Rejoyce Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter
THREE suspected drug dealers, one of them an ex-police officer, were yesterday arrested in Bulawayo following a raid at their homes in Entumbane suburb.
Police recovered marijuana, alcohol, weight gain tablets and cough syrups among other illicit substances. They also found pipes, which are used to inhale drugs, skin-lightening creams and plastic sachets, which are used to package drugs.
Elton Ndlovu (37), a former police officer, Asprila Maphosa (23), and Lydia Ndlovu-Mthimkhulu (27) are allegedly linked to an organised drug syndicate targeting youths.
The trio’s arrest is in response to the recent case in which 17 youths from Entumbane suburb were rushed to Ingutsheni Central Hospital after overdosing on crystal methamphetamine (meth).
The rate at which youths are abusing drugs has grown considerably with residents attributing that to the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown. About 250 drug addicts are attended to at Ingutsheni Central Hospital monthly, with the number of youths abusing drugs continuing to rise in Bulawayo.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube told journalists yesterday that the suspects were arrested following a crackdown on criminals in Entumbane.
“Our officers acted on a tip-off and raided the two houses in Entumbane and recovered a consignment of illicit drugs after conducting a search and arrested the three suspects. As police, we continue to conduct our investigations as we suspect that these people are operating as a syndicate involving several others,” he said.
Insp Ncube said the trio is expected to appear in court soon on charges of dealing in dangerous drugs.
“We arrested Lydia Ndlovu also known as Lydia Mthimkhulu last year during which she was only using Ndlovu as her surname. She was convicted of similar charges and got a suspended sentence of six months,” he said.
“This time around Lydia changed her surname to Mthimkhulu probably as a way of trying to avoid court bringing up the suspended sentence from her previous conviction.”
Insp Ncube said Lydia’s mother, Jane Ndlovu popularly known as MaHadebe is an alleged drug peddler who is operating behind the scenes.
He urged parents and guardians to immediately report cases of drug abuse and also desist from dealing with their children involved in substance abuse.
“As police, we have noted that most of these youths that abuse drugs were either raised in child-headed families or live with grandparents. We are, therefore, going to conduct a community awareness campaign against drug and substance abuse at Honours Academy and Entumbane High School,” said Insp Ncube.
Zimbabwe is experiencing an upsurge in drug abuse cases and most of those abusing the drugs are young people.
Last year, the Ministry of Health and Child Care launched a five-year strategic plan (2021-2025) against substance abuse to curb its prevalence which has become alarming.
Substances that are commonly abused are alcohol (both licensed and unlicensed brews) tobacco, cannabis and non-medical use of controlled medicines such as codeine-containing cough medicines and benzodiazepines.
According to statistics from Active Youth Zimbabwe which is a drug treatment and rehabilitation organisation, Bulawayo province has an average age of substance use initiation that is between 13 and 14 years old.
The illegal practice has been worsened by the fact that there are no rehabilitation centres locally and addicts are likely to relapse even after treatment at Ingutsheni.
This comes at a time when Zimbabwe is working towards a drug-free society through a drug master plan which will help the country achieve Vision 2030.
The master plan aims at dealing with drug and substance abuse in society. President Mnangagwa recently launched the National Anti-Drug and Substance Abuse Campaign. –@ReeSibanda