News24

Fears SA becoming a drugs gateway

2010-03-04 22:43

Pretoria - South Africa is in danger of becoming a major hub for drug trafficking, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said on Thursday.

The office's Jonathan Lucas said at the release of the International Narcotics Control Board's annual report: "West African syndicates had recently become major drug traffickers after Central American cartels began using them due to difficulty with their traditional routes.

"Increased surveillance on traditional routes had made them become unprofitable."

He said if these new routes through West Africa were successfully dealt with by the authorities, Central American cartels would again look for other alternatives.

"When they are diverted, will they come to South Africa? Maybe."

There was also a danger the 2010 World Cup would worsen drug trafficking.

Law enforcement and customs officials would be under pressure due to massive tourist inflows during the tournament.

Central Drug Authority deputy chairperson David Bayever said: "We are aware it is going to be a big problem for us."

He described trafficking cartels as "well-researched guys that know where the loopholes are".

Substance abuse

Despite these threats, SA's drug problem remained primarily a domestic one, with alcohol and dagga use being well above global averages.

"Cannabis use was three times the global average in South Africa and its alcohol consumption put it in the top 10 of countries."

Bayever said drugs and substance abuse problems were the underlying causes of such ills as HIV/Aids, violence and crime.

"It is not the result of these problems, but the cause of them. In order to deal with these problems we need to handle substance abuse."

Most of South Africa's cannabis was grown in Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa, said the office's national co-ordinator Johan Kruger. The region was actually a net exporter of cannabis to other countries.

Bayever said an additional problem would be the extension of school holidays during the World Cup. In addition to being at risk for substance abuse, children may also be lured into prostitution.

"Our youth are going to be on holiday and they are going to be targeted to become prostitutes," said Bayever.