Durban – A YOUNG girl who dreamed of becoming a nurse and helping the community has instead joined the sex trade to feed her drug habit.
Sibongile, 26, is one of many girls selling their bodies for a quick fix of nyaope/whoonga (heroin and cannabis mix), and lives in a “camp” of drug addicts in the township in Phoenix, north of Durban.
Glen Naidoo, of KZN VIP Protection Services, said there were several such camps in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Community Police Forum (CPF) sector 6 chairperson showed the Daily News one along a greenbelt between Everham Road and Lenham Drive. Littered with broken household items torn apart for recyclable products, addicts slept out in the open on a grass embankment where more than 40 mattresses and blankets were spread out.
Among a group of 18 men smoking whoonga alongside the boundary wall of homes, Sihle said they stole anything to sustain their habit.
Sihle and others interviewed were from neighbouring townships like Bhambayi, KwaMashu and Inanda. They had attended schools in Phoenix and were familiar with the terrain.
The men said it was safer to smoke in Phoenix than in their townships, where vigilantism was rife. Sihle said Phoenix was a better “hustle” because people always handed them money or gave them menial jobs.
“We live for the day. We can contract any disease here. My family does not care about me and I don’t bother about them,” he said.
The sex industry was thriving, said Sibongile, who operates from Fernham Drive. She left home because her stepfather did not want her around, then left school in Grade 8 and joined “bad company”.
Sibongile contracted TB from living along the riverbank. She tried to work casual jobs, but nobody would hire her because of her appearance from the effects of drugs. As a child she aspired to be a nurse. She did not like being a sex worker and would join a rehabilitation centre if she could.
In nearby Everham, a house was completely stripped of its interior fittings by addicts. Rahim, who identified himself as the owner, slept on the floor on a flimsy mattress. He got addicted to drugs after his mother died three years ago. A qualified shop-fitter, addiction ruined his life. He lives with several others in the house, which the CPF is trying to clear out.
Phoenix residents said it was a nightmare living on the camp’s border.
Rajesh Harikissoon said the addicts spat on his dog and made holes in his fence to steal from his home. “It is terrible and unhygienic to live alongside them. The authorities must close the pathway. The street lights aren’t working, contributing to the problem. It’s a nightmare,” he said.
Anand Naidoo said: “They climb over the fence and steal. We live in fear. We’re sick and tired of this. You will never see this happening in other parts of Durban. They beg us for water. If we don’t give them the water, they get violent. Our burglar gates are no deterrent. It’s a lawless land. The community is not standing together.”
Karrim* said the addicts were opportunists. “They take anything they can see in your yard. We empowered the community to act and be visible. Visibility is a deterrent. We conduct numerous raids with the police.”
Phoenix CPF chairperson Umesh Singh said most of the camps were across the road from drug dens.“The police are trying to clear as much as possible, but the addicts keep relocating to other places,” Singh said.
Naidoo said: “They’ve been kicked out of their homes because they steal everything to sell it and, as a result, their families don’t want them.”
Phoenix police declined to comment.
However, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who launched the National Drug Master Plan in June, said the plan was a blueprint for combating alcohol and substance abuse, which had reached epidemic proportions in South Africa.
The overarching goal of the plan is to prevent drug use before it starts, and early intervention to ensure users received treatment and rehabilitation services.
* Not his real name