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Drug users given valuable information

The police were discouraged from assaulting and arresting people with spikes in their possession who struggle with addiction.

The Breakthrough Centre and partner Tintswalo NGO engaged people with drug addiction to educate them about their human rights at the soccer ground between the Thinasonke informal settlement (TIS) and Buyafuthi Hostel, Thokoza, on March 14.

According to Lusanda Mpondombili from the Breakthrough Centre, the organisation received many complaints from drug users, most of whom were arrested unlawfully for possessing spikes (needles) they use to inject drugs into their veins.

They visited the hotspot at the ground behind TIS, where the drug users hang out and reside, to engage people with substance use disorder and educate them about basic human rights.

The Gauteng Department of Health, the police, patrollers and crime wardens were invited to participate as stakeholders.

Mpondombili said they invited law enforcement because they are responsible for inflicting the abuse. She explained that when the SAPS find drug users with spikes, they assault and arrest them.

Nkosana Phakathe (40).

“We invited the police to talk to them and ask them to refrain from taking their spikes. We Inform them that Tintswalo provides active users with spikes, although we do not encourage them to smoke or use drugs. However, as long they still use drugs, we want them to do it the right way,” Mpondombili said.

She said at the same time, they want to lessen the chances of HIV infection because, when seven of them share the same spikes, the chances of getting blood-transmitted diseases are high.

Blood-transmitted diseases include malaria, syphilis, brucellosis, Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV.
Kathorus MAIL spoke to some of the attendees struggling with drug addiction.

Nkosana Phakathe (40) said he started using cocaine in 2006 and moved to heroin in 2012.

He said the event made him feel like normal because users are not usually treated with dignity, especially by the police.

“Our rights are violated. I was arrested and detained at the Katlehong South SAPS for three days for having a spike. I was released at 16:00 on the third day. Today, I learnt that we are all equal before the law, and no one has the right to infringe on our rights,” said Phakathe.

“Remember, we are not the same as drug users. Some steal from their communities, but I am trying my best to abstain from crime by focusing on recycling. I do not understand why we are arrested for spikes.”

Thabang Koadi (37) started smoking drugs after losing his mother in 2008.

Mpondombili said when they hand out spikes, they encourage drug users to quit, but while they are still doing drugs, they should practice safety measures.

She said those who are ready to quit are referred to Tintswalo, which gives them methadone, but it has to be done in the right way because most of them leave their homes to live in hotspots.

She further noted that the reason they left their home could be because they wronged their families.

“The first step is to take them back home accompanied by social workers, who would determine if the family is willing to welcome the child back. If they are not welcome, we try to find out what happened from the parents or guardian or whoever lived with the child,” said Mpondombili.

“We build the relationship with the parents or whoever can stay with the child because we cannot give them methadone on their own as there has to be a person who can monitor how they react to it,” she concluded.

The media liaison officer of the Katlehong South SAPS, Sivenkosi Mtwa, said the police cannot stop other stakeholders who work with the police to eradicate crime. However, on the other hand, they cannot stand and watch while crimes are committed.

“Drugs are illegal in SA, and anyone found with them will be arrested and prosecuted. This includes drug dealers or suppliers,” said Mtwa.

However, he said that if the Gauteng Department of Health and other NGOs are helping drug users by issuing them with material that will prevent other diseases such as HIV and AIDS, they support that 100%.

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