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Where have junkies come from?

IN THE recent past, groups of thugs called junkies have gained despicable notoriety in our communities. These are teenagers, adolescents, young adults and middle-aged adults, usually male, who are good at nothing but imbibing liquor and abusing narcotic drugs. They can do anything to scrounge for money to buy alcohol or narcotic drugs. Further, they will stop at nothing to feed their insatiable appetite for alcohol and narcotics, even if it means pick-pocketing or mugging people to get valued possessions such as phones, laptops or other electronics which they convert into cash on the black market. The Mirriam Webster dictionary defines a junkie as a person who sells or is addicted to narcotics. It further says a person who gets an unusual amount of pleasure from something, is dependent on something, or has an insatiable appetite for something, is a junkie. One could also be a television junkie, alcohol junkie or chocolate junkie. But in most countries, the word junkie has a negative connotation because it refers to someone who is addicted to narcotics, especially heroine. Well, I am not sure if all the so-called junkies in Zambia are dependent on narcotics or are actually drug pushers. What I know is that most of them are heavy drinkers who cannot let a day pass without binge-drinking. Junkies in the Zambian context are seen as useless people who cannot add any value to society. In short, they are a thorn in the flesh. To most Zambians, the word junkie is synonymous with the noun junk. This group of outlaws is feared by community members, especially girl children and women because of their criminal and violent nature. Of late, they have gained notoriety for abusing women sexually, including those old enough to be their mothers and grandmothers. Senior citizens as old as 70 and 80 have fallen victim to rape by the junkies. On Monday this week, police announced the arrest of 45 junkies in Lusaka aged between 17 and 50. The 45 are believed to be behind, among other things, the raping of women. Some attacks were committed as early as 18:00 hours. To rape women at about 18:00 hours, apparently, the junkies seem to be creating no-go zones in some parts of Lusaka. It also suggests that they are growing into vicious gangs which, if not stopped, could make the mugging of people and sexual abuse of women in our communities a new norm. Of course, the 45 who were nabbed on Saturday are believed to have been behind a spate of attacks on members of the public in Matero and surrounding compounds. “This followed several reports of attacks on members of the public by the ‘junkies’, with others being raped as early as 18:00 hours,” police deputy public relations officer Danny Mwale said in a statement. Mr Mwale said the junkies were rounded up in Katambalala, Chibolya, Petroda, Zingalume, Lilanda, Chipolilo, Kumalasha Muchinga grounds, Chunga and Shadreck areas. All suspects, who are in police custody, will appear in court soon. It is no wonder that Chibolya is on the list of areas where the junkies were fished out because the place is a well-known hideout for drug pushers which has proved hard to crack. However, it is now worrying that this kind of criminality is spreading to other townships of Lusaka. All of a sudden, many Lusaka residents are now complaining about the mischief of junkies in their communities. The word junkie is now a common noun associated with senseless drinking, drug abuse, threats of violence on people, or actual attacks on people in which they are robbed. Now the junkies are also believed to be perpetrating sexual violence against women and girl children. The young and old all have stories to tell about the mischief of junkies, in their townships, especially in high density areas. Some of the junkies have got homes where they come from while others are street children, who already face a problem of substance abuse. In the townships, the junkies, especially teenagers and adolescents, have a history of troubled family background, a rough childhood and, to some extent, parental negligence, which is a well-known trigger of juvenile delinquency. Information from the grapevine suggests that initiation into thuggery behaviour by some of our boy children start while they are in school. There are those that dodge class to go and drink beer or smoke ‘weed’.
In Lusaka, there is a place in Malata area which some schoolchildren frequent to abuse alcohol and narcotics. This is the place where pupils from Kabulonga Boys Secondary School fought with their colleagues from Twin Palm Secondary School, resulting in the death of 17-year-old Ryan Phiri in December 2020. The deceased, who was a pupil at Kabulonga Boys, was beaten and left for dead when the two rival camps clashed in Malata, where some of the naughty pupils engage in substance abuse.
From the look of things, there is need for collective resolve by the police and community to stop the criminal gangs known as junkies. Police need to do more and comb the hideout of junkies and smoke them out before they get out of control. Apparently, this is a growing movement of outlaws in the capital city which must be nipped in the bud before it is too late. It is a time bomb which must be stopped before it explodes. Of course, this will require collective effort between community members and law enforcers. The family must do its part in terms of parenting children and instilling values that will help them become responsible citizens. Parents and guardians must not be carried away by their work or business and neglect the responsibility of parenting. Parenting means looking after children, meeting their nutritional and educational needs, role-modelling and supporting them both morally and financially. The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) feels the emergence of the junkie culture is due to the breakdown of strong family values and, subsequently, parental negligence. In a statement last week, YWCA National Council president Patricia Mubanga expressed concern that parents are failing to undertake their biblical requirement of managing their homes well and making children obey them. “YWCA has noted with concern the breakdown in family values in the country. This has led to numerous cases of child abuse, disorientation of families, especially children that have ended up on the streets as junkies, street kids or abusing substances…,” Ms Mubanga said. Quoting Genesis 18:19, she said the Bible places the responsibility of ‘directing’ children on parents. She said the Bible further instructs the head of the home to manage his family well and see to it that his children obey him (1 Timothy 3:4). Ms Mubanga urged parents not to get too busy with earning bread at the expense of parenting their children. All this boils down to the need for teamwork by the police, families, the Church and community members to stop the growing junkie culture. Further, collaboration means that there must be whistle-blowers that will tip police about emerging criminal gangs in the communities. Other stakeholders, such as the Church and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), must use their spheres of influence to stop the emerging culture of juvenile delinquency. Some NGOs could target certain communities and find out why young people are taking to substance abuse at an early age. However, the buck stops with the police because they have the backing of the law to fight crime. Police should continue raiding the hideouts of hoodlums and bring them to justice. When whistle-blowers raise alarm, police must be seen to act promptly to protect the most vulnerable targets of gender-based violence – women and girl children, as well as the aged. Email: