The Officer in Charge of the Diamond, Flora and Fauna Department in Francistown, Patrick Makoba has expressed concerns over involvement of public transport operators in the smuggling of illicit goods more especially drugs.
In an interview Makoba said criminals are using buses, taxis and even truck operators to traffic these illicit goods. Although he could not produce the statistics at the time, he said drugs and government trophy trafficking cases are a serious concern in the country.
“We have had a number of cases where we arrested some culprits or confiscated these goods from the public transports and this is a growing habit. We recently arrested a suspect in a public transport from Ramokgwebana to Francistown who was carrying elephant tusks. He is in police custody and investigations are on-going,” he said.
He said that some of the public transporters are paid to carry these illicit even if they are well aware that the goods are illegal. Makoba said that they normally mount road blocks where they conduct stop and search sessions. He said that most of the time when such illicit goods are found, the culprits would distance themselves from the goods, leaving transport owners to account for the goods.
“It happens that when we search some of these vehicles especially buses and taxis during the road blocks and we find the illegal goods, no one admits ownership of such goods. The public transport operators should exercise caution on what goods they are carrying as this might come back to haunt them. The law allows for vehicles to be impounded if they are found to be carrying illegal goods. In addition, the transport owners might find themselves having to answer for the illegal goods before the courts,” he warned.
He however said that there is need to educate the transport operators over smuggling of illicit goods.
Among other issues, Makoba raised concern over marijuana trafficking into the country. He said that normally the trafficking is done by Batswana men who range from the ages of 18 to 40.
“Unlike hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, marijuana is the most smuggled drug into the country. This is probably because it has a bigger market in the country because it is affordable. Our investigations have revealed that most of marijuana is smuggled from the south neighboring countries unlike in the past when it used to infiltrate the country from the northern neighboring countries. The drug users prefer marijuana from these countries because it is said to be much stronger,” he said
On a different note, Makoba raised concern over the drug usage in schools by students. He said that there is need for the police, the teachers and the parents to collaborate and fight against the growing habit of drug usage by students.
“What future are we creating for our country if we allow drugs to permeate our schools? The future of this country lies in the hands of the youth. We should all collaborate in the fight against drugs in schools,” he said.