaceutical products, which have serious side effects of unknown proportions,” she said.
In August 2015, police recovered over 420 000 tablets countrywide, fake ARVs, lotions, cigarettes, soaps, bottles of Histalix and BronCleer cough syrups, among other illicit drugs in a regional operation code named: Giaboia 11.
About 90 percent of the recovered contraband was from Harare and Mashonaland West provinces.
The operation focused mainly on pharmaceutical crimes, which involved the manufacture, trade and distribution of fake, stolen or illicit products.
In July 2015, 300 boxes of BronCleer were found concealed in the consignment of a South African registered truck that was intercepted by police in Harare.
During the same month, a truck driver was arrested at Murefu Service Station along Simon Mazorodze Road in Harare after being found in possession of 181 by 50 boxes of BronCleer valued at $21 720.
In May 2014, two South Africa-based truck drivers were fined R15 000 (about $1 252) each for smuggling “Bronco” and an assortment of flea market wares.
In March 2014, police arrested a Harare woman for allegedly selling BronCleer to drug abusers in Warren Park.
In December last year, police arrested three suspected drug dealers in Southerton, Harare and seized BronCleer with an estimated street value of $20 000.