Recovering addicts tackle drug scourge

Sibongile Tsemana, 23, Velelwano Matshaya, 24 and Lungile Twetwa, 32, are working around the clock to fight drugs and alcohol addiction in their community.

Three former drug and alcohol addicts have turned over a new leaf and are providing a platform for young people to make wise and informed life choices.

These brave young people established the Silver Community Drug Fighters last year with one thing in mind: to tackle the use of drugs among young people.

The organisation offers programmes such as belly-dancing, poetry, music, comedy and sport and works with people aged five to 35 years old.

Sibongile Tsemana, 23, Velelwano Matshaya, 24, and Lungile Twetwa, 32, said their goal was to rescue their peers from making the same mistakes they had made, which robbed them of many opportunities to better their lives.

They told Vukani that they had found that many young people were using drugs and alcohol, which is why they launched their organisation.

He started using drugs due to peer pressure, and because he wanted to be “cool”, said Mr Tsemana, who had used tik, dagga and any other drug he could get his hands on.

But as he considered turning to crime so he could pay for his drugs, he realised that that was not the life he had imagined for himself.

So, he informed his parents that he wanted to stop using drugs, and has been clean for two years now.

And it was hard, he said.

He admitted that the consequence of his choices were not always clear beforehand and he now wished he had listened to the people who had pleaded with him to stop using drugs.

Along the way he had also dropped out of school, which his parents were very unhappy about, but there was little they could do.

“It was not easy to start this organisation. Residents did not believe that we had changed.

“Others kept on saying we are drug addicts. What do we want to do with their children. But I understood where they were coming from. One of the reasons that people don’t change their lives is because the communities we live in does not accept that one has changed,” he said.

Mr Twetwa said last year they attended a three-week course provided by the Soul City Institute on how to treat children and ways to tackle drug abuse in their communities.

He said after completing the course, they decided to start their organisation.

In the beginning, he said, they had no space to run their programmes and and so he converted his two-roomed shack into the organisation’s office.

Now they also visit schools preaching the dangers of drugs and are working with various churches as well as the police.

Veliswa Solani said she was pleased that these young people were doing something positive to uplift their community.

The 60-year-old said the community must learn not judge people and to give them second chances in life.