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What drives a mother to murder her child? In September 2007, Ellen Pakkies, a working mother from Lavender Hill on the Cape Flats, strangled her son to death. The judge in the subsequent trial sentenced her to community service for her crime. What had driven Ellen to this horrific deed, and why the ostensibly light sentence for such a heinous crime? And why did Ellen’s tragic story grip the imagination of the country? The scourge of drug addiction has swept across South Africa in recent years, affecting every level of society. The use of tik, particularly in the Western Cape, has skyrocketed over a short period of time, unlike anything else ever experienced. It was Abie Pakkies’s addiction to this drug and the horrendous impact it had on his and his family’s lives that drove Ellen to murder. Her trial exposed the dark underbelly of a community crippled by drug and alcohol abuse and focused attention on the plight of those who live in poverty and do not have recourse to drug rehabilitation centres and other measures effective in the treatment of drug addicts. Dealing in Death looks at the global and local drugs culture, the predicament of Ellen Pakkies and other mothers like her, and an impoverished community and the apartheid laws that gave birth to it.

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