Anger over feeding scheme

Kukie Mokoena, second from right, cooks and serves meals for drug addicts from her apartment in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Her neighbours are unimpressed. /photos/ Thulani Mbele
Kukie Mokoena, second from right, cooks and serves meals for drug addicts from her apartment in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Her neighbours are unimpressed. /photos/ Thulani Mbele

The owner of a soup kitchen which feeds drug addicts in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg, is embroiled in a battle with her community who accuse her of harbouring criminals.

Young addicts ask for help

Drug addicts in Alexandra have pleaded with the City of Johannesburg to reach out to them with an addiction treatment centre such as the one launched in Tladi, Soweto, last month.

One of the addicts, Sizwe Ngubeni, 29, said he began taking heroin in 2008 because of peer pressure.

He then had dreams of working as a prosecutor and wanted to study law.

Many addicts in Alexandra said their only hope was the SA National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (Sanca) facility. But they complained that the process of being admitted to Sanca was tedious, leading to relapses.

"I avoid living at home because I'm a bad influence to the kids there. I want to go to rehab but the process takes long," Ngubeni said.

Nosipo Ncapai, 25, was introduced to nyaope by her boyfriend when she was 16.

"I have a child but because of nyaope my family took the child and kicked me out. I want to go home but I'm still waiting to go to rehab."

A Sanca Alexandra official said spaces at centres were limited.

Kukie Mokoena, 52, runs a feeding scheme for the homeless and drug addicts from her flat in the township and stands accused of bringing criminals too close to her neighbour's homes.

Mokoena, who has been providing the mealssince 2015, said some residents in her block of flats wanted her to stop the operation.

She said they were even holding meetings, planning how they will stop her programmes.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said their anger stemmed from Mokoena's failure to consult them before opening the soup kitchen near their homes.

"People are angry because she did not let us know what she is doing.

"We just saw a stream of drug addicts coming into the yard," she said.

Mokoena, who has lived in the township her whole life, said she had never seen the scourge of drugs as high as it is currently.

"I found a 10-day-old baby and his older sister abandoned in the bush in 2014.

"We later found out through social workers that their mother was a drug addict," she said.

Mokoena said she had to foster the two children for the past four years after their mother died from a drug overdose.

This experience made her decide to play a part in the fight against drugs.

Mokoena, who works as a domestic worker and earns R300 a week, said she used the money to buy basic necessities like maize meal, meat and vegetables to serve up to 200 hungry addicts from her two-roomed flat.

"A few of my neighbours don't speak to me anymore. They are angry with me, they say that I'm bringing criminals to our flat," she said.

Other neighbours who were approached for comment refused to be interviewed.

Ofentse Nkwane, 20, who has been an addict since he was 15 years old, said he started coming to Mokoena's home for meals in 2016.

Nkwane said he was now ready to go to a rehabilitation centre.

He said he wanted to change his life and stop smoking dagga and nyaope.

He said he was grateful for what Mokoena had done for him and others.

"She treats us well, with joy in her heart," he said.

Another rehabilitated addict Daniel Lesola, 22, said he signed up to rehabilitation through Mokoena's help.

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