High unemployment and poverty in Gert Sibande are fuelling increasing rates of drug abuse, say community members who add that tik, nyaope, whoonga, dagga and glue are among the most commonly used drugs.
Now, drug users may be using boys as young as nine years old to scam community members for money to feed users’ addictions. These boys have been using old Tholulwazi Pre-primary School forms to ask community members for donations outside stores such as Game and Pick n Pay.
Vincent Nkosi* is 10-years-old and admits to be being part of the scam, for which he is paid R20 per day by an older boy.
“Some days are good and we make R200,” Nkosi says. “I don’t know why I am doing this because my mother work and provides everything me and my younger siblings need.”
If Nkosi refuses, he says the older boy threaten to report him to the police or kill him.
“I am fully aware it is a just empty threat – he just wants us to continue committing crimes to feed his addiction to drugs,” he adds. “When I ask if his using drugs at first he denied, but he ended up admitting that he sometimes uses dagga and glue.”
Tholulwazi principal Zebendzile Habile says the school is a registered non-profit and caters for children between the ages of two and six. She added that these much older boys were not learners at her school.
“These are boys not from our school,” she tells OurHealth. “To clarify about the forms, we only used them in July and August of this year.”
“Some of the parents didn’t return the forms and I am sure (these boys) are using those extra forms,” she adds. “I believe this matter should be handled by the police and social workers.”
The group of young boys has also visited a block of flats owned by John Zwane. He says he was furious and threatened to call the police if he ever saw the boys on his property again.
The group has also been blamed for petty theft.
“A month ago one of these boys stole my hand bag with important documents in it,” says Zelandra Jacobs. “They may look young and sweet, but don’t let their innocence fool you.”
“People may feel sorry for them with these boys’ sad stories but … my advice to people is to be aware and careful with these criminals because they are using drugs.”
Ermelo police say it’s difficult for them to investigate the crimes when the boys do not want to name drug dealers. They added that parents also needed to play a role in addressing the issue among their children.
*Name has been changed