Pubdate: Thu, 22 May 2003
Source: Times Of Zambia (Zambia)
Copyright: 2003 Times Of Zambia
Author: Margaret Mangani


ZAMBIA, like many African countries, is facing a complex problem of 
cannabis cultivation, trafficking and abuse.

Though interdiction efforts have been stepped up in the recent past, 
seizures of the drugs are on the increase, especially from the countryside.

One wonders how cannabis cultivations have gone undetected by the Drug 
Enforcement Commission (DEC) until may be to a point when the crop is ready 
for harvest.

Speaking at a workshop recently, DEC commissioner Mukutulu Sinyani lamented 
that insufficient manpower and other operational and logistical hiccups had 
contributed to the non-detection of some cultivators.

Mr Sinyani said that the present workforce, coupled with lack of transport, 
could not allow the few officers to be all over to check on who was 
cultivating cannabis, saying they could only act on a tip from informers or 

He cited lack of information flow, particularly in the rural areas, on the 
damaging effect of the drug on consumers who were mostly youths as it made 
them unstable, as a major inhibiting factor.

But he was quick to say that the DEC had received many calls from some 
people that the cultivation of cannabis should be legalised.

"Let me take this opportunity today and state that Zambia will never 
legalise the cultivation of cannabis.

Countries that have legalised this drug are not producing countries and 
hence they can control the small quantities of cannabis entering their 
countries," Mr Sinyani said.

Zambia on the other hand is a producing country of cannabis and this drug 
is now being grown at a commercial level. This also means the country 
exports to outside markets.

He said, for instance, interdiction efforts had so far yielded 54 tonnes of 
cannabis with an estimated street value of K40.5 billion for the period of 
January to May 2003.

This mark is more than what was seized in the whole of 2002 when 16 tonnes 
were confiscated.

Tooth and Nail

In a paper presented to journalists attending a three-day workshop on drugs 
and money laundering in Lusaka, Mr Sinyani said the Commission was 
determined to fight the scourge tooth and nail with the assistance of 
cooperating partners in ensuring total eradication.

"The majority of people involved in cannabis cultivation and trafficking 
are Zambians who transport the commodity to neighbouring countries like 
Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and the final destination being South Africa," 
Mr Sinyani disclosed.

Zambia is a signatory to international instruments in the Southern African 
Development Community (SADC) region and the African Union (AU) drug control 
focal point in Addis Ababa where Mr Sinyani was privileged to represent 
Zambia prior to his latest appointment.

Mr Sinyani had an opportunity during that time of seeing how the African 
countries perceive the problem of drug control both in supply reduction and 
demand reduction.

Furthermore, Zambia has ratified all relevant UN treaties coupled with its 
local laws which would continue to reflect the letter and spirit of these 
international legal instruments.

It is expected that most honest and realistic Zambians would be aware of 
the damage that the cultivation, abuse, sale and trafficking of cannabis 
has done to youths on whom the future of the nation depends.

Mr Sinyani said eradication of cannabis cultivation in Zambia has finally 
reached the highest goal that the nation can achieve and that President 
Mwanawasa has the correct vision.

"We have been reducing the demand and supply of the drugs in the country 
for the past 12 years. It is time now we put strategies for eradication," 
he said.

Mr Sinyani challenged journalists to partner with the Commission in the 
eradication programme by ensuring that there was information flow on 
cannabis both in the community where they lived and also at work places.

Traditionally, some known ethnic groups utilise the drug as a stimulant to 
make them strong enough to participate in physical work, of course without 
regard to the consequences it has on both their mental faculties and 
physique, while others use it as a herbal remedy for ear-ache though not 
scientifically proven.

He said society needed to be sensitised on the dangers of the drug upon 
consumption and its damaging effects on the nation's economy, including the 
social aspect, though it may seem as a profitable venture to suppliers.

It is common knowledge how the so-called youths react under the influence 
of drugs which make them bold enough to perpetrate crimes ranging from 
assaults to robberies.

Police recently expressed concern at the ongoing trend which was not only 
posing a threat to national security but also endangering the lives of 
law-abiding citizens.

Most Abused Drug

It has been noted from persons who attended a rehabilitation programme 
under the DEC national education campaign division (NECD) that the most 
common drug of abuse is cannabis or marijuana.

According to information available, Lusaka has seen a rise in the number of 
youngsters, especially street kids, sniffing bostic and abusing heroine.

Townships are becoming common havens where these youngsters depend on the 
above drugs to make them 'high'.

Mr Sinyani said that the so-called suppliers were mainly interested in the 
turnover of yields rather than the consequences of their cultivations.

Another drug which is a by-product of cannabis is hashish which has 
continued to appear from year to year and, in most cases, is meant for 
export to Europe.

Cocaine: A psychotropic substance, has continued to appear from year to 
year and in most cases is meant for export to Europe.

Miraa: The prevalence of miraa trafficked by persons from East African 
countries, especially those claiming to be Somalians and Kenyans, has begun 
to raise concern to the DEC although the psychotropic substance is meant 
for markets in South Africa.

Alluding to this drug, Mr Sinyani said this was because in the near future 
Zambians would begin to be addicted to the same drug as long as it passed 
through the country.

Interdiction efforts in the period under review netted a total of 196kg of 
miraa with an estimated street value of K1.2 billion.

Diazepam: In the past five months alone the Commission has seized 118 
grammes and 57 tablets, respectively.

Though the drug still remains insignificant in terms of quantities seized 
so far, there is growing concern because most of it is pilfered from 
medical institutions and the rate is increasing.

Thus the use of diazepam would constitute a major threat to the youth who 
are the main abusers.

Mandrax: Trafficking has in the past few years assumed low levels but there 
are indications that trafficking in the same is resurfacing with a view to 
testing the market.

The border town of Nakonde linking Zambia to Tanzania is notorious for 
opium trafficking, mainly by persons of East African origin who transport 
the narcotic drug by road and rail (Tazara) into Zambia en route to the 
South African market.

A Transit Route

Mr Sinyani in his presentation observed that Zambia was still being used as 
a transit route of illicit drugs from other countries destined for South 
African and European markets.

The major source of the drugs include the South East and West Asian continent.

Heroine reaches Zambia through the East African countries such as Tanzania, 
Kenya and Ethiopia. Cocaine on the other hand comes through Luanda in 
Angola due to diamond trade, and also through the Namibian ports of entry 
to Lusaka before finally being exported to South Africa and Europe.

The Kasumbalesa border point between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of 
the Congo has been identified as an entry point of drugs like cocaine and 
heroin into Zambia's Copperbelt Province before they are transported to 
Lusaka, and their destination is South Africa.

Previously heroin reached Zambia by air from the Indian sub-continent. The 
current scenario has seen Tanzanians and Kenyans taking an upper hand in 
the trafficking of the drug via the Nakonde border post as their entry point.

Mr Sinyani said that Zambia, as a member of the international community, 
ratified all UN conventions against drug trafficking and, at the regional 
level, the SADC drug control protocol has been ratified.

The country has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with many 
countries, including those in Europe, on the extradition of persons 
arrested in foreign countries on drug charges.

"One such country is the United Kingdom (UK). As a country we can proudly 
say we enjoy maximum international co-operation in drug interdiction 
efforts," Mr Sinyani said.

He, however, said despite the presence of drugs in Zambia, no drug baron 
exists in the nation and all those previous household names no longer hold 
their fame as their operations have been completely fused out.

Mr Sinyani called for concerted efforts among stakeholders in the fight 
against the drug scourge if Zambia was to attain the eradicating stage.

Drugs would no doubt give birth to money laundering, a potential killer of 
the nation's economic growth and can also affect the social fabric of a 
young democracy if left unchecked.
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