Drug use is one of the major social issues in South Africa. The youth are among those most affected by the limitless flow of drugs. Many pupils drop out of school, become dependent on various narcotics and usually end up in the Correctional Services system. A big challenge in the fight against drugs is that as the police clamp down on drug dealers, drugs become more expensive to cover the high risk associated with distributing them. To counter this, addicts come up with new concoctions on which to get high. ‘Nyaope’, or ‘Wonga’ as it is otherwise known, is one such example.
‘Nyaope’ is a dangerous mixture of highly toxic chemicals such as rat poison and medication including anti-retroviral treatment that is vital in HIV/AIDS management. This drug is very addictive and according to the SABC, ‘nyaope’ will soon be classified as an illegal substance. ‘Nyaope’ as a drug of choice first became apparent in townships around Pretoria, Gauteng. Since then, there have been many violent incidents where perpetrators had used the drug prior to committing unspeakable crimes.
At present, there is no law against the use and distribution of ‘nyaope’. This is mainly because, even though it may contain heroin and marijuana, many of the other ingredients can be legally attained over the counter. Spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed that the process to amend the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act 140 of 1992 is under way. It intends to accommodate the arrest of individuals who possess and distribute ‘nyaope’. The Department of Health plays a huge role in measuring the extent of the harm done by the drug and making solution-orientated recommendations. When the process of amendment is completed, users can be imprisoned for as much as fifteen years and dealers could face sentences of up to twenty-five years in prison.
Other countries have also had to align their legislative processes with the reality of drugs that are new on the market, containing addictive mixtures of seemingly innocent ingredients and almost minute traces of known illegal substances. These countries include the United States and Australia. Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, is certain that this important step of criminalising ‘nyaope’ can only have a good impact in curbing the devastating effects of the drug.