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KZN targeted as drug smuggling transit point

SAPS officers stand between police vans

File Picture

Published Oct 25, 2023


Durban - Crime experts have welcomed two multimillion-rand drug busts made recently at the Durban Harbour and King Shaka Airport.

However, they raised their concern about KwaZulu-Natal being targeted as a transit point by drug-smuggling syndicates.

Independent Media reported in September that according to the 2023 Global Organised Crime Index report, South Africa finds itself at the centre of the intricate web of the global drug trade. The report said the country was grappling with the proliferation of various drugs, from heroin and cocaine to cannabis and synthetics, each with its unique set of challenges.

According to the index report, the heroin trade in South Africa is a lucrative enterprise, generating billions of rand annually and positioning the country as one of the largest heroin consumer markets in Africa.

“South Africa’s role as a critical node in international Afghan-produced heroin smuggling rings to Europe, Africa and Australia highlights the global dimensions of the local heroin problem. In addition, South Africa’s growing influence in the global cocaine trade is marked by growing domestic markets and international connections to Europe, Hong Kong and Australia,” the Global Crime Index noted.

KZN Violence monitor Mary de Haas said drug smuggling into South Africa had been going on for decades.

“They used to come from the East and South America, and include drugs such as cocaine. In the olden days before containerised shipping, members of the police went on board ships and searched for drugs. This has become more difficult because of containerisation. The Durban Harbour has a number of entries, including Point and Maydon Wharf. You need good police to get tips so that they know when drugs are being shipped in by containers.”

De Haas added that police needed to make sure that drugs recovered were kept in safe storage.

Chad Thomas, an organised and financial crime investigator from IRS Forensic Investigations, said South Africa had emerged as a major transshipment point for illicit narcotics.

“Heroin from Asia and cocaine from South America, make their way to our shores where syndicates cut and repackage the narcotics. There have been major busts in Australia where the illicit product came via South Africa, and also busts in countries such as India. The SAPS Crime Intelligence component has been working successfully with its multi-jurisdictional counterparts to infiltrate these international syndicates and there have been significant successes.”