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‘l grew up in ghetto where youths took drugs but this is worse’ — says MP Mhangwa; calls for tighter laws 

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent 


THE drugs and substance abuse phenomenon has reached pandemic levels in Zimbabwe and everyone, regardless of their station in life, must join the fight against the scourge, a legislator has said.

Chinhoyi Member of Parliament (MP), Leslie Everman Mhangwa said he grew up in a high-density suburb where drugs and substance use was prevalent, particularly among youths, but the level has now escalated at an alarming rate.

“I am an engineer and not most qualified to be speaking on drugs and substance abuse, but as a person who grew up in the ghetto and has seen the scourge escalate from one level to the other, l am bound to have my input,” said Mhangwa.

“As Parliament, we are currently debating a motion on drug abuse. It is my hope that by participating at this symposium l will enrich my debate…it is important that we legislate and make communities safer.”

The lawmaker was speaking during a multi-stakeholder anti-drugs and substance abuse symposium held last week in Chinhoyi and organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) Mashonaland West Chapter under the theme: ‘Together ln Fight To End A Pandemic.’

The MP challenged local authorities to provide recreational facilities in high density areas so that youths find hobbies that occupy them.

“I personally never did drugs because l never had the time to experiment. When l was growing up, l played chess and got so engrossed in it that l never found time for other things. If our youths have something to do, they might never have time to do drugs,” said Mhangwa.

Laws to punish drug traffickers and users should be tightened as well as enlarge the list of harmful substances to encompass novel innovations, he added.

Mhangwa hailed ZUJ for taking the initiative to bring together various stakeholders to discuss a topical national crisis.

“I want to applaud the Fourth Estate for taking the responsibility of convening such an important symposium. When you as journalists call us together, it imposes on us the obligations, moreso on us elected officials, not only to come to present but more importantly to come and listen.”

During the event, survivors of drugs and substance abuse who underwent rehabilitation at Norton-based Fight Against Substance Abuse and Addictions (FASAA) gave heartfelt testimonies of overcoming the deadly habit.

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Mashonaland West spokesperson, Inspector Ian Kohwera said his organisation is committed to fighting illicit drug-related challenges.

He said ZRP has made notable seizures and interdictions of illicit drug operations have resulted in the confiscation of drugs, arrests of traffickers, and disruption of drug networks.

Kohwera said the seriousness with which ZRP is taking the combat against anti-drugs and substance abuse could be seen by the decentralisation of the narcotics unit from national to provincial offices.

ZUJ Mashonaland West Chapter Chairman, James Muonwa, said after noticing that drug and substance abuse has become a huge challenge, ZUJ  through its interactive platform dubbed ‘Dialogue Series 2024’, decided to amplify voices calling for a stop to the scourge.
“Our aim is to bring diverse players in one room, to discuss a common challenge, showcase various interventions to mitigate or eradicate the problem of drugs and substance abuse.
“It would be folly for a single individual, a sector, or an organisation, to claim that they have the panacea to the mammoth drug problem confronting Zimbabwe at the moment,” Muonwa said.
Participants at the well-attended symposium were also drawn from the correctional services, National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC), National AIDS Council (NAC), Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), and representatives of the most affected demographic group, junior councillors and parliamentarians.