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In a shift away from drug users, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has ordered senior police officers to go all-out after drug lords.
This would involve targeting individuals, deploying enough resources and seizing drugs.
“The illegal drug trade is big, nasty and violent. Drug lords are evil people who simply do not care that they are destroying the lives of South African youngsters,” Mthethwa said on Monday.
His instruction to intensify probes into drug lords nationwide was part of the National Drugs Master Plan, the blueprint on substance abuse approved by the cabinet last year.
“Good community policing includes getting users off the street… but I have instructed the South African Police Service greater emphasis must be put on arresting and charging major drug figures.”
The government had recognised unemployment and social problems contributed to people turning to drugs.
Mthethwa identified Mitchells Plain as one of the country’s drug-related crime hot spots
Tik was “a serious problem” in the Western Cape, where “gangsterism and drugs are deeply linked”.
“Frequently, the challenges the police face are related to drugs and the violence which goes with the illegal drug trade,” Mthethwa said.
He cited Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, Chatsworth and Phoenix in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, Eldorado Park and Lenasia in Gauteng, and Mitchells Plain as areas “where police face serious problems in dealing with drug crimes”.
In one of the latest incidents in Mitchells Plain, a 19-year-old was shot dead in Rocklands at the weekend. Police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said unidentified gunmen had shot the man several times in Vink Street.
The motive was unknown and no arrests had been made, he said.
Lynn Philips, secretary of the Mitchells Plain Community Police Forum, said two people had been wounded in Tafelsig on Sunday.
But she said Mitchells Plain was calmer than it had been the previous week.
“Last Saturday, we had more police coming in from Pretoria,” Philips said.
“I can safely say there’s been an improvement in the area since last Saturday.”
These additional officers would be in the area for three or six months.
Mthethwa said Operation Combat, the Western Cape police’s team focusing on gang-related crimes, had had three major successes in as many months – including the handing down of life sentences to 28s and Fancy Boys gang members.
Last month, 28s gang leader Saliem John, convicted of murder and other crimes, was sentenced by the Western Cape High Court to serve a life term.