This topic was unthinkable and unimaginable for Zimbabwe a decade ago. Now, it seems the train is headed that way.
- Drugs can only lead to crime.
- Crime and drug wars invite guns.
Have you ever wondered how city districts and places ravaged with drugs got to where they are? Nyaope areas in Johannesburg, tik areas in Cape Flats, Cape Town, districts in Mexico City, Atlanta, and Chicago.
These are areas with local economies that are actually somewhat functional compared to Harare and Bulawayo. How did they end up with such drug problems? The truth is, not a single city is born with drug problems. These problems develop over time, slowly and eventually suddenly.
The masses of unemployed ghetto youths lingering around in Harare are a ticking time bomb. That right there is a fertile ground for incubating a drug problem. Zimbabwean traditional media houses have not paid enough attention to the growing usage of drugs. Social media has noticed.
To be clear, the definition of drugs in this instance does not include marijuana. I am referring to hard drugs. The type of drugs being consumed in Harare has migrated from codeine and over-the-counter cough syrup (bronco) to crystal meth (mutoriro) hard hallucinogenic prescription drugs.
The report below from the Guardian detailed how the ghetto youths are going about creating local methamphetamine. Every dealer interviewed said the business is booming.
'We forget our troubles': crystal meth use rises during lockdown in Zimbabwe
inside a tiny room in Kuwadzana, a township in Harare, Solomon Sigauke* and his friends talk animatedly about football…
The problem is growing very fast, whilst the government, as usual, pays a blind eye. The question is; will it continue to grow at a fast pace? There is no prize for guessing the correct answer; yes, the problem will continue to grow, as long as youth unemployment remains above 90%.
If the increasing trend is set to continue, where are we headed? We are headed were other cities that economically ostracized their youths have headed.
Drugs lead to an increase in crime.
The causation is direct.
- Drugs are addictive.
- An addiction has to be fed at any cost.
- Drugs are not free goods; they need to be paid for.
- The drug addicts are unemployed.
- To feed their addiction they have to rob and steal.
Once this chain starts, it is hard to break. Once a ghetto youth becomes addicted to meth or cocaine, it becomes very difficult to shake off the addiction. This is a scientific fact, not my opinion. Any ghetto youth that takes the drug route is highly likely lost forever unless the government spends big on rehab programs.
The point that drugs are not a free good is an economic fact, not my opinion. The Guardian article cited very high USD prices for “mutoriro”. Somebody has to pay that price, meaning somebody has to find that money.
The ghetto youths are unemployed. Youth unemployment is above 90%. This is a statistical fact, not my opinion. The government and its statistical bureau will obviously deny that percentage but it's evident. Before drugs, the youths are unemployed. After drugs, they are unemployable. It's a point of no return (statistically very little return). Even if the economy were to generate a million jobs in 2025, the druggies at that time will highly likely not opt to work. Once they become druggies, it's too late. The damage is already done.
The point that drug addicts rob and steal just to feed their addiction is a social reality, a proven fact, not my insinuation. Some of the most violent crimes are done by people under the influence of drugs or suffering from not having access to a drug their body needs.
Robberies, petty theft, car hijackings, burglaries, will be on the rise as drug addicts look for money to feed the beast. No one will be safe. Homes will be raided. People will be attacked in the street. We currently think police departments are overstaffed. When the crime stats start to heat up, they will appear grossly understaffed. Housebreaking every other night in your local area, and a robbery every night or two in your street, and the police can't do anything about it.
Zimbabwe is a largely peaceful country with very little violent crime. Drugs will change that; they will transform the usually non-violent thief into a violent criminal.
This is where we are headed, converting Jah Jah City into a Bloody city. It's the path that our leaders have chosen for us. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Ticking time bomb.
Crime and drug wars invite guns
The Guardian article cited very high USD prices for “mutoriro”. The dealers, the lab owners, and the importers are obviously making a killing. Business is good and margins are high. With drugs, once a customer, always a customer, so demand never goes to zero unless something seismic happens. As new recruits join in, demand increases. In the case of Zimbabwe, it's increasing exponentially. This creates a huge market that needs to be serviced. The drug trade will create several multi-millionaires.
This market opportunity means a lot of value has to be captured and this creates a problem of its own. Competition for the market brings guns. This phenomenon has played out in many instances across the world. Zimbabwe is no exception. There is nothing special or sacred about the country. It is occupied by human beings whose behavior is very similar to other human beings when confronted with certain situations.
There are myths and fantasies regarding Zimbabwe’s security apparatus. One of them posits that Zimbabwe has the best Central Intelligence Officers (CIOs) to prevent guns from coming in. It is nothing but a big fat ugly lie. Zimbabwe’s CIO’s are not any better than Mexico’s or the FBI or that of any other country where drugs have led to guns. The fact that drugs are already proliferating right under their noses means they are not in control of the situation. Dealing with drug lords and drug addicts is totally different from dealing with rational, law-abiding citizens such as political activists and striking doctors.
The bigger the drug market gets, the bigger the problems. Eventually, the fights get to a level where dealers start marking-out territories. Turf wars begin. Street dealers start killing other dealers. The police will embark on anti-drug operations and drug dealers respond by fighting back for their bread.
Drugs also bring another problem, corruption. The police are not immune to corruption. A drug lord could probably afford to put an entire police station on his payroll, given the low remunerations of our police officers and the booming drug business.
Traveling further down that road, the problem could become bigger, with drug dealers capturing the state. This level is very far down the line and Zimbabwe is decades away from reaching that milestone. However, we are traveling in that direction.
Along the way, a capable reformist government that is not easily corrupted could deploy the army to handle the drug problem if it continues to grow like cancer, to an extent where the police are either useless or overpowered. Alternatively, instead of deploying the army, the police could become militarized. Either way, we will effectively have military and paramilitary officers in the streets.
It's a redemption point, but the redemption token can only be used by a government determined to weed out drugs and a government that cannot be easily corrupted by drug money. Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico have tried the military route with some level of success, but not enough to weed out the problem.
Hard to Envision
These things (guns and crime) are hard to envision because they have never happened before. It is an inherent human weakness to try to analyze scenarios that could play out but have never played out. Even experienced risk analysts occasionally fail to assess such events and scenarios. “How dare you see only gloom and doom, Johnny?”. Just because things have never happened does not mean they will never happen.
There is nothing alarmist about where we are headed vis-a-visa ghetto youths. In a way, the high youth unemployment rate and the fastly rising drug usage should be alarming, but we are desensitized to these stats.