The on-going drug raids by the Botswana Police Service, led by Nunu Lesetedi, have had the nation talking. While many applaud Lesetedi and his team, including the now out of sight but popular Golden Retriever sniffer dog known as Boots, there are critics.
Those who believe the target is the “small man”, the dealers in marijuana.
They argue that the real culprits are peddlers up there in the lofty suburbs of Phakalane and the Extensions, who deal in expensive and more dangerous types - cocaine and the many others mainly peddled and used by the rich and famous.
They could be right. But then in my book drugs are drugs. It matters not what Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela believe and many other proponents of matekwane say; that it is a herb that is of no danger to the user. The arguments, advanced mainly by the Rastafarian community and of late, the non-conventional medical community, are that marijuana use can be medicinal or for religious purposes. Here, the argument is that, the world has accepted this, as many countries in the West, and even our neighbours Zimbabwe, are opening to the herb used for medicinal purposes. Yes, maybe so, and we should move with the times. But here, as can be picked in Lesetedi’s raids, in our communities, marijuana use has really nothing to do with religion (Rastafarianism) or medicinal purposes. Believe you me, as someone who lives with chronic pain, I would be the first in line to take the herb if I knew it will heal not open other areas of damage and dependence.
I say this fully aware that what I take, conventional prescribed drugs, are as addictive and damaging to the body. But then, I am yet to be convinced that anything you burn, smoke and throws you into the high, is good for you.
A recent conversation amongst colleagues had me thinking.
The gentleman, my friend from school days, was advocating for marijuana drug use, using the old tired argument that the Whiteman came and demonised the good of the Blackman; the recreational use of the herb, and introduced “damaging” medicines. The woman, a little older, looked him in the eye and said “my brother, your intellectual arguments mean nothing to me and my family. Matekwane a re kgokgontsha mo lwapeng la me”. This is her story. Her son, in the early 30s, is a marijuana addict. A violent one who smokes many times a day, and when without, goes into a rage, throwing things about, and even threatening the family with violence. Many times he has been admitted at Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital in Lobatse with mental health conditions. With a degree, he cannot hold a job, and the only thing permanent in his life, is unemployment.
Now, I agree that marijuana, compared to other drugs, is not worse off. What I know though is that drugs destroy and kill. I
Like many, my late brother Phile, started with the “harmless” marijuana. Then, working and hanging in the entertainment industry here and in South Africa, he soon got caught in the hard-core drug scene. Hanging with the likes of the late Brenda Fassie, who because of drug use, had a life of financial ups and downs, Phile was at his worst doing crack, and even using needles to inject the drugs straight into the blood stream. His condition got so bad that he would disappear for weeks on end into the dangerous valleys of Hillbrow and Yeoville in Johannesburg, and I would risk my life searching for him and then take him to rehab. Of course, he would sweet talk his way out in no time, and back on the streets. He finally, at the age of 24, passed away. Then he looked anything of the handsome Phile who in his teens was nicknamed Jesus because of his handsomeness and lovely carefree nature. Drugs destroyed all that, his future, and possible fortunes along.
I tell these stories not to expose my family but to share the realities of this unforgiving life. For unless young people know the truth, and are not hoodwinked into believing that there are soft and hard drugs, we would not win the battle against this monster.
When news of drug use by the country’s rising pop star, A.T.I. hit the headlines recently, I was not shocked. The entertainment industry, locally and internationally, is prone to drug use, and heartless peddlers find the artists an easy target. The dog-eat-dog world of entertainment is a pressure cooker that unless one has strong character, would easily fall and be entrapped.
Most don’t start with the hard-core drugs. Most times it starts with a group of teenagers, behind the school toilets, sharing a cigarette, then a marijuana joint… and boom! It’s cocaine, crack and whatever else is fashionable in the party scene at that moment.
The party scene, the clubs and just about anywhere young people, even high-flying adults meet, drugs circulate.
My call is for us to rally around those fighting to clean our communities of prohibited drugs, regardless of what type. Lesetedi and BPS need all of us to rally behind them, to clean our streets of drug peddlers, of whatever profile, and whatever community.