Cape Town – For every drug seizure made at our airports and harbours, 10 “drops” go undetected.
As the ports and airports reopened, so did the million-rand drug trafficking industry that had been dormant by the pandemic’s restrictions on travel.
In the past month, over R5 million worth of drugs such as tik, mandrax and cocaine made its way from countries such as Dubai into Cape Town International Airport. During the past year, between R30m to R50m worth of drugs reached airports and ports before being detected.
Just this week, a bust was made after millions of rand worth of tik, mandrax and cocaine was found in a Milnerton apartment.
Earlier this month, eight members of an international cartel were allegedly linked to an R18.6m bust which included drugs, cash and assets.
The Institute for Security Studies’s Martin Ewi said they had been observing the increase in drugs being transported via our ports and airports with concern.
“We’ve also been shocked by the increased number of seizures and the sheer magnitude of some of the shipments.
“We know that for every seizure, there are 10 unsuccessful ones. While seizures do not give us the exact picture of what is going on, their frequency and especially the size of each seizure tell us that the route is a busy one. It also raises questions about the security system in place. Where traffickers consider a route to have tight security, the shipment size is normally small for easy concealment. But where security is perceived to be not so tight, traffickers take their chances with the size of shipment.
“Each seizure raises the question of how many shipments have passed that were not detected.
“We know that even in the strictest of security, law enforcement agencies will never be able to completely stop trafficking across borders. What is of dire concern is the growing number of state-embedded actors or officers who turn a blind eye or collaborate with the criminals to facilitate the smuggling and trafficking of dangerous drugs across borders.
“Cocaine is principally coming from South America but it can go through many different routes before arriving in South Africa.”
Ewi said when Brazil had direct flights to South Africa, it made an easier passage for drugs to be transported: “The moment there is a new route, they want to make a drop and it is in the magnitudes.
“The recent seizures leave us with many questions to answer. It is therefore important that each seizure be thoroughly investigated to find out countries of origin, transit, and final destinations, as well as the groups behind the shipments. It also underscores the need for a database to record such information. The importance of such a database cannot be overstated as it will facilitate analysis that can help law enforcement to be more proactive in preventing and intercepting the shipment of drugs and other dangerous goods across our borders.”
Airports Company SA (Acsa) group executive, Mzwandile Petros said they were aware of the ongoing busts and were working hand-in-hand with law enforcement, Customs and immigration officials to slow down the trade.
“There are formal structures, including those mandated by law, to ensure that Acsa and the police work hand-in-glove with our law enforcement agencies, to eliminate fraud, corruption, and movement of prohibited substances such as illegal drugs.
“On a bi-weekly basis, the Security Technical Committee comprising Acsa, SAPS, Customs, and immigration officials from the Department of Home Affairs, meet to explore and implement measures that can strengthen security across our entire value chain.
“Acsa has always placed at the disposal of law enforcement tactical intelligence gathered through security technology deployed at all our airports and other means, to aid in the capture and prosecution of those involved in illegal activities at the airports.
“It is through these integrated efforts that we can effectively combat crime at our ports of entry.”
National police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe did not respond to queries about the increase.