The War on Drugs
A few weeks ago, when Tanzania was hosting the SADC Ministerial Committee Organ (MCO) responsible for Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bernard Member, confirmed that Tanzania is one of the top five countries of the SADC whose harbours and airports are used as conduits for drug trafficking.
Speaking at this 15th MCO, which was faced with an uphill task of tackling this illicit trade, Minister Membe singled out other countries being South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Angola.
The announcement just came a fortnight after two female artists from Tanzania were nabbed at the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg with 150kg of drugs, crystal methamphetamine locally known in South Africa as “tik”.
Hardly another two weeks thereafter it was reported two Tanzanians were arrested at the Hong Kong Airport with heroin valued at US$1.38 million. It is believed that the duo started off from Brazil to Tanzania then on transit Dubai to Hong Kong!
Of the five SADC countries singled out, it appears Tanzania is a major conduit of these drugs and can be described as part of the evil axis of the drug passage from Brazil and other Latin American countries to South Africa and from Pakistan to Europe and South Africa.
It is said that Africa has become the most cost effective way of shipping drugs to anywhere in the world, having known that the drug barons in African countries in particular Tanzania have intensified their secretive ways through corruption of managing the trade.
With these arrests of perpetuators in foreign countries, it appears the problem is bigger than what we know. The pronouncements by some prominent people of this country make us believe that all is not well.
The owner of the IPP Group, Reginald Mengi is reported by the press to have wondered as to how such two young artists could possess such a big contraband without support of the heavy weights.
But more frightening comments are that some politicians eying for the Presidential slot in 2025 might also be possible drug barons! God forbid!
It is estimated that there are more than 200 Tanzanians languishing in foreign prisons convicted for their involvement on illegal trade in drugs. I personally have seen them in South Africa, Angola and Namibian prisons.
And in Scandinavian countries in particular Sweden, I once met some of the Tanzanians serving long sentences on such crimes both male and female prisoners.
This is very worrisome to our nation. When addressing the press conference last week, the Director of Criminal Investigation, Commissioner Robert Manumba, also expressed his concern on the booming illegal business on drugs going on in the country.
He said in the past, small amount of bhang was used by our people to energise them for productive hard work. But of late this has changed; bhang cultivation has become “green gold lucrative” business.
In the northern part of the country, this bhang cultivation has assumed unofficial third place in cash minting followed after mining of the gemstone tanzanite, tourism and the “green gold” cultivation of bhang.
How serious is this problem in our country?
According to International Anti-narcotic Watch Dog, Tanzania is placed behind Mexico and the US in the use of bhang – cannabis. It was established a few years back that Tanzania drug dealers had excelled the Nigerians in smuggling drugs into Botswana.
According to Detective Assistant Superintendent Kenosi Tsaanang of the Drug and Narcotics Squad of Botswana, since 2009 there was a new trend in which Tanzania drug dealers were topping the police list in drug dealing in Botswana.
The Tanzania Head of Anti-Drug Unit, Senior Assistant Commissioner Godfrey Nzowa once warned that strict sanctions are bound to come as the law is being reviewed to intensify the war on trafficking and drugs peddling.
Yes, that should be done as the Drug and Prevention of illicit Trafficking Drugs Act Number 9 of 1995, has not adequately been effective.
It can be seen on the way this crime was getting higher each year. In 2011 there were 264.3 kg of heroin impounded involving 20 suspects compared to 185.8 kg involving 15 suspects in the previous year.
Perhaps the sophistry of this war on drugs is very complex as it is a cross border and organised crime which needs subtle tackling.
In February 2010 Police in Barcelona in Spain busted an International traffic gang after arresting 48 members most of them mainly from Tanzania.
It is reported from that country, there is a gang which appears to be organised network of most Tanzanian Nationals with a horizontal structure and cells acting independently, but coordinated fashion by their kinships and fellows who had settled in Argentina, Brazil, Greece and Turkey.
It won't be surprising to hear big names of drug barons of the magnitude of Mexican Torres Manuel aka Torres Felix or Manuel Felix De Jesus or El-Ondeado, Macho Proito aka Araujo Inzunza Ganzalo and Kyrgstan national, Kolbayer, Kamochybek, Asanbekovich aka Kolbae.
With such names you can see how the name of Tanzania has been elevated to be in the top list of drug peddling countries. The big question which should haunt us is, can we seriously unlock ourselves from this predicament?
To make things worse, our culture of concentrating on frivolous issues such as bonanzas, marriage parties and happy-go-lucky attitude together with this drug activism; can we make a robust socio-economic transformation despite the abundance of all those natural resources?
Can our Vision 2025 be realised in this way? Collectively, as a nation, Tanzania needs to launch a fierce attack on corrupt practices, that include drug peddling, laxity and inefficiency, carelessness with public property and infrastructure, the phobia of investors and investment, tax evasion getting rich quickly by any means and the habit of just complaining instead of being part of the solution.
Let's move from that, it can be done, play your part! – Tanzania Daily News
• Kiangiosekazi Wa Nyoka is a lawyer by profession