Teenagers and young adults in the area are increasingly becoming hooked on the deadly drug, which is highly addictive mix of heroin and dagga. But while the problem is growing, there is no rehabilitation clinic in the area.
“If you leave home you will come back to an empty house,” said one woman, who described waking up one morning to a flooded yard because addicts had stolen her copper pipes to sell for scrap metal. “Now we use plastic taps outside,” she said.
Resident Lindiwe Mthethwa said she recently returned from her sister’s funeral in Soweto to find that her house had been turned upside down.
Moeketsi Seya, 24 years old and a nyaope addict for almost three years, was found shot dead in veld in Orange Farm township in February.
According to his grandmother Pauline Seya, Moeketsi’s path into nyaope hell began when he was abducted by an illegal initiation school in June 2013.
“I spent a whole month looking for him. Some man visited me and told me the boy was at the initiation school and I needed to pay R1000 for him to come out,” she said.
Seya says she paid the ransom and her grandson came back, but behaved differently.
“He started coming home late with eyes very watery and red. He even stopped going to school,” she said.
She said that Orange Farm residents complained that he had been stealing and mugging people in the street. At first she thought people were just speaking badly about him without real cause, but then she noticed that some of her own belongings were going missing.
“He would sometimes demand my pension money and if I refused he would make comments that he was going to burn down the house,” said Seya, adding that her grandson had gone so far as to threaten her with a knife.
“Nyaope took over my household. On the streets I was called Gogo Nyaope, because I was trying to protect him.”
Moeketsi would be arrested but released after a few days and return home. Seya lived in fear of him and it was only when her daughter and husband moved in with her that she started to feel safe again.
And then one day in February the police knocked on her door. She knew it had to do with Moeketsi. When they broke the news to her that her grandson had been shot dead she was not surprised. Seya was heartbroken that her grandson had died – and so violently – but was also relieved that at last he had been freed from his addiction.
According to Bolokang Molefe, the communication and advocacy officer at the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance (Sanca) in Soweto, said peer pressure and unemployment has contributed to the rise of nyaope addicts in Orange Farm.
According to Orange Farm police station spokesman Captain Johannes Motswiri, the case is still under investigation but no arrest has been made.
An edited version of this story was also published in Saturday Star