The Dark Side of Drug Abuse in Zimbabwe: A Wake-Up Call for Artists



The seemingly complex and often misunderstood world of art has seen a number of talented individuals who have battled with substance abuse for a plethora of reasons. And Zimbabwe is not spared from global malaise. 

Saint Floew Ollah 7 interview battles drug addiction among Zimbabwe artists
Image - Screen grab from Dj Ollah 7's interview with Saint Floew for Star FM

While it is true that some iconic songs have come from inspiration and creativity fueled by substance consumption and abuse, it is important to understand the devastating consequences of drug abuse. 

In recent news, the inimitable Zim Hip Hop lyricist Saint Floew (real name Tawanda Mambo), a promising artist in his own right, bravely admittein a candid interview with Dj Ollah 7 to his struggle with substance abuse. And various reports in print and social media tell us he has taken the bold initiative towards recovery by entering a rehabilitation program outside the country. 

This write-up aims to shed light on the dangers of drug use among artists of all shades and hue; as well as outlining specific rehabilitation centers available in Zimbabwe—and, in the process, discuss solutions to combat drug abuse within the creative community. 

This is not only applicable for Zimbabwean creatives; we strive not to be confined by physical geographical borders in sharing a few thoughts on this substance abuse crisis. 

The Negative Effects of Drug Abuse

While the link between drugs and creativity has been romanticized—because this is in essence a truism, though overstated—the overall impact of substance abuse on artists is predominantly detrimental. Especially in the long run when no genuine and meaningful intervention steps are taken. 

Drugs can lead to debilitating physical and mental health complications; hinder artistic development; strain inter-personal relationships; and even result in premature deaths. 

It is supremely important to note that these enervating dangers significantly outweigh any perceived benefits.

Zimbabwean Artists Battling Drug Abuse

With specific regard to the Zimbabwean arts and cultural spaces, several artists have openly struggled with drug addiction. Their stories highlight the urgent need for support and rehabilitation services. Below are just a few examples for context:

1. Sam Mtukudzi – Son of the late music iconoclast Oliver Mtukudzi, Sam battled with substance abuse and sadly lost his life in a tragic car accident in 2010.

2. Plaxedes Wenyika – A renowned musician who confronted her drug addiction, Plaxedes triumphed over her struggles and now advocates for drug rehabilitation and a life free from addiction.

3. Soul Jah Love – A popular and legendary Zimdancehall artist, Soul Jah Love publicly wrestled with drug abuse for several years. He spoke about these troubling issues in both in his music and in various interviews; in many instances expressing his genuine contrition over this. Despite his efforts to seek rehabilitation, and improve his fortunes and credibility, Soul Jah Love (declared a provincial hero) tragically passed away in February 2021.

4. Tererai Mugwadi – An amazingly gifted musician, Tererai openly admitted to facing struggles with substance in addiction, and in 2019 she announced that she was now intent on living a clean life free from the dangerous effects of substances. 

5. Dobba Don – Arguably one of the greatest voices ever in Zimbabwean music, Dobba Don's struggles with substance addiction have now overshadowed his rich music discography and many still hope he will make a comeback and conquer this malaise.

Combatting Drug Abuse in Zimbabwe: Solutions and Community Support

1. Education and Awareness – Raising massive, nationwide awareness about the dangers of drug abuse is indispensably important. Education and awareness is arguably the sine qua non of mitigating a vast array of sociopolitical ills afflicting Zimbabwe. 

Educational initiatives, such as workshops and seminars, as well as grassroots conversations in communities, can help prevent drug use and equip artists with information about healthier alternatives. This should also include genuine media campaigns on television channels, radio stations, online publications, and print media. 

This requires the Ministry of Finance to loosen the strings of its purse—generous allocations of funds to relevant ministries, departments, and organizations is pivotal to this end. 

2. Supportive Community – Artists are human like everyone else. They face unique and sometimes seemingly insurmountable pressures and challenges that can contribute to substance abuse. Mental distress does not spare anyone because of their position in society. 

Building a supportive community where artists can openly discuss their struggles and seek support from peers can serve as a powerful deterrent. This may probably require relevant collaboration with bodies such as the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe in cooperation with the relevant ministries and civic society organizations. 

3. Professional Counseling – Access to specialized counseling services tailored for artists can provide vital support. Mental health professionals can assist individuals in navigating emotional challenges and developing healthy coping mechanisms. This requires that access to mental health specialists such as therapists and psychologists be universally affordable. 

4. Encouraging Alternative Coping Mechanisms – Stress and pressure are part and parcel of life. They are inevitable. But perhaps creatives should be encouraged to find alternative sources for coping with such turmoil. 

Promoting the adoption of healthy outlets for stress management, such as mindfulness practices, physical activities, or exploring other creative forms of self-expression, can help artists find healthier avenues to channel their emotions.

5. Celebrating Sobriety and other Fulfilling Life Activities – Recognizing and celebrating artists who have successfully overcome addiction can inspire others. Their stories serve as crucial inspiration and motivation to uplift others drowning in the abyss of drug addiction. By highlighting the achievements of people who conquer drug addiction battles, society collectively breaks obsolete stigmas and stereotypes surrounding substance abuse; and this significantly encourages those struggling to seek help. It goes a long way.

Sympathies and Support for Saint Floew 

We can say much about this. But because of space limitation, the best we can do is to soulfully convey our well-meaning prayers, sympathies, and support to Saint Floew as he embarks on his path to recovery. 

Saint Floew latest songs
Image - Greedysouth

His decision to seek help demonstrates courage and resolve. Let us come together as a community to offer encouragement, understanding, and guidance to those struggling with addiction. Remember, there is always hope, and with the right support, artists can reclaim their lives and continue sharing their creative gifts with the world.

Conclusion: Drug abuse in Zimbabwe can be overcome 

While it is true that some memorable songs have been produced by drug-influenced artists, the consequences of drug abuse within the artistic community are severe. 

The stories of Zimbabwean artists who battled addiction remind us of the importance of addressing this issue. And this ‘drug abuse’ pandemic applies to all members of society, young and old, men and women—it is not limited to creative artists only.

By providing education, support, and access to rehabilitation centers, we can combat drug abuse and help creatives lead healthier, fulfilling lives. 

Let us unite in support and acceptance, working together to build a safer and more understanding environment for all artists.

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