STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka
MINISTER of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo has directed the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) to rid townships of illicit drug cartels because drug abuse and trafficking are a threat to national security.
And United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) national coordinator Sharon Nyambe says drug trafficking fuels instabilities.
Mr Kampyongo fired a salvo at drug peddlers based in the notorious Chibolya Township in Lusaka and other townships known for such unlawful activities.
“Operation Clean Chibolya must commence. As a ministry charged with internal security, we have two faces – one to enforce laws and another to rehabilitate those on drugs and ensure the nation does not degrade into drug abuse,” Mr Kampyongo said.
The minister was speaking yesterday during commemorations of the World Anti-Drug Day held under the theme: `Listen First: Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe’.
In May 2014, a platoon of security personnel raided Chibolya Township to crush an illicit drugs cache in a well-planned and executed operation that netted hundreds of suspects.
During that night operation, a team of police and DEC officers stormed the dreaded “Gazza” street of Chibolya where they were met with a barrage of stones and burning tyres but the officers managed to successfully execute their mission.
Mr Kampyongo said drug abuse and trafficking can destabilise the internal security, peace and socio-economic development of the country hence the need to fight it.
“It is worrying to learn from reports that DEC between 2014 and 2016 arrested a total of 17,107 persons for unlawful cultivation, trafficking and possession of cannabis out of whom 672 were small-scale farmers,” he said.
He commended DEC for dealing with the problem of cannabis from its source by adopting the concept of alternative development as a key preventive strategy.
Mr Kampyongo appealed to parents and guardians to take keen interest in the activities of their children and not to shy away from reporting them to DEC for counselling and rehabilitation if they are already on drugs.
The minister said Government is working hard to ensure that staffing levels at DEC are improved from the current 537 to the new establishment of 1,821 after the treasury’s approval.
And Ms Nyambe said drug trafficking largely contributes to conflicts and instabilities.
She said drug trafficking nourishes money laundering and fuels terrorism.
“There is a nexus between drugs, crime and terrorism and reveals a shifting pattern of relationships between terrorists and armed groups,” Ms Nyambe said.
And DEC commissioner Alita Mbahwe said it is shocking that children as young as 10 years old are abusing drugs and alcohol.
Ms Mbahwe said statistics show that there has been an increase in the number of counselled clients from 415 in 2015 to 610 in 2016, representing a 47 percent rise.
“But one may ask, what have we done wrong as parents and guardians that our children as young as 10 years old can be abusing illicit drugs and alcohol? Majority of these children that DEC has counselled have shared common situations that mostly border on poor parenting skills,” she said.