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Drug trade fuelled by top Gov’t officials

Illicit drugs are on the loose in Botswana, fresh information turned up by WeekendPost has revealed. Most of the drugs are smuggled into Botswana from neighbouring countries through un-gazetted areas, including through the border where there is a defective routine search and check-ups.

There are no electronic x-ray machines or scans at the border or points of entry to roughly detect drugs and law enforcers rely only on “intelligence”, this publication has learnt. This publication has further turned up information to the effect that a high number of citizens of Botswana are recorded as involved in this cross border drug smuggling than foreigners. Point of entry check-ups are seen as flawed and an uncomplicated freeway by drug lords who hide the illegal substances in strategic car parts, restaurants food packs boxes, credulous body parts like armpits, beneath private parts including out rightly swallowing them.

They would later excrete them through the anal passage. According to highly placed sources in the fight for substance abuse and rehabilitation, the most smuggled drug used by clients remains Marijuana (dagga) followed by Methcathinone which is known as CAT, then crack cocaine (madaena), and cocaine, including others like Heroin. Botswana Police Service (BPS) Director of Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Busang Lesola has raised the red flag concerning drug usage in Botswana. He told this publication that illegal drug use and trade is of serious concern in Botswana and they (CID) are doing everything within their power to address it.

The sentiment was also echoed by Officer Commanding at Narcotics, Fauna and Flora Investigations (NFFI), Detective Senior Superintendent Miriam Kilano who also confirmed to WeekendPost in an interview that they have many cases in relation to the said drugs which regrettably find their way into the country and are utilized by citizens and foreigners. She described the state of affairs as “seriously of concern” to her department and the public in general. Investigations by this publication have uncovered that cocaine can be categorized as the most expensive with a customer base cutting across all socio-economic groups – particularly people with financial power.

The illegal drug is in powder form and costs around BWP 300 per sachet which its effect lasts for almost a month. More investigations by this publication also reveal that although drug use cuts across the education sector, both public and private schools, it is however said to be very rampant at Private Schools. It is understood that dealers may be tapping on the students’ financial significance as a result of their lucrative pocket money as mostly are from well off families.

Recently, the son of Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi, together with three alleged crime partners were nabbed with drugs in their possession at a road block in Pitsane en-route to Gaborone from South Africa. On the matter, Kgathi (23) is charged with Tumisang Tlhalefang (24), Kgosietsile Geoffrey Dihutso (23) and Alphius Raditladi (25). The quartet underwent BPS routine search at a road block and were caught with pants down in possession of “11 white blocks packaged in Romany cream biscuits box and thirty pieces contained in a packet of Simba chips suspected to be methacatinone.”

They are due to appear in court on December 6 to face the charges of “unlawful possession of habit forming drugs.” When WeekendPost asked why the drug trade and usage is continuing whilst the hotspots and trade spots are well known by the community and some CID operatives, the CID official was at pains to answer and almost fell short of critiquing the law governing drugs saying it has its own limitations when it comes to arresting the situation.

Information turned up indicates that the lucrative market for the drugs and some of the hotspots drug infested places in Gaborone are said to be the suburban area Phakalane, Phase 2, Maruapula and Tlokweng just to mention a few. In terms of the said places, BPS, CID Officer in Charge, Petrus Nkgetse also confirmed in his interaction with the WeekendPost at CID headquarters, NFFI department in Gaborone. He said that the current law does not speak to those who have smoked the illegal drugs ‘per se’ but only provides that they can only have a case against drug users once they catch them red handed and ‘in possession of such illegal drugs’.

Prior, the police utilized the Drugs and Related Substance Act which was later reviewed to the current one named Medicine and related Substance Act. The new Act, the police say, carries more hefty penalties for perpetrators than the previous. In terms of the new Act and other interventions the CID officials were adamant that the situation is under control as far as they are concerned. Meanwhile, a non- governmental organisation that provides substance abuse education, prevention, and rehabilitation services to the general public, Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) said it was equally concerned about the rampant drug use and abuse.

“Drugs, yes, it’s now a very serious problem in Botswana, it’s now rampant,” the oganisation through its Clinical Programs Manger, Lorato Koosaletse told this publication. According to Koosaletse, more of illegal drugs and substances are emerging and the country cannot keep up with the rise. She gave an example of concoction of drugs said to be on the rampage where students and other drug users release faeces, dry them and later mix them with dagga and inhale.

The BOSANET official stressed that students are involved in unlawful drug use “as early as 12 years” and others “old as 60 years” as well as “the rich and the poor” which make part of their client base for rehabilitation. As causes of substance abuse, Koosaletse said most people get into drugs for various reasons such as a public expectation; as a result of peer pressure; for entertainment; and others do drugs out of curiosity, ending up in addiction, among others. The BOSASNet executive also called for “more stricter and punitive laws; more rehabilitation centres or facilities where people can easily get help.”

According to official statistics of a testing and rehabilitation centre, Elite Life Coaching, there cases of a 15 years old female and a 16 years old male who tested positive for crack cocaine as at January 2017. 52 people of all genders also tested positive for marijuana, 42 for crack cocaine, 31 for CAT and 28 for cocaine between April 2015 and January 2017 in Gaborone.

Habit forming Dagga (Marijuana):

According to official statistics by BPS CID, NFFI department, in 2017 between January and March, they arrested 172 citizens and 11 non citizens in connection with 111 cases of 204.6945 kg of Dagga possession. In 2016, there were 617 cases recorded of dagga weighing 1053.422kg from 871 Batswana and 44 non citizens. 652 cases of Dagga possession were also recorded in 2015 weighing 253.6322 kg and 732 citizens and 45 non citizens were arrested to the cases. There were 639 cases of dagga possession also in 2014 and 837 Batswana as well as 33 foreigners were arrested. The said dagga weighed 359.173 kg.   

Marijuana (DAGGA) is a green or grey mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The drug contains a number of substances called cannabinoids and it is these cannabinoids that affect the brain, heart and lungs.
It is smoked in the form of hand-rolled cigarettes or in a pipe. Signs of marijuana abuse are frequently visible in users: red, blurry, bloodshot eyes; constant, mucus-filled cough; rapid heartbeat; hunger, referred to as munchies; dry mouth; anxiety, paranoia, or fear; poor memory; poor coordination.

The recreational Methcathinone (CAT):

Sometimes called “cat” or “jeff” or “catnip” or “intash” is used as a recreational drug due to its potent stimulant and euphoric effects and is considered to be addictive, with both physical and psychological withdrawal occurring if its use is discontinued after prolonged or high-dosage administration.It is usually snorted, but can be smoked, injected, or taken orally; and effects include; feelings of euphoria; Increased alertness; Slurred speech; Shaking of the limbs; Increased heart rate; Risk of blood clots on the brain, heart attacks or strokes; Headaches or Migraine attacks; Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or pains in the stomach; Increased empathy and sense of communication; Both decreased and increased sexual function and desire; Bruxism. The effects of methcathinone usually last from four to six hours.

BPS CID, NFFI statistics illustrate that in 2017 from January to March, only 10 cases were recorded in relation to 106.1g of CAT. 14 citizens and 2 expatriates were arrested. In 2016, there was 1560.8273g of CAT confiscated from 40 Batswana and 2 foreigners emanating from the 24 cases recorded. CAT weighing 130.8989g was confiscated from 14 cases involving 25 Batswana and 2 non citizens in 2015. Only 1 case was recorded in 2014 involving 1 citizen in possession of CAT weighing 0.05g.
The addictive Cocaine:

In terms of cocaine, official statistics from CID, NFFI indicate that in the first quarter of 2017, 38 g of the drug was confiscated from 5 Batswana and 4 foreigners in which there were 4 cases. The Cocaine weighed 38g. In 2016, there were 21 cases of 23 Batswana and 3 expatriates found in possession of 4313.7216 g of cocaine. Before that, in 2015, 18 cases were recorded of cocaine weighing 188.5 g involving 22 citizens and 5 non citizens. 19 Batswana where arrested in 2014 in connection to 12 cases of cocaine weighing 146. 915g. Cocaine is an addictive drug derived from coca or prepared synthetically, used as an illegal stimulant and sometimes medicinally as a local anaesthetic.

Cocaine short term effects include; Loss of appetite; Increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature; Contracted blood vessels; Increased rate of breathing; Dilated pupils; Disturbed sleep pattern; Nausea; Hyperstimulation; Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior; Hallucinations, hyperexcitability, irritability; Tactile hallucination that creates the illusion of bugs burrowing under the skin; Intense euphoria; Anxiety and paranoia; Depression; Intense drug craving; Panic and psychosis; Convulsions, seizures and sudden death from high doses (even one time); Cocaine causes heart, kidney, brain and lung damage.

Cocaine Long-term effects include: Permanent damage to blood vessels of heart and brain; High blood pressure, leading to heart attacks, strokes, and death; Liver, kidney and lung damage; Destruction of tissues in nose if sniffed; Respiratory failure if smoked; Infectious diseases and abscesses if injected; Malnutrition, weight loss; Severe tooth decay; Auditory and tactile hallucinations; Sexual problems, reproductive damage and infertility (for both men and women); Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion; Irritability and mood disturbances; Increased frequency of risky behavior; Delirium or psychosis; Severe depression; Tolerance and addiction (even after just one use).

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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