By John Nyawali
Looking at the illicit drug trends in the year 2009, one thing came out clear. The quantities of illicit drugs earmarked for trafficking continued to increase as well as the number of people getting arrested in connection with trafficking in the psychotropic and narcotic drugs.
The high incidences in trafficking and cultivation were coupled by a sharp increase in the number of cases involving the production of counterfeit notes both in the local currency (kwacha, particularly fifty thousand kwacha denomination) and dollars especially hundred dollar bills.
Of particular concern to the Commission in this year was the proliferation of young people, especially the teenagers and youths as well as the vulnerable members of society particularly the physically challenged and the blind getting involved in illicit drugs.
A lot more people cutting across ages got arrested for trafficking, cultivation or possession of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances including the production of counterfeit notes.
As a Commission, we have intensified investigations to understand the true nature, the extent and other factors apart from the hosting of the world cup and the AFCON in Angola that could have contributed to the increase in drug trafficking.
Effective and workable strategies to prevent and detect these activities at an earliest stage possible have been put in place and we have remained resolute in our activities of interdiction, drug demand reduction and money laundering investigations.
In the year 2009, the Commission seized 63 tonnes of cannabis, representing an increase of 96.8% percent in cannabis seizures as compared to 2008 where 32 tonnes was seized. This year, 3070 people were arrested from different parts of the country for various drug related offences representing an increase of 52 % of people arrested for drug trafficking as compared to 2008 where 2009 people were arrested.
Of those arrested 370 were females and 2700 were males, ranging from the ages of nine to 90. Zambians accounted for 95 percent of persons arrested representing a figure of 2945.
Despite foreigners representing five percent of the total arrests, the majority of them were arrested for trafficking in hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
The majority of Zambians arrested were peasant farmers, with Lusaka recording the highest number of arrests followed by Copperbelt province. However, Western province recorded the highest figure of 18 tonnes of cannabis seizures as compared to other provinces.
Other significant seizures of the year included 50 kilogram of pseudo ephedrine, about eight kilograms of cocaine and 1 kilogram of heroin.
During the period under review, out of the 3070 persons arrested for drug related offenses, 1190 people were convicted representing a 61 percent conviction rate, 1155 have their cases pending in the courts of law, while the remaining figure they were either discharged, acquitted or had their cases handed over to other law enforcement agencies for prosecution.
Since most of the arrested are Zambians, sensitization of the general public about the dangers of drugs has continued through the National Education Campaign Division (NECD) of the Commission.
DRUG DEMAND REDUCTION
The over view of drug demand reduction programs in the period January to date is somewhat encouraging in that during this period, the Commission through various public awareness activities on the dangers of drug trafficking, drug abuse and money laundering reached out to a total number of fifty six thousand eight hundred and one (56,801) people countrywide.
The sensitization programmes, spearheaded by the National Education Campaign Division covered institutions of learning, various communities and work places.
When it comes to counseling and rehabilitation of drug dependent people, the Commission attended to 288 people, majority being the male youths. Common substance of abuse remained cannabis and alcohol, however, twelve out of 288 were abusing cocaine and six were abusing heroin.
In terms of financial crimes, the Commission has noticed with concern the increasing cases of high level white collar crimes by people both in the private and public sectors, thereby posing a serious threat to the economy of the country.
In the year 2009, the Commission seized an equivalent of K13 billion of US dollars in counterfeit notes.
During the period under review, the Commission through its Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit arrested 40 people in different incidents for various money laundering activities involving over K5.5 billion. The monies involved belonged both to the public and private institutions and as a result of these arrests, 56 motor vehicles and nine houses were seized in Lusaka, Ndola and Kitwe.
Despite the prolonged judicial process in the prosecution of money laundering cases, 13 people were convicted and 11 motor vehicles were forfeited to the state.
The Commission will continue making efforts to ensure that illicit drugs and money laundering do not find a place in our society. The huge seizures of illicit drugs and the detection of money laundering activities involving billions of kwacha should serve as a warning to the public that the Commission is determined to creating a drug and money laundering free environment for the betterment of this country for now and in years to come.
Lastly, we wish to thank the public for the support they have given us during this year and the media who have also been instrumental in disseminating the necessary information to the public. We hope this support and partnership will continue and enhanced next year and many more years to come.
We wish the country at large a drug free festive season.
John Nyawali is the Public Relations Manager for the DEC. The document above was presented to journalists at Pamodzi Hotel by Nyawali on 31st December 2009.