Wednesday, 4 May 2022


DRUG traffickers are using the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo while exploiting Zimbabweans as mules for easy transportation of hard drugs.

They are using Zimbabwe as a transit route as they seek to reach markets including South Africa, China and India.

It has emerged too that Zimbabweans have also become conduits of international drug trafficking syndicates.

Some of the drugs are sold in the country and mostly in affluent suburbs and nightclubs, authorities have said.

Of late, law enforcement agents have been arresting some locals transporting hard drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth.

The country is on a drive to arrest the rising drug problem and yesterday an inter-ministerial Taskforce on Drug Abuse and Substance Abuse held a stakeholder meeting at the airport to assess its preparedness to detect the trafficking of drugs into the country.

Zimbabwe is facing an increasing drug problem and the Government recently launched a National Drug Policy to arrest the rising problem which is mostly affecting youths.

Addressing members of the Bulawayo provincial and national inter-ministerial Taskforce on Drug Abuse and Substance Abuse at the airport, Acting Regional Immigration Officer Mr Lucky Matyora said his department profiles travellers and has established that most drug traffickers come from West Africa, South America and the Middle East as they use Zimbabwe route in drug trafficking.

“We also want to look at drug routes, this is an international airport, of late we are having traffic coming from South Africa. South Africa even during historical times is an international transit route with a high number of travellers. As I said earlier, we have countries in South America, Peru and Mexico; those people try to traffic their drugs to the most populous nations such as China and India,” said Mr Matyora.

“But they can’t just go there, countries like China have tough laws, so they pass through South Africa. They want to go through the Philippines and countries like Afghanistan. Also coming from Afghanistan, they have a route that goes through Tanzania, these people have a route to the South African market which makes Zimbabwe a transit route. Once you become a transit route it follows that you are a user.”

He said as Zimbabwe is a transit route it is not surprising that some of the drugs end up being sold locally.

Hard drugs are being found in affluent suburbs and affluent nightclubs. If we are talking of hard drugs, we are talking of high money. The transit route goes through Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and it goes to South Africa,” he said.

Mr Matyora said the immigration department working with the security sector, profiles travellers and those frequenting South America, Middle East and West Africa as they are likely to be drug traffickers.

He said Zimbabweans have also become conduits of international drug trafficking syndicates.

“The Nigerian West African transit (drug trafficking) route affects us as Zimbabweans. We have these drug mules, these people from West Africa know it’s tough for them to reach their target market. As I alluded to earlier on, countries like China have tough laws so they use our brothers and sisters as drug mules,” he said.

Zimbabweans have on several occasions been arrested while trafficking drugs internationally.

Speaking during the same occasion, Bulawayo provincial chairperson on the Supply and Reduction Pillar of the inter-ministerial committee Mr Munotyei Muparadzi said the Joshua Mqabuko International Airport has recorded several incidents of drug trafficking.

“We have observed that smugglers through our ports have been using a plethora of technologies to smuggle and traffic drugs through points of entry and exit. Notable among these methodologies, is concealment and this can be done through a hand-held gadget, or putting drugs in shoes, it could be placed within commercial goods, these are some of the major ways in which drug traffickers are concealing drugs.

The second methodology is that of forced manipulation. These are people who are coming from outside Africa, let’s say Europe, South America who are given parcels to come and deliver when an individual says, ‘I want you to go and give this parcel to my relative’ and unknowingly that person can smuggle drugs. We also have ingestion, where one swallows drugs to avoid being detected,” said Mr Muparadzi.

He said there is also facilitated smuggling which involves officials at the airport taking bribes to facilitate the trafficking of hard drugs.

He said if the country is to be successful in its quest to address the drug trafficking problem, there is a need to train port of entry workers on drug related matters.

“In terms of the challenges here at the Joshua Mqabuko International Airport, we lack requisite materials as a result of budgetary issues. We do not have adequate equipment like body scanners. We do not have site test kits for us to test substances that we suspect have drugs. We also don’t have adequate sniffer dogs, sometimes they come but they are not always readily available to help us with regards to drug issues,” he said.

“The second issue is lack of technical knowhow with regards to training where basically across the board most officers that are deployed here lack knowledge on simply what the drug looks like, how it smells if it is put in water or any other substance. So, lack of technical knowhow is affecting our anti-drug smuggling efforts.”

Mr Muparadzi said there is also a need for a centralised database with profiles of suspected drug peddlers which can replicate international systems.

Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport manager Mr Passmore Dewa said there is a need for a coordinated approach in arresting the drug problem at multistakeholder level.

Mr Dewa took the committee through various airport checkpoints explaining their importance in surveillance and what needs to be done to improve the monitoring systems. Chronicle 


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