Police in the Western Cape regularly seize millions worth of drugs, but residents are worried because they are not being properly accounted for. Unfortunately, the trend is that drugs that are confiscated find their way to the streets.
“We do not see it being destroyed,” said a concerned resident at the 2019 year-end meeting of the Community Policing Forum (CPF) in Elsies River on the Cape Flats. The resident believes that the public can see the destruction of alcohol happening, but when it comes to drugs, it is not clearly visible what is happening to it.
Pigeon Hill on the Cape Flats in the Western Cape is a high-risk gang-ravaged area. Bonteheuwel ward councilor Angus McKenzie says: “The driving force behind gang-related crime and gangs in our communities is drugs and their distribution. Unfortunately, confiscated drugs tend to find their way back to the streets. ”According to him, the majority of law enforcement officers are skilled, with a high level of integrity. “But unfortunately, there are some individuals who do not share these qualities.” This is attributed to McKenzie’s pursuit of more money, satisfaction of personal needs and some law enforcement officers who are head to head in gangs.
Police forces worldwide are receptive to engaging in the corrupt activities of drug trafficking, mainly because they are cash-based and criminalized. This is according to a 2019 research report, Hiding in plain sight, by ENACT, an initiative funded by the European Union to combat cross-border organized crime. The report focuses on the increase in heroin use in South Africa and was written by senior analyst Simone Haysom. This highlights the triangular relationship between drug providers, drug users and the police.
According to a Cape Flats police officer, in his nine years as a police officer, he has never seen any drugs destroyed. “I don’t know where this is going. I know it is sent to the laboratory and then the reports are sent back to court to confirm if it is a drug, but where it goes after that, I do not know. ”
Once the police officer officially admitted confiscated drugs and his senior confirmed the receipt of it in writing, he is no longer involved in the process.
COL. Vuyisile Payi, Elsies River’s commander for visible policing, says: “The disposal of drugs takes place at provincial level. When police confiscate marijuana and firearms, they are taken to the Bellville Provincial Office, known as FLASH (illegal firearms, liquor and second-hand goods). The destruction is done by them, not by us. “
COL. However, FLASH provincial commander Jacques van Lill said he was not in a position to respond to any drug-related questions because they did not work with them.
According to a senior police officer, only marijuana, the most popular drug in South Africa, is destroyed at the station level at semi-private institutions. According to the officer, an officer is present during the marijuana destruction process. However, he adds, “there is not yet a person who sees that happening.”
All other chemical drugs such as Mandrax, heroin and methamphetamine (Tik) must be destroyed by the forensic science laboratory under controlled conditions, regardless of quantity. Even a single Mandrax tablet is destroyed by this laboratory. Lieutenant Colonel. Andre Traut, spokesperson for the Western Cape police, assured that “all drugs received by the forensic science laboratory for analysis are destroyed under controlled conditions and with the necessary authorization”.
According to Traut, the police’s handling of drugs is regulated by National Instruction 8 of 2017. This instruction deals with the management of property and vouchers.
National Police spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo also confirmed that all illegal drugs are being kept to the point where they are being destroyed. According to Naidoo, the records are stored for “audit purposes” and not disclosed.
When asked whether the media and the public can view the audit reports for the purpose of determining how many drugs were confiscated over a period of time and how many were eventually destroyed, he merely re-assures that all confiscated drugs are destroyed.
McKenzie feels drugs should follow the same route as alcohol.
“It’s important to destroy it in public where the public can see it. But I think it is critical to get an overview from the SAPS about how many drugs were confiscated and where the drugs go after seizure. We need a transparent process that traces drugs from the time they are seized, right through the court process, until they are destroyed. We also need the assurance that that procedure will take place. ”
Meanwhile, the public, including communities suffering from the effects of illegal drug trafficking, must rest with police assurance that they have systems in place to keep track of the drugs in their possession and that they are destroyed. As long as it is not openly disclosed and the extent of its disclosure, these assurances remain a consolation.