By Prince Bill M. Kaping’a Political/Social Analyst
The so-called Junkies have been hitting the news lately, well……. for all the wrong reasons. They’ve been wreaking havoc in the Capital Lusaka breaking into motor vehicles and getting away with valuable items, ransacking market stalls and helping themselves with merchandise, staging robberies and of course, ‘baptizing’ innocent victims with unprintable or literally beating up anyone who dares cross their paths.
But who are these junkies, anyway?
They are basically ‘graduates’ from our streets. In their early or late teens, they’ve previously eked a living on the streets doing odd jobs, asking for alms from would-be good Samaritans or indeed eating from dumpsites. However, the Junkies are now in their adolescence and can’t stand the shame of engaging in any of the aforementioned activities as they’ve done in the past. They’ve now retreated to the shanty compounds and organized themselves into gangs and go about brutalizing and terrorizing innocent members of the public whilst high on drugs or inebriated, hence the moniker – the Junkies!
The Copperbelt province, Kitwe in particular, is yet to witness an escalation of such a conundrum as the potential Junkies are being kept busy at the fast-diminishing Black mountain where they are busy scavenging for chrome which they can at least sale at a good profit! But alas, once the portion that has been allocated to the community is exhausted, we shudder at the thought of what these youngsters may resort to.
Following numerous complaints from members of the public, Minister of Homes Affairs Hon. Jack Mwimbu issued a directive to the police last week to immediately put their boots on the ground and flush out these misfits. And as sure as night follows the day, agile men and women in combat gear swiftly moved in and did the needful.
Although general members of the affected communities can finally breathe a sigh of relief…….at least for now, the problem is far from over. Unless we get to the root cause of the problem; we can fill up the entire Chimbokaila prison with all the ragamuffins but many more Junkies shall surely arise in the nearest future and come back to haunt us.
As earlier alluded to, the junkies are obviously ‘graduates’ from our streets – they are former street kids! If we are to nip the problem in the bud, we must adopt a fire brigade approach start providing practical solutions to street kids before they evolve into junkies otherwise it may be too late. Since most of these kids at least have a home where they come from, government should consider joining forces with NGOs, the church and corporate entities alike and establish Welfare centers in our communities where “children at risk” may not only go and pass their leisure time constructively, but equally access education or skills training and a warm meal as an incentive.
With the introduction of free education by the New Deal Administration, one would have expected all the kids to be in school, and yet we still see some of them loitering the streets. We mustn’t pretend and ignore the fact that there are several inherent factors that still force or attract certain kids to be on the streets. Whereas some may be running away from abuse, neglect or hunger at home, others are just plain stubborn kids who are not keen to be controlled. It would therefore be prudent for us to stop looking at street kids as a singular problem but tackle the issue on a case-by-case basis. Whereas those running away from abuse or starvation at home might just require alternative solutions such as safe homes or welfare centers as possible interventions, a bit of coercion might suffice for truant ones. These are the ones that deserve to be ‘locked’ away under the watchful eye of ZNS!
As we may be aware, Junkies are already proving to be a pain in the neck, their age notwithstanding. Imagine the scale of violence they may unleash on society in a few years’ time once they are old enough? We’d easily go back to those spine-chilling episodes of the early 1980s when the Copperbelt province was renowned for dreadful crimes.
Instead of just dumping them at penitentiaries as a possible deterrent and offloading them back into the community after a while, the Junkies ought to be ‘quarantined’ in far flung areas under the auspices of ZNS. Apart from the rigorous routine of counselling and rehabilitation, the Junkies should undergo mandatory training in agriculture and other practical skills such as carpentry, bricklaying, mechanics and welding. Once they are done with training, they can be engaged in productive activities such as crop production or animal husbandry and rewarded some sort of remuneration from the profit made.
Of course, we are not suggesting that the Junkies must be isolated from society until the return of Jesus! Those who have demonstrated exemplary conduct may be ‘excused’ from the programme in good time and assisted to set up their own ventures while the unrepentant ones may still remain yoked to the programme until they have completely reformed.
These are our humble thoughts; what’s your take on this?