An exploration of the association between the whoonga/nyaope drug and criminality through the eyes of convicted drug offenders in three metropolitan cities of the Republic of South Africa.
Ngcobo, Siyanda Brightman.
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Illicit drug use has become a matter of worldwide concern. In South Africa, statistics have revealed that a third of the population admitted to using drugs during the year 2017, and about 20% of incarcerated prisoners admitted to having used an illicit drug. Drug addiction has a direct and major impact on the escalation of drug related criminal activities in the three major metropolitan cities of South Africa, namely Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Statistical data reflect a high correlation between drugs and criminal activities related to property and violent crimes. This has brought the spotlight upon these three metropolitan cities from various perspectives in a number of recent research studies. However, the current study focused on understanding how the Marxist class conflict theory and the rational choice theory underpin our understanding and appreciation of the relationship between the criminal intention of drug users and the rational thinking of these individuals. It was in this context that the study explored the concept of drug use and abuse with specific reference to the drug known as ‘whoonga’ or ‘nyaope’. Published reports and statistical data were perused in order to understand the link between drug usage and criminal activities. The literature highlighted the problematic issues in South Africa in relation to drug proliferation, drug addiction and criminality. The review included reports by the United Nations, drug and crime reports pertaining to African countries and, in particular, South African Police Service (SAPS) drug and crime reports in order to understand and evaluate the drug-crime scenario in this country. Primary data were collected and triangulated with the information obtained by means of the literature review. Using a scientific statistical instrument, the primary data that had been collected were thoroughly analysed to derive at trustworthy and viable results. The study took cognisance of the fact that the Constitutional Court of South Africa, which is the highest court of the land, made a landmark ruling in 2018 in which the private use and cultivation of dagga or cannabis were decriminalised and declared legal. However, this research revealed that the use of and trade in dagga is a gateway to the use and abuse of serious and damaging illicit drugs, particularly whoonga, which is highly addictive and easily accessible by the poor. The convicted offenders who participated in the study admitted that dagga was the cheapest drug available for the poor and was an omnipresent ingredient in different whoonga cocktails. The study found that heroin based drug users all suffer from substance dependency and that the withdrawal symptoms are extremely painful, to the point of intolerant pain. Often the need for money, the need for temporary escape from reality, and the fear of imminent withdrawal symptoms compel whoonga/nyaope drug addicts to do ‘absolutely anything’, regardless of the consequences, to get the next hit.