After years of warning from international intelligence agencies, Botswana crime busters are finally pushing back against international drug syndicates who have established a foothold in the country.
For years, there have been warnings 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 reported in 1994 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,” is 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.
Many years later, the Director of Crime Intelligence Branch (CRIB) of Botswana Police Service, Senior Assistant Commissioner, Nunu Lesetedi told Sunday Standard this week that they have declared war on drug lords and their associates.
He revealed that international drug dealers had descended on the country and were working with locals to distribute their merchandise. This has prompted the BPS to launch a crackdown on the syndicates and their local partners. He said investigations have shown that the drug dealers are mostly from South Africa and Swaziland.
“We have established that the international drug dealers are working together with locals who are acting as their consumers as well as distributors,” the official said. He told Sunday Standard that that drug use has spiralled out of control in the country’s urban centres.
“We are trying by all means to bring the issue under control and our aim is to completely block the supply of drugs into the country. We are currently doing border patrols to stop supply of these drugs into the country,” he said.
According to Lesetedi, drugs that have been finding their way into Botswana include marijuana, cocaine and a recreational drug called methcathinone.
He said as part of their efforts to free the country from the scourge of drugs, any property that is a proceed of drugs would be confiscated. He said they had launched a cleanup campaign that is currently underway across the country.
“Drug lords have ruined this country mostly the youth, sadly they are making a lot of money and that has to stop. Enough is enough,” he said.
He explained that “we have done our intelligence gathering very well with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies and now we know where our targets are. We will get them even if they try to hide.So far we know who owns what and where. Now some of the alleged drug lords are trying to get rid of the property they acquired through drugs and they are closely being monitored. Therefore they had better surrender to avoid embarrassment before it is too late,” he said.
“Since the operation started a good number of people have been arrested and thousands of Pulas have also been seized by the police,” he said.
“At this juncture I cannot discuss or share anything with the media about the operational issues including the names of suspects that will be raided as that might scuttle our plans,” he said.