The Standerton Advertiser recently received information from Capt Fanie Nhlabathi, communications officer of the Standerton Police, about an alleged new drug called Strawberry Meth, also known as Strawberry Quick.
Along with a detailed description, he also supplied a picture of the supposed wrapper the drug was sold and distributed in.
He issued a warning to residents that even though the drug has not reached the streets of Standerton, cases of it being circulated in Tembisa were reported.
In addition, he requested that people should immediately contact the police should they come across it.
However, after a bit of research, information came to light, which indicated that Strawberry Meth/Quick is in fact a hoax, one that has been globally circulating since 2012 and perhaps even earlier.
Several media outlets have reported on the drug’s existence, but not one, to the Standerton Advertiser’s knowledge, has reported the names of people who fell victim to it, nor have any cases been opened or thoroughly investigated.
Social media has for several years been abuzz with information shared, but not verified:
— sarah ann (@AnonUnknown80) May 28, 2015
— NCPF – Norwood CPF (@NorwoodCPF) February 20, 2015
— SherY – (@SherySyed_) February 18, 2017
News 24 published a Skype interview with ER24’s crisis communicator, Mr Russel Meiring, where he spoke about the drug and dealers who allegedly stand outside schools, selling the drug to learners who were unaware of its content.
The Standerton Advertiser contacted ER24’s corporate communications manager, Mr Werner Vermaak and asked him to shed some light on the drug and also, whether he knows of any reported cases.
He said: “We have not had any cases reported to ER24, nor have we received any caution or press release regarding this drug.
“However, a few years ago we did help with creating awareness following an interview on television with Mr Quintin van Kerken from Anti Drug Alliance SA.
“Unfortunately, we do not have any recent information.”
The Advertiser also contacted Mr Van Kerken, now Group Chief Executive Officer at The Clear Option South Africa, formerly known as the Anti Drug Alliance SA.
The concerned anti drug activist stated that he was inundated with queries about the distribution and existence of the drug.
“People should not get worked up over this.
“Isolated incidents were reported about three to four years ago, in fact, only two cases to my knowledge were reported, which invalidate reports that this drug is being widely distributed.”
Mr Van Kerken also made mention of the allegation that vendors in rural areas were at the forefront of selling the drug.
“Let’s be honest, at between R300-R500 a ‘pop’, which vendors or learner will be able to afford to stock or buy such a drug?”
The media has a responsibility to report accurately to the community it serves, but often, even the most reliable sources fall victim to fake news.
Residents should always be vigilant as these hoaxes have the potential to turn hoax to reality, but the onus also falls on the community to question the validity of hearsays.