Verdade (Maputo)

23 April 2014

Mozambique: Increased Drug Consumption in Inhambane, Passive Police Response

Former American President Richard Nixon said during his tenure and criticized "war on drugs" campaign that "If we cannot destroy the drug menace, then it will destroy us."

These words help shed light on the growing love affair that young Mozambicans in Inhambane City have with the consumption of drugs. More and more, young adults are giving into their addictions, or perhaps just the latest fad, by doing drugs in public spaces with no fear of the police. What's more, there is no police record of any serious criminal consequences as a result. Everything, or almost everything, is done in peace and tranquility.

While acknowledging that drug use does not always lead to criminality, as citizens we are fully aware that their influence can lead to that. We side with the sober side to society and scorn indefinite societal transgression.

Our best option to understanding the 'hash' web is by leveling with the consumers themselves.

I am fortunate to know and be well known by many in Inhambane, which may have facilitated my mission to meet my journalistic objectives. I wanted to measure the pulse of local scene and the first young people with whom I spoke told me openly that in Inhambane "people smoke too much". Some would say that the young people are already in line for "other things", which they themselves would consider immoral.

There is talk in the city of a drug called "swazi gold" originating from Swaziland. This product is dangerous because it is the result of the mixture of hash and diesel. "The hit you take is chaotic. The effect on your body is the same as a diesel-powered car; just look at the smoke exhaled". Some people we spoke to that have experienced "swazi gold", said they prefer not to smoke or smell the drug again.

The drug's withdrawal is not like crack cocaine, users tell us, in that it does not give the user the urge to smoke again. "The best way to kill the withdrawal is not smoking that poison again," one person says. Nobody knows how this drug was introduced in Inhambane City, but it is available even if not many people use it.

According to a recent university graduate who we will call Madala, the area's drug of choice is "cannabis sativa". "I've been smoking this for 15 years without interruption. This type is good. I think quickly when I'm high. In the classroom, especially when I was in my final years, my teachers were bothered because my intelligence exceeded theirs. Instead of me being behind them, they were behind me. And they never realized why I was always ahead."

Madala is unemployed with his pipe in-hand. He does not foresee a day in the near future when he will stop smoking. "Stop for what? I can't think without weed. There are drug users, and users of drugs! I went to college and was one of the best students in the course. I'm unemployed, but I do side jobs while waiting for permanent employment or for a scholarship to do my Master's degree. I mean, I'm building the country. How are you going to arrest a guy who has the background like mine just because you found him with negligible amounts of hash? I smoke to think clearly, not because I'm a criminal. I'm not into hard drugs and I'm never going to be. But my 'joint' is here to stay."

Chalambe loses its status

Chalambe is a paradigmatic neighborhood of Inhambane City. If you want to 'take a hit', go here. But Madala says this area is not anything special and has lost its status as a marijuana hub. "There was a time when you needed to go to Chalambe to purchase it, but today you don't have to. It's sold everywhere, in every corner of the city, and a lot of people smoke, including some really important people. Smart people. Weed that is consumed well will never denigrate your reputation. And here, I repeat, it is necessary to differentiate between pot and hard drugs. There are countries that have realized the dynamics of marijuana and, because they are advanced, they legalized it. We are very behind. The authorities should worry about the drugs that kill people and not with the grass that we smoke," says Madala.

Madala also says that smoking pot helps him pass the time. "That's why you see many young people smoking. They do it to kill idle time. I when I'm high I don't feel time passing. More than that, I feel intensely invested in an activity. If I don't have a book to read then I do housework. The weed encourages me to work, that's why I keep this habit."

Fishermen arrested

Still in Inhambane City, in an area called Guiúa, there are men abound who live off of fishing, coconut picking and production of fermented liquor called 'sura'. Recently police have arrested some people found with considerable amounts of hash. For Madala, these arrests are unfair. "That product is grown by the fishermen themselves for consumption. They use it as a stimulant for the job. Naturally they sell it to each other, because not all of them grow the drug. But it doesn't have any quality and it is not harmful. It is straw. Fishermen need to incentivize themselves by smoking it, but the law is the law. We are subjects to it," he rants.

School plagues

Regardless of whatever Madala says, he recognizes that there are rules that must be enforced in order to avoid disaster. "Youth in school, from the grade 10, already smoke pot. What's worse is that they smoke without knowing why. The worst is that they smoke and then go drinking with teachers. Even more so, they are in 10th grade and can barely write their own names. Then I get scared. What will these young people be tomorrow?

That's where I applaud the lectures and education that have been given in schools to discourage these boys from smoking and making them see the evils of the drug." While Madala agrees with this initiative he adds, "but the authorities must be pragmatic enough not to throw everyone into the same bag."

Hashish, Reefer, Ganja?

This copious drug has several names. "There is 'little horse', 'scorpion', 'zebra', and other names. But the most pungent is 'scorpion'. But, there are not many people who opt for this kind of drug. Many prefer the simple marijuana leaf. If there are those who go this route and then get into other heavy drugs, they are not from here." Madala remains relatively at ease because young girls haven't started smoking in large numbers. If they do exist, are very few, almost invisible. "They prefer beer to smoking. And there is a frightening slew of young women that can't go one day without a drink."

Drugs are drugs

Not everyone thinks the same way as Madala. Those who disagree with Madala's views believe the police should continue their fight against drug use. They believe that drugs are drugs. The user starts slowly and reaches a point where he or she can no longer go back. For these individuals there is no such thing as a 'soft' or 'hard' drug. "All drugs should be tackled.

We side with the police. Inhambane has a lot of drug consumption. We have young people who are collapsing. Others resort to theft in their own homes to sustain their addiction, and a person who steals from their own home isn't far off from stealing from another place as well," comments a local resident who does not share the same opinions as Madala.

There are small cases of phone theft, which could be associated with the consumption of drugs. In the city streets young people shamelessly ask for money. One person states, "They tell you a story that they need medicine or transport and need 10 meticais, which they immediately use to acquire more drugs."

This young respondent continues to say that, of recent, these aforementioned drug nicknames are circulating more and more in the city."This means that our city is changing for the worse. We think that the police and the drug enforcement office are on the right track from the educational palestras and deterrence methods that they have done, because this peace and tranquility that Inhambane boasts tomorrow may be called into question."

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