Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Gaborone police zero in on cocaine hotspots

In a major breakthrough, Botswana police do not just roam the streets looking for cocaine dealers, they finally know where to find them. Botswana Police Service fighting the rise in cocaine use will start practicing intelligence-led policing – sometimes known as cops on the dots.

Their new strategy will involve sending officers to the places (dots on the map) where illegal cocaine trade is likely to happen. Narcotics Fauna and Flora Investigations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, Osefile Mmitseng told Sunday Standard this week that they have identified cocaine hot spots in Gaborone and will be targeting these areas. Although cocaine use has spiked over the past few years, fresh information has revealed that the rise has concentrated in particular hotspots rather than fanning evenly across the city. According to the Botswana Police Service records, dagga remains the most abused illicit drug in Botswana due to its easy availability while “cocaine is the second placed abused drug with rock or crack cocaine being the most abused drug, followed by ecstasy. Mmitseng says cocaine abuse is on the rise in Botswana and independent investigations by the Sunday Standard shows that each year police officers smash all previous records for drug seizures. Mmitseng warned that a growing number of Batswana youngsters are snorting cocaine.

This observation is supported by findings of the first Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance Survey which revealed that at least one in every 20 Botswana teenagers snort cocaine. The survey conducted last year in 145 schools from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development regions, showed that youth got involved in the use of drugs from a young age; it indicated that from the sampled population of students, 14.9 per cent reported having used marijuana, 5.7 per cent used sextasy, followed by cocaine at 5.6 per cent and ecstasy at 3.7 per cent.

“We are not just standing and watching because we have seen that the rise on cocaine smuggling was on the rise and most of the people who consume it are the youth. We have interventions in place to sensitise the youth to stay away from drugs, “said Mmitseng. He said that some of the cocaine was smuggled through borders because they do not have the necessary equipment to detect drugs.

Mmitseng said that usually they deploy security agents who use sniffer dogs to search for those who smuggle the drugs such as cocaine. He said that so far they have arrested four Batswana who were involved in the smuggling of cocaine in large amounts. Although cocaine appear highest on the police radar, it has also emerged that Botswana is also being used as trans-shipment point for precursor chemicals, especially Methaqualone, the main chemical used in the illicit manufacture of mandrax tablets. Mumbai officials five months ago started unravelling a cartel that smuggles Methaqualone from India via Kenya into Botswana.

In a major drug bust at the Mumbai international airport, Customs officers caught two female African nationals from Mozambique with narcotics worth about P20 million as they were attempting to smuggle out the contraband from the country. Thirty kilogrammes of Methaqualone was seized from the women before they were scheduled to board a flight to Botswana. According to Mumbai officials, the duo belonged to the same cartel with another Mozambique lady arrested at the airport a month before while trying to smuggle P10 million worth of Methaqualone to Botswana via Kenya. According to officials of the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU), Mulima Anifa Raimundo Xavier (33) and Mate Ineida Noemia De Assuncao (36) were slated to board a Kenyan Airways flight to Gaborone via Nairobi.

Officials said that the two had come from Delhi in a domestic flight around three days earlier and carried the drugs with them. Their handlers, who remain at large, handed over the drug to them in the national capital itself. “The drugs are manufactured in the interiors of northern India by illegal chemical units, but transported and peddled by foreign nationals,” the officer added. Customs sources said that at least 10 such women have been brought into the country by the cartel to mule drugs into the international market. Interestingly, this is the second such case at the airport since late July when female Mozambique nationals headed in the same route were caught with narcotics. On July 2013, Mwendlane Catia Daclesa Francisco (22) from Mozambique was caught with 15 kg of Methaqualone worth P10 million bound for Botswana.

Officers said that the accused in the latest case belongs to the same cartel. This came 12 months after South African border patrols discovered more than hundred million Pula worth of Methaqualone in trucks trying to cross into the country from Botswana. A number of international anti narcotics organisations have for years warned that Botswana is also being used as trans-shipment point for precursor chemicals, especially Methaqualone, the main chemical used in the illicit manufacture of mandrax tablets.

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