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Drug lords in the spotlight

26 May 2016 Author  
front drugs b 27 May 2016Local drug kingpins, who have profiteered through the sale of illicit drugs in the country, will soon find themselves on the losing end, as NamPol goes after their assets.
 
This comes as drug use and trade in narcotics engulfs the country, with dealers said to be raking in millions, resulting in them flaunting their wealth through the acquisition of expensive cars and property.
 
NamPol, through its Prevention of Organised Crime Unit, has compiled a wide-ranging database, which will be used to identify drug dealers’ assets, which will then be seized and forfeited to the State.
 
“Most of these people do not work and will have to justify how they went about owning the assets they have. The unit is busy with those investigations,” the Head of the Drug Law Enforcement Division, Deputy Commissioner Hermie van Zyl, told the Windhoek Observer.
 
He said the seizing of the dealers’ assets will go a long way in demystifying claims that they were “untouchable”, as most of them secure bail, following their arrest for drug offences.
 
About 195 Namibians and seven foreigners have been nabbed for drug offences, in various operations from January to March this year.
 
“Most drug dealers that are known have been arrested; it’s only in the last two weeks that we are finding people that we don’t know that we arrested.
 
“Most we have arrested, but they are out on bail, and the moment they are out, they continue with the trade,” Van Zyl said.
 
“I don’t know why they get bail so easily, because it creates more problems for us. We oppose bail, but you will find in two to three months, someone is out on bail.”
 
According to police data, the drug unit confiscated 99 kilograms of cannabis with a street value of N$303,000 in the first three months of the year.
 
Mandrax valued at N$641,000, cocaine powder worth N$207,000 and crack cocaine with an estimated value of N$67,000, have also been seized by the police.
 
An estimated N$1,8 million worth of cannabis was confiscated last year, as well as 7,070 mandrax tablets, cocaine powder valued at N$511, 000 and ecstasy with a street value of N$470,000, among others.
 
 “We cannot say we have a crisis, because that is more common with heroin, because it’s addictive and it becomes expensive.
 
“At this moment we don’t have heroin in the country, because we have not arrested anyone with heroin... Drugs are a big problem, but it’s not a crisis,” Van Zyl said.
 
He said cannabis remains the drug of choice for many in Namibia, with the Khomas and Erongo regions being drug hotspots.
 
“Cannabis is the most used by beginners and is a poor man’s drug, so obviously it’s the most consumed in the country.
 
“Secondly, we have crack cocaine, and in some cases we get ecstasy, which is a club drug.
 
“Mandrax is now an upcoming market that we have noticed, and we are seeing big amounts coming in there,” he said.
 
Van Zyl said the country’s porous borders were creating a challenge for the drug enforcement agency as none of the drugs were being grown or manufactured locally.
 
“Namibia is not a drug producing country, so drugs are not manufactured in the country, so all the drugs are coming through our borders, and that’s why we are trying to establish more units along the borders.
 
“Our porous borders are also a big problem for us, if you look at the northern borders, its hundreds of kilometres of river, and even the fence that is there does not keep the people out,” he said
 
Van Zyl said because of increased cases of drug traffickers being caught at the border, the police force has now invested in sniffer dogs, while training is also being given to customs officials.
 
“We are in the process of training drug sniffer dogs, strictly for the borders, so in the near future people will start seeing sniffer dogs at the borders.
 
“It’s a very expensive exercise, but we will start to deploy them on the northern borders.
 
“We have added drug units in Oshikango, with the latest being in Kavango West, to cover the borders in that area, because those two border posts are a big concern for us,” the drug enforcement unit head said.
 
“We concentrate on training customs officials at our borders, to show them how the concealments are being done. We are also going to start training officials at the airports, to show them what types of concealments are coming in.”
 
On whether the unit was capacitated enough with resources, including manpower, Van Zyl said they will soon embark on a recruitment drive, after getting approval from the top hierarchy of the police force.
 
“We have received instructions from the general (Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga) to recruit 30 percent more manpower than what we are having. With those instructions, we are busy looking at suitable members to recruit to the units,” he said.
 
Last year, NamPol arrested 822 Namibians, 77 foreigners for drug offences, compared with the 2014 figure of 850 Namibians and 67 foreigners.
 
Despite the current drug challenges faced by the country, Namibia currently has one State-owned rehabilitation facility, the Etegameno Resource and Rehabilitation Centre located near Brakwater.
 
The facility is reported to admit only 80 people, between the ages of 18 and 39, on an annual basis.
 
Efforts to get a comment from the centre’s administration about current admission figures and challenges faced in the fight against drug addiction failed, after the Windhoek Observer was referred to the Ministry of Health and Social Services Permanent Secretary Dr Andreas Mwoombola, whose phone went unanswered.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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