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SA slated as drug trade hub

Crime & Courts
Durban - South Africa is the largest market for illicit drugs in sub-Saharan Africa, with the trafficking and use of drugs on an upward trajectory.

This is according to the US State Department 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released earlier this month.

It reveals that trafficking and the use of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine (tik), Methcathinone (cat) and Methaqualone (mandrax) appeared to increase in the country last year.

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Picture: SAPS

According to the report, South Africa is a trans-shipment point for cocaine and heroin, primarily to Europe.

Further, most drugs enter and exit the country via Gauteng’s OR Tambo International Airport or the Durban port, which are the busiest entry points in the country.

“South African authorities believe that only a fraction of the human couriers entering the country are apprehended.

“A portion (of drugs) is distributed for local consumption and the remainder is trafficked by land across international borders destined primarily for Europe,” the report says.

“Heroin, primarily of Afghan origin, typically arrives in ports in Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique from south-west Asia and is subsequently transported by land to South Africa, often transiting Zambia and Botswana,” it states.

Heroin not consumed within South Africa is apparently trafficked via air to Europe, along with a small percentage shipped to the US.

File picture: David Ryder/Reuters

“Methamphetamine (known locally as “tik”), Methcathinone (“cat”), and Methaqualone are synthesised in South Africa from precursors imported primarily from India and China. Clandestine laboratories are largely concentrated in Gauteng,” the report reads.

Cannabis (dagga) is grown and used in the country and exported to Swaziland. “A combination of heroin, marijuana, and often dangerous adulterants known as ‘nyaope’ is commonly used in poorer communities.”

The report, however, commends the South African police for establishing a dedicated narcotics unit last year.

“The South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau was incorporated within the SAPS Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation,” the report states.

Questions based on this report were sent on Tuesday to the national police spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, and national Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi but neither had responded by the time of publication.

However, a police source said the report painted an accurate picture.

“With OR Tambo and the Durban port being the busiest, the route between South America and Europe is easily accessible. There is always an opportunity for the transporting of drugs, but police have put measures in place to fight the drug trade,” he said.

Commenting on the findings, Sam Pillay, director of Anti-Drug Forum SA, felt that drug-trafficking could be clamped down on if there were effective policing measures put in place.

“We are aware of the problem because South Africa is an entry point for redistribution. There does not seem to be anything done about it. The airports and the ports need to be properly managed. It is important that we take note and work effectively on the matter,” he said, adding that another focal point should be the number of drug laboratories and raw materials used in the manufacturing of drugs.

“We should also look at why traffickers choose to use South Africa as a thoroughfare for the drug trade.

“Our policing is not effective and we are seen as a haven for this activity. Police are not enforcing tougher measures against dealers and traffickers,” Pillay said.

Patricia Gerber, director of Locked Up – an organisation that deals with drug mules imprisoned overseas – said she believed that if the government worked to bring back locals held in foreign jails, they could assist with vital information.

“With well over 1000 SA citizens in foreign prisons, one would think our government would make it a priority to investigate and protect its citizens from the people recruiting them.

“These people will be able to tell authorities who recruited them as well as reveal the names of the drug lords,” Gerber said.

The report states that a narcotics unit was also organised in the Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department. South Africa also accepted an expansion in US-sponsored law enforcement training last year to help increase the investigative capacity of its relevant agencies.

“These changes may be partially attributed to the installation of an effective acting commissioner at SAPS in October 2015, and are indicative of a better understanding of the negative impact illegal drugs have on the nation as a whole,” the report says.

“The reorganisation of SAPS and an increased focus on narcotics may help address ongoing challenges by facilitating increased networking and inter-agency co-operation between law enforcement agencies.

“South Africa co-operates with the United States on extradition matters and mutual legal assistance, including requests related to narcotics,” the report concludes.

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