“I had lost my mind and what I was thinking was, ‘Where can I get the money to buy cocaine or marijuana to restore my senses’ after spending days in police custody,” he added.
Athumani told The Guardian that having snatched the handbag from the Indian lady, he ran across the streets to hide and found over Sh300,000 inside the bag.
Instead of using the money to purchase essentials for himself, he instead used Sh100, 000 to buy cocaine, only to recall later after getting high about how he had escaped from the hands of mob justice after stealing the handbag.
During the past years, a number of youths have found themselves behind bars for being under the influence of drugs because they failed to live without using them, thus becoming impossible to free themselves from the bondage due to the level of addiction.
Drug addicts have also been forsaken by their families, unaware of their being behind bars or of their whereabouts.
They are also stigmatized by society, including their own families, because the families get tired of fending for them and their excessive but useless expenditure on drugs.
Tanzania faces a serious threat of drug use by a significant number of its youths. A visit to the cities, beaches, night clubs, taverns and parties will make one realise the extent of the problem, which is destroying both the economy and the country’s workforce.
Athumani, who is currently chairman of YADF, a group of 27 youth recovering from drugs in Makangarawe ward in Temeke district, has decided to quit drugs and found a new way of living through sanitation and flower growing.
He says he has suffered a lot by using ‘Alosto’ drugs which often caused him a hangover and could easily kill the user due to overdose.
“I used to take part in various criminal incidents, just like many drug addicts do because of the need to get money to buy drugs like marijuana,” he said.
He adds, “Many addicts underestimate the influence of drugs on them. It is very hard to quit drugs as you lose control over them”.
He said after learning the hard way to quit drugs, they decided to launch the project so as to help others quit drug use.
According to him, he has been using drugs for the past 20 years while also being involved in various criminal acts, including picking pockets, until one day his mind resolved to quit doing drugs to becoming an ambassador of drug addicts.
Athumani managed to organized a group of addicted commuter touts at Tandika bus stand, in Temeke district, by giving them money to help them with their daily needs, after which they decided to register their non-governmental organization.
He said their organization, Youth Anti-Drug Forum (YADF),officially started its operation in 2012 with 27 members, seven of whom were women.
“We started as a group of touts, each of us contributed Sh2,000 per day until we became a full-fledged NGO. e look on various opportunities existed in our communities particular in Makangarawe ward and start looking for donors who supported us to establish various projects,” he said.
The NGO has asked Temeke local government authority to give them a plot in Solar Power area in Makangarawe ward to enable them start income-earning activities, including car washing, vegetables farming, flower and fruit growing, and boutiques.
“After seeing the success of this project we decided it was the right time to start new projects, including the collection of garbage in streets surrounding us,” Athumani said.
Through the support from the Center for Community Initiative (CCI), Water, Health, Education and Community Development (WAHECO) and Federation Tanzania Urban Poor (FTUP) they launched sanitation project by collecting waste in Makangarawe and Uwazi streets and brought them to the Recycling and Composting Center.
He said apart from the support they got from CCI, the United States of America Embassy in Dar es Salaam had also granted them $4,500 (more than Sh8m) for their projects’ implementation.
However, a few months after the projects began to flourish, they were involved in a land conflict with a local trader who claimed to be the owner of the piece of land despite their having all the documents from the district council to show that its was theirs.
Former Makangarawe Street Chairperson Yusuph Magomba said during his tenure between 2009 and 2014, having seen the objectives of the organization, the local government agreed to release the plot and allowed them to start their operations.
Surprisingly, he said the ‘owner’ emerged and threatened to arrest them if they continued with their activities.
“However, after the owner took YADF members to court, the case was dismissed and they were allowed to continue with their activities, even though the district council had not yet taken any action to evacuate the ‘owner’ from the area,” he said.
He said that after construction of the Tandika-Buza road started the ‘owner’ was given by Tanzania Roads Agency (TANROADS) Sh12.7 as compensation to pave the way for construction; however, he refused to vacate.
“I am worried that if they are allowed to stop their work here, most of them will go back to street and start using drugs” he said.
A member of the organization, Abubakar Ismail said the conflict with person claiming to be the owner of the area is affecting their plans to develop the area further.
"We need to help drug addict plans and I believe that such efforts which are backed by various organizations, including the government, would rescue our future generation from being destroyed with narcotics” he said.
Ismail also a member of the organization said he has gained entrepreneurship knowledge from CCI and other humanitarian organization due to introduction of the project, stressing for the need to get land to carry out their duties.
“We are the role models of other drug addicts groups, we therefore need more support to reach other groups affected by drug use” he said.
The matron of the organization, Mwanate Akida said CCI has been supporting YADF by providing entrepreneurship and self determination training in order to become a good ambassador to other addicts in the country.
Mwanate said first after the group was formed CCI took them to Morogoro to attend an entrepreneurial training and see how they could start a recycling project after witnessing what was being done by other groups in the region.
“Apart from the training we offered we also provided hygiene facilities including equipment used to collect solid waste, gumboots, gloves, masks and the construction of a recycling and composting center at Solar Power area.