SA ‘ideal’ for drug traffickers

2011-09-17 16:25

South Africans love mandrax. We are possibly the biggest mandrax users in the world, according to the latest UN Drug Report released this week.

The country also has the most illicit amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) laboratories in Africa and the manufacturing of tik has been on the rise for the past few years.

The report reveals that ATS – such as ecstasy, cat, mandrax (methaqualone) and tik – now rank as the world’s ­second most widely used drug type after dagga.

In the report South Africa has also been pitched as a country seen by drug traffickers as ideal for their trade due to its good financial, communication and transport infrastructure.

“All these factors make South ­Africa an attractive location for drug traffickers to warehouse their stocks before shipping them on to other countries,” the report states.

African countries are also increasingly seen as trans-shipment points for quantities of precursor chemicals such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the main ingredients used to manufacture stimulants such as tik and cat.

Tik, cat and mandrax, though, are mostly manufactured in South Africa for local use. The report states: “ATS use is likely a contributing factor to increasing drug­related crime in South Africa.”

According to the latest crime stats, drug-related crime has risen by 123% since 2003. The Crime Report for 2010/11 raises the question of whether this increase is mainly attributed to effective policing or to a major increase in the availability of drugs in the country.

Zweli Mnisi, police ministry spokesperson, said the department was looking into bringing back the specialised narcotics units that were closed after disgraced former police chief Jackie Selebi was dismissed.

Mnisi said: “These mafia lords stay in posh houses and do not use the drugs themselves but target our children.

 Criminals are also getting smarter and, unless we train specialised investigators, we will not win this war.

“We need investigators who know the trade and the tricks, and can respond accordingly. The main focus should also be getting convictions. For that, you need ­specialised people to do proper ­investigations that stand up in court.”

According to Mnisi, taking drugs normally leads to other crimes, and police alone cannot deal with the problem. “It is essential to have a partnership with the community. Community tip-offs are very effective in assisting us to close down manufacturing houses.”

On Friday, Professor Charles Parry, director of the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Unit at the Medical Research Council, said bringing back specialised police units would not mean South Africans can then sit back and relax.

“There is no magic bullet in dealing with illicit drugs. While we can still improve our current policing strategies, police can only do so much. It would be naive to think we can reduce the demand for drugs by throwing more money into ­policing.”

Parry said Colombia, once the most notorious drug-trading country in the world, has succeeded in fighting the drug cartels by investing more in the social upliftment of ordinary Colombians.

According to Parry, South Africa needs to invest more in social ­development such as community upliftment, proper treatment for drug users and addicts, better life-skills training, and education and prevention campaigns.

Read the report: United Nations World Drug Reports 2011

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