Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Question of junkies; waiting for disaster to occur before we act!

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Prominent Lusaka lawyer Dickson Jere who’s best remembered for conducting himself in a dignified manner and executing his duties with utmost professionalism as President Rupiah Banda Press Aide posted something interesting on his Facebook page the other day which deserves our serious attention.

Recounting the menace so-called junkies definitely pose to society; he explains that slightly after midnight, a colleague of his driving on Twin-palm road in Ibex Hill, an upmarket neighborhood, suddenly found a blockade. Dozens of boys waved him down while two lay on the road as if they were hit by a vehicle. As he slowed down while approaching the scene, he instinctively realized it was a trap. He accelerated the vehicle towards them and they scampered in different directions although they ended up smashing his windows with stones! He further narrates that someone posted in his neighborhood WhatsApp group that their young nephew was abducted, tortured and had his phone confiscated by a band of junkies in broad daylight a day earlier! This comes barely a month after a taxi driver was brutally murdered by junkies in Kalikiliki compound after they blocked his vehicle during the night.

“The scale in which this scourge is growing requires concerted efforts from all security agencies beyond just the police. The community must get involved and try and assist the police and in particular to provide lasting solutions. These kids – a number of them – grew up on the streets and know no family or love. That is why they can kill with impunity. We need a solution that involves Integrating them into society – maybe Zambia National Service (ZNS) should assist. It was tried before when a couple of them were taken out of the streets to ZNS camps,” submits Jere.

What do we make of this?

In our previous contributions, we’ve always insisted that if the conundrum of street kids isn’t tackled with a fire brigade approach, it’s just a matter of time before they ‘graduate’ from the streets and begin mobilising themselves into violent gangs to come and haunt us. And true to this, we are now vindicated.

These outlaws who have infamously come to be known as ‘junkies’ have for a long time been wreaking havoc and terror in the slam areas – places such Chibolya, Chipulukusu, Kandabwe to be specific……oceans away from the exclusive leafy surbubs of Sunningdale, Northrise or Riverside! They usually move in groups sniffing glue, imbibing ifinyelele or smoking Chamba; if it so happens that fate brings you in closet proximity with them, you’ve to start whispering prayers immediately beseeching the Almighty God to forgive you of all your sins and let His will be done!

If Lady Luck happens smile on you that particular day, you will probably just get away with a few slaps on your face and stripped of earthly possessions such as smartphones, tablets, laptops or wallets! If you however try to behave like Rambo or indeed play Jackie Chan on them; rest assured you’ll have your dental formula rearranged, limbs broken, eyes probably gorged-out and ears sliced!

But lo and behold, this problem has now migrated ku Mayadi as revealed by Jere. In this country, we seem to have a challenge of waiting for a crisis to escalate to alarming proportions or indeed spread to Mayadi and make the elites uncomfortable before jumping on our roller skates in hot pursuit of solutions! Somebody has suggested that government must consider calling for a National Indaba in order to address this problem. There’s no need to head in that direction! In 2022 or there about, a symposium on street kids was organised by government; what probably remains to be done is just the implementation.

As we wait for that to happen though perhaps government might try to apply the following 3 Point Plan as a possible panacea for this vexing problem that successive governments have struggled to address but to no avail:

1. When junkies are picked up by the police, they are just charged for idling and let off the hook. They obviously have little trouble going back to their old ways. You can’t allow the industry of junkies to flourish to unmanageable levels while you watch. Government must enact some laws that shall compel anyone identified as a junky to be ‘detained’ under the auspices of Zambia National Service (ZNS) to undergo rehabilitation as they spend time growing maize while undergoing vocational skills of their choice.

2. We keep on applying the same solutions such as randomly rounding up the street kids and whisking them away to ZNS over and over again and yet this problem keeps spiralling out of control. May the President consider appointing a commission on street kids or even introducing a desk for street kids at State House which shall be mandated to thoroughly investigate the magnitude of this problem within a specified timeframe and make the necessary recommendations to government.

3. Currently, jenkem is not proscribed as an illegal substance in our statutes which simply means someone can produce, procure or use it without any ramifications. Parliament must consider enacting some laws that shall classify ‘glue’ in the same category as marijuana. Once this is in place, folks will obviously think twice before producing, selling or even consuming it.

You are at liberty to add to the list what you think may be the best solution to this problem. Salute!

Prince Bill M. Kaping’a
Political/Social Analyst

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