Mountain Rise drug deluge

2009-06-11 00:00

IN the Mountain Rise police district alone, police dealt with 1 472 drug-related cases in the past year and many more crimes were committed to feed addicts’ habits, a police offi­cer testified at the trial of a Nigerian man who was sentenced effectively to seven years’ imprisonment yesterday, for dealing in cocaine.

A further three years’ imprisonment imposed on Ivo Orji (31) was conditionally suspended for five years by Pietermaritzburg magistrate Ashin Singh.

Inspector Mahendra Balmookand, who was the investigating officer, provided the court with monthly statistics of the drug-rela­ted crimes dealt with in Mountain Rise from April last year to March this year.

He said police regularly get complaints from schools and parents who are concerned about the access their children have to drugs. Cinderella Park, where the accused committed the offence, has a severe drug problem, he said.

He said many offences including murder, robbery and theft — especially theft out of motor vehicles— are committed by people desperate to get money to feed their addiction.

In his judgment, Singh referred to the fact that the drugs being used today are increasingly dangerous. Possession or dealing in dagga, which in the past was regarded as serious, is now viewed as “petty” compared to the heroin, cocaine and other drugs that are posing a danger to the youth and society.

“Having been a magistrate for 15 years, I am aware that people steal, rob and murder to get money for drugs.

“Drugs break down family relationships, they cause children to drop out of school, sometimes they result in girls turning to prostitution to feed their drug addiction … these are the social ills,” said Singh.

He added that xenophobic attacks that have resulted in South Africa being viewed as “the pariah of the world”, may be fuelled by the criminal conduct of foreigners like Orji, even though it is wrong for people to “generalise” and despite the fact that most immigrants are “completely innocent” and are simply trying to better their lives and eke out a living in a foreign land .

Singh took into account, in Orji’s favour, that he pleaded guilty to his crime — dealing in one “jaw” and 62 pieces of cocaine said to be worth around R4 920. However, the conviction was his second. In 2007, he was fined R2 000 (or six months’ imprisonment) for possession of cocaine.

The court was told that Orji has a wife and young child in South Africa, but his parents are still living in Nigeria. Whether or not he is legally in the country is still unclear.

His lawyer, Nasen Naicker, said Orji claimed to have a B.Sc. degree, earned a living selling perfumes and jewellery, and was manufacturing “immune boosters”.

Orji admitted he has two pending drug-related cases, as well as a third for alleged drunk driving.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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