Hooked up with a Whoonga dealer

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October 9, 2012

Twice for breakfast, twice at lunch, and twice in the evening, as well as a few drags here and there with friends. Such is Mabuyi’s whoonga routine. She spends up to R120 a day on the habit, sponsored by her Tanzanian boyfriend – a local dealer at Durban’s Whoonga Park.

First published in the Sunday Tribune.

Mabuyi, 21, is from Adams Mission. She goes home occasionally, but has not for a while. She said she didn’t want to trouble her parents by stealing from them to feed her habit.

When craving, Mabuyi says she suffers stomach cramps– “as if my intestines are tied up in knots.”

She only regains her appetite after having a hit, but says she is not addicted. “My blood may be used to it but when I am in jail, I don’t smoke, so I know can do without it.”

Mabuyi has been arrested three times. She says she is currently on a five year suspended sentence for drug possession.

Mabuyi talks of jail with nonchalant, detached air, but says it’s scary. “In there you are on your own.”

Origins and make up of Whoonga

There are conflicting reports about the origins of whoonga and its contents. It was said to contain antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, but according to a 2011 Health-e report, a sample tested by Dr Thavendren Govender from the University of KwaZulu-Natal found only “trace amounts of ARVs in one of the samples.” It’s base components are herion, morphine, and strychnine used in rat poison.

The South African National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, (SANCA) reckons that whoonga is similar to the heroin derivative “sugars”.

Some say the word whoonga is of Tanzanian origin. Others say it comes from the isiZulu word “wukeka” which means hooked. – Nosipho Mngoma


Go back to main page: Whoonga Park


The Whoonga Park expose formed part of Roving Reporters’ 2012 investigative journalism training project supported by the Taco Kuiper Trust, the Open Society Foundation and the Durban University of Technology.

The students who conducted this investigation under supervision of Roving Reporters director, Fred Kockott, were Nosipho Mngoma, Anathi Teyise and Ndabe Mthembu.