“I am pleading with Msukaligwa local municipality, Social Development or any department to assist me by taking my 13-year-old son. He is in my care but he needs to be placed in rehab before he ends up dying from substance abuse or gets arrested,” said the anxious father, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the child.

The 13-year-old boy started using drugs when he was eight years old. By age 10 he dropped out of school. And since then, for the past three years, he has spent his days begging in order to buy drugs for himself and his grandmother.

“My son drinks a lot of alcohol and smokes dagga, nyaope and sniffs glue. All my efforts to help him stop these substance abuses have failed. I think it’s because he spends most of his time with his grandmother who is also a drug addict. Talking to my mother about my son’s addiction is really a waste because she is gaining a lot from my son’s addiction. Basically, my son supports her addiction,” the troubled father said.

Ran away

He has another two sons – a 12-year old who stays with him and a 14-year-old who is in a boys’ home in the City of Mbombela. The 13-year-old was supposed to also be taken into care but ran away from authorities.

“I am determined to see my son stop using drugs because I can no longer watch him killing himself and destroying his future. This constant living in fear and worry for my son’s safety is too much, even though my son always comes home at night,” the father said.

“I can see in his eyes that he has given up in life. But as a parent, I will never give up on him and that’s why I am pleading for assistance.”

The 13-year-old boy told Health-e News he has given up on life.

“I am constantly reminded of my late mother’s mistakes and that she didn’t want me. That’s why she forgot me in a shebeen toilet when I was a baby. I know I am hurting my father and younger brother but I really don’t know how to stop,” the boy said.

Pearl Ntuli from Department of Social Development said “Last year we tried to assist the family by removing the child from his home. But he ran away on the day of the pick-up. We will definitely try once again because his current situation is very bad and if nothing is done the boy will end up in jail.”

An edited version of this story was published by The Star newspaper print edition.