‘This pain is worse than hunger’

2017-07-02 06:00
Jody Sehurutshe (23) spends R200 on the drug nyaope daily and only R10 on food. Photo: Leon Sadiki

Jody Sehurutshe (23) spends R200 on the drug nyaope daily and only R10 on food. Photo: Leon Sadiki

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Jody Sehurutshe (23) spends R200 on nyaope every day and only R10 on food. Eating is not his priority.

Getting his daily fix is what drives him to get up every morning to hustle on the tough, unforgiving streets of Johannesburg.

He exists in the midst of unrequested window washers, street vendors and the likes of “Noma yini, boss”, a well-known phrase used by nyaope smokers when asking for money on the corner of Empire and Yale roads.

Sehurutshe once dreamt of being an engineer. Now he is one of the 3 million homeless people between the ages of 18 and 35 on the streets of South Africa.

On a cold winter morning, he wakes up under a bridge in Parktown, a place he calls home. He has to make sure he’s out on the streets early to secure a good spot to catch motorists in morning traffic.

Sehurutshe has spent the past seven years begging on the streets of Johannesburg. After dropping out of school due to peer pressure, he says, he was led down the path to nyaope.

The drug, a concoction of different agents, often heroin mixed with rat poison and cleaning detergents, is easily accessible and affordable at
R25 a pack.

Mbangwa Xaba, the spokesperson for the Gauteng department of social development, said 22 886 young people were moved off the streets to rehab facilities by the department in the past financial year, but only 6 000 finished the full programme. Many went back to the streets.

“The pain of not getting my daily fix is more painful than a completely empty stomach,” says Sehurutshe.

Like many addicts, he has convinced himself that only rehabilitation can get him out of addiction, a luxury he thinks he cannot afford.

He is terrified to go back home to Soweto due to the backlash that people who smoke the drug get. Many are blamed for petty crimes in the area – even if they didn’t do it.

In the meantime, Sehurutshe will have to continue to beg on the streets to stay alive.

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