Pubdate: Sun, 13 May 2007
Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)
Copyright: 2007 Cape Argus.
Author: Kashiefa Ajam


South Africa - a staging post to Europe and America - is winning the 
war against drugs, say the SA Police Service, the US government and 
independent South African security experts.

And the methods used in the war on drugs are improving all the time, 
say police, who have sent a warning to drug dealers that their 
drug-seizure operations have become much more sophisticated.

Last year police swooped on 52 illegal drug laboratories, and last 
week they continued with the crackdown when they bust two clandestine 
drug labs, one in Roodepoort and the other in the Free State.

And two weeks ago police seized cocaine worth R60 million at OR Tambo 
International Airport, bringing the total value of this drug seized 
at the airport over the past two years to between R200m and R300m. 
This was the first major bust at OR Tambo for many months.

SAPS spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said police seized drugs worth 
hundreds of millions of rands between November 2005 and last June, 
which brought a sudden halt to smuggling through the airport.

But syndicates are once again trying to bring drugs through this port 
of entry - without success.

In its recently released International Narcotics Control Strategy 
Report for 2007, the US State Department praised South Africa for its 
commitment to fighting domestic and international drug trafficking, 
production and abuse.

Last year there were 273 organised-crime groups operating in South 
Africa, with at least 132 of these involved in drug trafficking, 
according to the report.

Most of the syndicates are foreign-led - primarily Nigerian, followed 
by Pakistani and Indian syndicates, as well as Chinese triads.

The report says dagga comes to South Africa from neighbouring 
countries, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique, while LSD is imported 
from Holland.

Methamphetamine - known as "tik" in Cape Town and "sugars" in Durban 
- - is manufactured in South Africa for local consumption.

There has been an explosion in the abuse and manufacture of 
methamphetamine in Cape Town, where the drug has cut a swathe through 
communities, and gangs regularly wage a bloody war over territory in 
a bid to control supply.

Both heroin and cocaine are smuggled into South Africa from Asia and 
Latin America and re-exported to Europe, Australia and even the US and Canada.

Cocaine comes from Bolivia and Peru, and goes through Colombia to 
Brazil and Argentina, then to South Africa via Portugal or Angola, or 
directly to Johannesburg or Cape Town.

Earlier this year, international drug officials revealed fears that a 
bumper crop of opium harvested in Afghanistan in 2006 was about to 
hit the streets of South Africa in one of the purest forms of heroin 
to be found in this country.

Thomas Pietschmann, a research officer at the Austria-based UN Office 
on Drugs and Crime, said at the time that Afghanistan, the world's 
largest supplier of the poppy flower, last year produced 6 100 tons 
of opium, equivalent to about 92% of the global illicit opium production.

The drug is traditionally routed into Europe by land and across many 
borders, while the bulk of illegal drugs are transported to South 
Africa by air.

According to Pietschmann, 90% of the South African opiate supply is 
smuggled from Pakistan by air, usually via India and then to one of 
our major cities or via the United Arab Emirates and East Africa.

South Africa is becoming a larger producer of synthetic drugs, mainly 
Mandrax, with precursor chemicals smuggled in and labs established 
domestically, the report says.

Naidoo also confirmed that police had dismantled 52 clandestine drug 
laboratories last year.

And because of this crackdown, labs were increasingly being 
established on farms, making them more difficult to find and destroy.

The report says that although drug seizures were becoming more 
frequent in South Africa, accusations of police corruption are 
frequent. However, credible evidence against South African law 
enforcement officials has not been brought to light.

Naidoo, meanwhile, admits there is corruption within the SAPS but 
adds that it must be measured against "the hundreds of other loyal, 
honest and hard-working officers. When you look at it like that, 
there is no comparison."

The Institute for Security Studies says the major obstacle to 
stopping the illicit drug trade and dealing with drug syndicates is 
the low level of co-operation received from the public.

Researcher Mpho Mashaba says, however, that there are glimmers of 
hope in the war against drugs and that police seem to be getting the 
situation under control.

Naidoo says the SAPS works in conjunction with Customs, the National 
Intelligence Agency, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and sometimes even 
clearing agents. It also collaborates with the Home Affairs 
Department, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Scorpions.

"Over the years we have made many major seizures. Those that stand 
out in my mind are the R90m Ecstasy, R50m methoqualone powder (used 
in the manufacture of Mandrax), R6bn hashish, and over R200m worth of 
cocaine at OR Tambo in the past year.

"We are very successful in our efforts to detect, seize and prevent 
these drugs from reaching our streets. Every time we make a huge 
haul, the price increases, and this immediately makes the drugs less 
accessible. "We are winning this war, there is no doubt about that," 
says Naidoo.

But while police wage war against dealers, drugs are exacting a heavy price.

South Africa has had a long history of Mandrax and dagga abuse, but 
drug counsellors have noted large increases in the number of patients 
seeking treatment for crack cocaine and heroin addiction in the past 
two to five years, according to the US report.

But while the need for rehabilitation and treatment of addicts 
increases, government treatment facilities and non-government drug 
rehabilitation agencies have seen their budgets for treatment cut 
over the past four to five years.

Education of the public about the dangers of drug addiction remains a 
high priority for the government. And the SAPS is continuing its 
visible crime-deterrence policy by organising visits and 
counter-narcotics lectures in schools.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman