Thursday, April 18, 2024

SSKIA at risk of transnational cocaine micro-trafficking

Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSKIA) is increasingly becoming a target being used as a micro-trafficking embarkation point for the regional transit of cocaine to international destinations. This claim is contained in a hard-hitting report prepared by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime titled: A powder Storm; The Cocaine Markets of East and Southern Africa.

Global Initiative warns that organised crime syndicates in the cocaine business are targeting South African and Batswana air flight crews and passengers to smuggle cocaine. “Larger loads of cocaine that have arrived in unaccompanied air cargo are broken up into smaller volumes and filtered through regional airports, decreasing the risk of detection. Airports involved include those in Lilongwe and Blantyre in Malawi, Lusaka, Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, Gaborone in Botswana and St Denis in Réunion,” states the report.

The report adds that: “The use of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone for transnational cocaine micro-trafficking transiting through Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport is a risk that requires exploration”.

Among other things, the report states that cocaine trade in Botswana is lucrative and more rooted than previously believed – and facilitated by Nigerian syndicates that are behind the import of cocaine into Botswana. The report also states that Botswana is increasingly becoming an important node for the import, export and distribution of cocaine throughout the region.

 “Often ignored in regional analysis, Botswana is increasingly contributing to the regional distribution of cocaine. The Nigerian networks that are bringing heroin into the country are believed to be bringing in cocaine too, using the same overland routes and transport modalities, with most shipments originating in South Africa’s Gauteng province. The drugs move through Botswana to neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe,” states the report.

Additionally, the report states that Gaborone is the central distribution hub because of its close proximity to two international overland border gates with South Africa. “Supplies are imported almost exclusively overland from production and storage caches operated by Nigerian syndicates based in Johannesburg. Although landlocked, Botswana cocaine distributors have the benefit of being on the pathway of a large volume of cargo that moves from the Port of Walvis Bay in Namibia,” states the report.

The syndicates are believed to have shocking levels of access in governments, civic society and even politics in southern African countries and take advantage of the weaknesses of these institutions to advance their agenda.

The report also highlights that the Four Points border crossing located at the eastern tip of Namibia’s Caprivi Strip is an important crossing for illicit drug flows, predominantly cocaine, between Zambia and Botswana. The Pioneer Gate is also reported to be a viable route for cocaine traffickers. It is reported that cocaine arrives in Botswana overland from Johannesburg in South Africa, where it then transits Botswana to other regional countries, including Zambia and Zimbabwe. The micro-trafficked cocaine comes into Botswana overland through the use of trucks, public transport vehicles and often times in the baggage of cross-border traders and migrants.

“The seaports of Durban, Ngqura and Cape Town, the airports of Johannesburg and Cape Town, and the overland border crossings of Beitbridge (with Zimbabwe), Lebombo and Kosi Bay (with Mozambique), Maseru Bridge and Peka Bridge (with Lesotho) and Pioneer Gate (with Botswana), are important nodes for the import, export and distribution of cocaine throughout the region,” states the report.

The report which explores the current retail markets for cocaine across East and southern Africa notes with concern the absence of current empirical data on the use of and trade in cocaine not only in Botswana, but across the region. With as much as billions worth of cocaine being shipped annually from southern African countries to Europe and other lucrative markets, researchers are unable to put a figure on the annual cocaine  trade in Botswana.

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