Behind illicit drug trade

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 April 2016   |   By Phillimon Mmeso
Sniffer dog during one of the recent  bomb scares in Gaborone Sniffer dog during one of the recent bomb scares in Gaborone

Beautiful ladies, used car retailers, pawn shops, high school students and truck drivers are pushing illicit drug trade, targeting even children in diapers. 

As South African authorities ratchet up efforts to curb bustling traffic in illegal drugs which comes through from the north, its counterparts including Botswana are still facing serious challenges of fighting the drug cartels. Recently South African Revenue Services (SARS) with the help of the South African Police confiscated over one million mandrax pill worth over R80 million (P60 million) at Kopfontein/Tlokweng border post which were destined for South Africa. Information gathered by this publication has revealed that the mandrax were manufactured in Botswana as the country has now been turned into a manufacturing hub. The truck had false compartments to stash away 141 packages of mandrax thus 1 428 140 tablets were confiscated with the help of the sniffing dogs.

No sniffer dogs
The country is battling with the upsurge of the illicit drug business and shortage of resources is hampering the efforts by the police to control the illicit trade.
In the past the country used to be 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 chemicals used to be trafficked to South Africa and after the country tightened its security and managing to nab some of the drug lords and shutting their factories where the drugs were manufactured, the drug cartel found a lucrative market in Botswana. The chemical is shipped through East and Central Africa from India and lands in Botswana through truck operators who come through the Kazungula border. Security at the Kazungula is said to be light as a result of the lack of sophisticated equipment to detect drugs. According to the US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics Matters report of 2015, Heroin, primarily of Afghan origin, typically arrives in ports in Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique from South West Asia and subsequently transported by land to South Africa, often transiting Zambia and Botswana. In 2013 a Mozambique woman Mwendlane Catia Daclesa Francisco (22) was arrested by the Indian Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of Customs on the charge of trying to smuggle out 15 kg of Methaqualone drug to Botswana. Unearthed information has shown that car dealerships, especially of imported second hand cars and pawn shops are used to manufacture and distribute drugs. “They are then hidden in empty trucks going back to South Africa which is a very lucrative market, said a source within the security forces.

Mogoditshane: The manufacturing distribution hub
Some of the traders in bustling second hand car business are said to be involved in the illicit drugs dealings and recruitment of drug moles. The tablets will be parked in plastics and hidden underneath trucks that bring second hand cars from Durban to Botswana. A wholesale mandrax tablets sells for up to P40 000 per kilogramme, said the source. “Some of them are transported in private cars mostly driven by hired ladies as police will normally not suspect them of any criminal activity,” said the source, adding that most of them are drug moles that have been promised lot of money. The time of crossing the border is also of paramount importance, according to the source, revealing that drugs are trafficked during peak hours or when the border is about to be closed when officers are tired and don’t have time for thorough checks.

Beautiful, charming ladies
The young executives who are normally addicts are used to transport the drugs to South Africa either through private cars or using buses pretending that they are going to buy clothes. “The ladies are beautiful and charming and some hold reputable positions in some multinational companies. Normally they will try to flirt with border officials and are known as entrepreneurs yet they are used to transport the stuff to South Africa and bring some from that side,” said the source.