File picture: Piet Smit

Cape Town -

Picture 26 adult male elephants, then visualise a pile of white powder the same weight. That’s how much cocaine police seized in South Africa in the past year.

And the illegal liquor they confiscated would almost fill an Olympic swimming pool.

An adult male elephant weighs about 5 450kg. An Olympic swimming pool holds 2.5 million litres of water.

Announcing the 2012/13 crime statistics this week, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said 145 560kg of cocaine had been seized, along with 196 tons of dagga and 347 860kg of methamphetamine, or tik.

“There were 89 clandestine laboratories detected and dismantled over the past three years (32 in 2010/11, 16 in 2011/12, and 41 in 2012/13),” Mthethwa said.

About 1.8 million litres of alcohol were confiscated, and more than 74 000 illegal liquor outlets closed.

In the Western Cape, 6 417kg of cocaine were confiscated, and 2 501kg of “whoonga” (a cocktail claimed to include HIV ARVs). More than 60 000 Mandrax tablets were confiscated. Nearly all the tik seized in South Africa was confiscated in this province, where 320 498kg were confiscated last year. Mthethwa said the closure of these outlets also led to the reduction of other crimes, such as assault.

Nationally, arrests for driving under the influence rose by one percent, while drug-related crimes rose 13.5 percent.

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega said these crimes were dependent on police activity for arrests, and were expected to increase.

In the Western Cape, however, arrests for driving under the influence declined by 22.5 percent over the past year, with drug-related crimes declining by 4.6 percent.

Deputy police commissioner in the Western Cape Major General Peter Jacobs told a media briefing yesterday that high numbers of drug arrests were a good thing.

“We’re proud of that. Those are crimes that wouldn’t have been reported unless we made arrests. It’s work that we have done.”

Jacobs referred to a “toxic mix” in Cape Town which included drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and unregulated “social gathering spots” such as shebeens, which all contributed to the crime rates.

He said where “family, friends and liquor” met “knives and illegal firearms in informal settlements”, violent crime was bound to occur.

“About 70 percent of violent crime in this province has all these elements,” he said.

Asked why the figures for drug-related crime arrests had then declined, provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said there was sometimes “a downward trend”.

“It doesn’t mean we are less successful. For example, every week we confiscate between 31 and 35 illegal firearms in the Western Cape. The more we confiscate, the less firearms and drugs are available, and criminals are then finding new ways of concealing drugs.”

Weekend Argus