Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The drug abuse trend since 1999

I happened to stumble upon an informative article on the website of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), concerning the role Nigerians played in the distribution of drugs in South Africa. The article gives an accurate description of the South African drug scene as it was back then in 1999, --- eight years after the African National Congress (ANC) took control of affairs.

I have posted an extract from the article below, but would like to quote a few words mentioned in other sections of the report – just for the record:

“That South Africa would become a major transport conduit for drugs following the 1994 election was inevitable.”

Border control is no longer the priority it was under the apartheid state. (That was 1999).
South Africa also has everything international drug syndicates look for, without the resources to keep illegal enterprises out:

• First world transportation and communications infrastructure.
• A relatively stable currency.
• Access to commodities like gold, diamonds, and endangered species parts.
• A comfortable lifestyle for the affluent.

“An increase in organised crime including drug trafficking after 1994 was predictable.”
The report mentions that the extent to which South Africa had become a major destination point for drug shipments is surprising. Oh really now! What do you expect when a first-class country is handed over on a platter to a bunch of criminals?

“A number of factors have converged to make South Africa a leading drug market and unless addressed will continue to exacerbate what is already a crisis situation.”

That was back in 1999. Ten years have gone by and the drug problem is not a crisis anymore, but a national catastrophe! According to The Central Drug Authority the socio-economic costs of drug abuse in South Africa is estimated at R20 billion a year. It has become everyone’s problem!

Start (ISS) Extract....

Nigerians and crack cocaine

With the opening of South Africa’s borders following the 1994 election, the drug scene radically changed, in part due to the introduction of new players. According to research conducted for the Institute for Security Studies and the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Nigerian nationals, whose immigration was tolerated in large part due to their role in the anti-apartheid movement, flooded into Johannesburg. The cheap residential hotels in Hillbrow were prime targets for settlement.

These individuals were largely Igbo-speaking peoples of the oil producing south-east corner of Nigeria. Igbo immigrants claim Nigeria’s military government of the Muslim north has persecuted them in their homeland ever since their attempted succession in the Biafran rebellion. Upon entering South Africa, many applied for refugee status under section 41 of the Immigration Act. Although very few were successful in this action, it has provided a veneer of legitimacy to their presence throughout the long process of application and appeal.

Nigeria is recognised as a major player in the international drug economy, despite that fact that it produces no drugs of its own and has little domestic substance abuse problems. Anecdotal evidence suggests that their involvement began when Nigerian sailors stationed in India for training decided to augment their salaries by trading in heroin. Today, Nigerian nationals are blamed for a substantial portion of cocaine and heroin trafficking to the United States and Europe.

The Nigerian immigrants in Hillbrow’s residential hotels found themselves surrounded by a well established drug using population: the city centre sex workers. For sex workers, the transition from their earlier substance of abuse — Mandrax — to crack cocaine was an easy one. Crack, being a stimulant with pro-sexual effects in some users, was a far more appropriate substance for sex work than the depressant Mandrax. Soon sex workers were introducing their clients to the new drug, and the contagion was initiated.

Crack is now the fastest growing substance of abuse in South Africa, with Mandrax on the decline in many areas. Law enforcement attention has rightly been diverted to counter this new drug, with a corresponding sharp decline in cannabis and Mandrax arrests.
The massive decline in arrests for cannabis and Mandrax suggests a reprioritisation of resources to the inflow of new substances of abuse around the time of the country’s first democratic election. Unfortunately, this has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in arrests for these new drugs. While the increase in arrests for dealing in ecstasy do reflect the growing popularity of the drug, enforcement has not kept pace with the colossal expansion of crack cocaine and heroin. Last year’s arrests do show some response to the growth of these drugs, but this is still far from adequate to address the situation.

End (ISS) Extract.




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