BY MOSES MATENGA
THE majority of Zimbabwean youths have resorted to drug abuse due to stress emanating from unemployment and lack of opportunities across the country, Parliament has heard.
Zimbabwe is undergoing an economic crisis that has seen millions of youths idle even after completing tertiary education as unemployment rate has soared to over 90%.
The issue dominated debate in both the National Assembly and Senate on Tuesday, with Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) saying Zimbabwe was killing a whole generation by not addressing the economic crisis.
“There is excessive drug abuse across the country. It would be good for us to understand the measures government is taking to curb that while there is unemployment and many other reasons that it has gotten to a level where it has become a way of life,” he said.
Mliswa said his constituency, about 40km west of Harare, was one of the hardest hit by drug abuse.
“My constituency itself is a hotspot,” Mliswa said. “Out of three youths you come across, each of them is intoxicated and I am wondering what we should do. I am hoping that it must be declared a national disaster,” he added.
“It has to be declared a national disaster so that government comes up with measures of ensuring that there are rehabilitation centres and hospitals to start taking care of them to see how best they can get out of this situation.”
Mliswa said the country was on the verge of losing a generation due to drug abuse.
“I see a situation whereby if government does not move up the ladder with what is going on, we have no nation to talk about, no generation to talk about and it is costly,” he said.
“It is expensive and when they are intoxicated, they can do anything. They are stealing and you cannot report your child for stealing. So crime rate increases and abuse as well with other parties and so forth.”
Cases when people kill each other for amounts of money as low as US$1 have also been on a rise, with people blaming economic hardships for the violent behaviour.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Tsitsi Gezi said drug abuse had become a pandemic and called on the responsible minister to issue a statement on the matter.
“Sure, the issue of drug abuse has become a pandemic. I think we can ask the responsible minister to come to this House with a ministerial statement so that MPs can have chances to interrogate the minister on how government is intending to deal with this issue of drug abuse,” she said.
In Senate, MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora also attributed the menace to unemployment that has led idle youths to finding solace in partaking in drugs.
“As a result of unemployment, there is a lot of drug abuse by our young people in the locations. They are drinking or smoking mutoriro and other substances. As a result, we have a preponderance of mental illnesses that we did not know about,” he said.
Opposition youths have accused the Zanu PF government of failing to address the economic challenges forcing youths to engage in drug abuse.
But Zanu PF acting secretary for youth affairs Tendai Chirau said the issue of drug abuse was not unique to Zimbabwe, as even developed countries were faced with the same challenge.
“The issue of drugs cannot solely be linked to unemployment. Even the so-called developed countries have a drug problem. It has everything to do with mentality,” he said.
“As much as we try to improve employment opportunities for young people, if we don’t deal with the mental condition of that youth, we will not be able to win this issue.
“The issue is to make sure that the drug lords face the full wrath of the law and this is being done by the police.”
Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network executive director Wilson Box yesterday told NewsDay that the issue of drug abuse was a clear indication that the country was losing a generation. He said statistics were not looking good.
“We have lost a generation to drugs,” Box said. “Sixty percent of mental health admissions are due to substance abuse and of those, 80% of them are between 16 and 35 years of age.”
According to findings by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency this year, the number of unemployed people in Zimbabwe, mainly the youths, has reached the 3,3 million mark.