Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has ordered senior SAPS officers to intensify investigations into major drug lords throughout the country.
The minister has identified Chatsworth and Phoenix in KwaZulu-Natal, Eldorado Park and Lenasia in Gauteng, parts of the northern areas suburbs of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape and Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape as areas where police face serious problems in dealing with drug crimes.
“The illegal drug trade is big, nasty and violent. Drug lords are evil people, who simply do not care that they are destroying the lives of South African youngsters. They even recruit children to do their dirty business for them, so that they can remain hidden in the shadows,” said Minister Mthethwa.
The minister has been travelling around South Africa investigating the situation in areas that police intelligence identified as problem areas for policing.
“Frequently, the challenges the police face are related to drugs and the violence that goes with the illegal drug trade,” he said.
The Police Ministry is tightening the screws on drug dealers as part of government’s National Drugs Master Plan.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) noted in a 2002 report that of the 2 859 people arrested over a two-year period in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town for serious crimes, 46% tested positive for at least one illegal substance.
In the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, tik (methamphetamine) is a serious problem and in Gauteng and KZN, nyaope (also known as ‘whoonga’ or ‘sugars’) poses serious health risks to users. Nyaope is a highly addictive mixture of cocaine and heroin, often mixed with rat poison and ARVs.
Minister Mthethwa said the drug master plan includes search and seizures, targeting certain individuals for intense investigation and ensuring adequate deployment of police in affected areas.
“Good community policing includes getting users off the street and hopefully into rehabilitation centres. But I have instructed SAPS that greater emphasis must be put on arresting and charging major drug figures,” said the minister.
In the Western Cape, where gangsterism and drugs are interlinked, Operation Combat (a 100-strong unit) has had three major successes in the last three months. Life sentences have been handed to prominent figures in the Fancy Boy and 28s gangs, with others being jailed for shorter terms. Other major drug lords are under investigation.
Gauteng has formed specialised teams that are presently investigating five separate cases around major drug figures. Similar teams exist in other provinces. In KwaZulu-Natal, police have adopted a multidisciplinary approach involving Crime Intelligence, detectives and the Hawks, specifically to investigate drug lords. Another major focus is on drugs that enter through ports of entry in KZN, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga.
Minister Mthethwa said the National Drug Master Plan recognises that drug use is a catalyst for crime, poverty, reduced productivity, unemployment, dysfunctional family life and premature death, among others.
“This chilling list is something that President Nelson Mandela cited in his opening address to Parliament in 1994, saying that it needed to be combated. Government now has a comprehensive strategy in place focused on better education, job creation and improved living standards,” said the minister.
“It is a broad-based strategy that includes rehabilitation programmes by the Social Development Department, intervention on health related effects of drugs by the Department of Health and collaboration with appropriate NGOs.
“The police have already played a major role, but I believe they must now take the fight to the big fish and deal with them with the full weight of the law.”
Minister Mthethwa urged those who have knowledge of drug dealing to tell the police.
“Crime intelligence is vital if we are to catch the drug lords. Making our communities drug free is something we need to work on together.” – SAnews.gov.za
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