A P10 million worth contraband of Methaqualone, a drug used to manufacture mandrax tablets, destined for Botswana was this week intercepted in Mumbai (India) stoking fears by international narcotics trade watchdogs that Botswana is an emerging mandrax transit route.
A Mozambique woman was on Wednesday arrested by Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Customs on the charge of trying to smuggle out 15 kg of Methaqualone drug to Botswana.
The accused, Mwendlane Catia Daclesa Francisco (22), was intercepted by AIU officials while she was to depart to Gaborone via Nairobi on a Kenya Airways flight, the officials said. According to customs officials there is a demand for drugs in the European countries and the contraband is usually smuggled to these places through African countries like Botswana.
This comes 12 months after South Africa border patrols discovered more than hundred million Pula worth of Methaqualone in trucks during a routine search at the Groblers Bridge border post between South Africa and Botswana. The truck was attempting to move through the border-gate from Botswana into South Africa. The haul was valued at approximately R120 million, slightly more than P100 million.
For years, there have been growing fears that Botswana is being used as trans-shipment point for shipments of precursor chemicals, especially Methaqualone the main chemical used in the illicit manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants such as mandrax tablets.
The US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics Matters report of 1994 warned that, “Botswana is a transit country for Methaqualone or mandrax, a trade name for Methaqualone combined with an antihistamine. Limited amounts of cocaine from South America transit Botswana en route to South Africa. Marijuana and heroin also transit the country with small amounts going to the US”.
The International Narcotics Control strategy report of 1995 noted that, “Botswana is a transit country primarily for mandrax (Methaqualone) shipped through East and Central Africa from India and destined for South Africa.”
Another report, the 1997 US Department of State International Narcotics Control Strategy Report warned that “Transhipment of illegal narcotics, such as Methaqualone, Mandrax tablets and marijuana,” was a major problem for Botswana.
The report noted the Botswana Police Service was not staffed and equipped enough to match sophisticated local smuggling operations. “The Botswana National Police (BNP) have made a concerted effort to improve the force’s ability to detect, identify and seize illegal narcotics shipments, and to continue its community awareness antinarcotics campaign, although it is generally underequipped and understaffed as compared to sophisticated local smuggling operations.“
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has also listed Botswana among eight African countries targeted by drug smugglers as diversion transit areas for their illegal precursor chemicals.
In 2008, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) identified Africa as the region with the greatest number of diversions or attempted diversions of ATS precursor chemicals. “Target countries of such diversions in recent years include Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia,” states the report.