The past few weeks have been dominated by highly publicised live action raids of drug dens and an enhanced police presence in Gaborone and surrounding areas, as police tighten their grip on drug trafficking. Crime Intelligence boss, Nunu Lesetedi, has become the public face of the raids and he tells Mmegi Staffer, PINI BOTHOKO that the war has only just begun
Mmegi: What informed the latest raids and why now?
Lesetedi: We were concerned with the alarming rate of crime in general, especially in Gaborone. One would say crime is rising and it has been mostly affecting the youth, something that challenged the police conduct an assessment of the factors influencing crime, hence the start of the recent raids. Through intelligence, we discovered that the majority of suspects, especially the youth, have started being violent, invading people’s homes day and night without fear. At times they went to the extent of assaulting people.
We also established that a majority of suspects were involved in aggravated robbery, which caused us to ask ourselves why people seemed to no longer have fear. When assessing the situation we discovered that criminals’ fear has been taken away by something and it is not alcohol alone but rather hard substance abuse.
This is an initiative from the Commissioner Keabetswe Makgophe. I thank his visionary leadership because he has been doing everything in his power to support us. He listens and engages. Just recently we arrested a Form Five student in possession of dagga and it was aired on Btv. Commissioner Makgophe was the first person to phone me pleading that we should give that teenager a chance to write her final examinations.
Mmegi: From these raids, what are you learning concerning the current drug situation in Botswana?
Lesetedi: The country is currently grappling with the high levels of crime, many of which are linked to the growing use of drugs. We have learnt that there is a cartel selling drugs and benefiting from their sale. We have established that it is something that is organised because numerous people appear to be involved. This shows that there is demand and supply and drug markets do exist. This has challenged us to not only fight with crime in general, but rather to target and establish the root cause of crime.
Mmegi: From your investigations where are the drugs coming from and what kind are they?
Lesetedi: Despite efforts to reduce drug consumption in Botswana, we have realised that the country continues to be targeted by international drug barons. In our recent raids drug mules were arrested and the police confiscated large quantities of drugs. Their frequent distribution throughout the country shows that the demand for drugs in Botswana is too high. Drug barons in Southern African are controlling Botswana’s drug market and we have established that they are the ones illegally crossing the border with the drugs.
Drugs come into the country mostly from Swaziland, South Africa and through other foreign drug peddlers. Foreigners are working together with locals who usually are the distributors and consumers.
The most common drugs smuggled into the country are marijuana, crack, methcathinone popularly known as cat, madaena, and cocaine to mention but a few. We are currently on the ground, doing border patrols to stop the supply of drugs into the country before the situation gets out of control. I would like to applaud our partnership with police from neighbouring countries. It is bearing fruit because in the past we have made arrests.
Mmegi: What are your views on prevalence of drugs in the country? And which drug would you say is the most prevalent?
Lesetedi: Drug use is spiralling out of
Mmegi: Are these raids a once-off thing or will you take them to other parts of the country?
Lesetedi: We started the raids in Gaborone where the situation was getting out of control, but we have since taken a decision to widen the raids to other parts of the country. We will not stop until these people stop smuggling and using drugs. The impact of drug use can be very disturbing as it can affect people’s lives, ruin their futures, fuel crime and threaten the country’s economy. Some people have turned into street kids and some are mentally disturbed due to excessive drug use. Some people have been laid off their jobs because they have turned into addicts.
Mmegi: Usually when you arrest the drug dealers, you also seize money. How much have you collected so far?
Lesetedi: To date we have collected money amounting to P40,000 from drug dealers. When arrested they usually fail to account for the money, which shows that the money was accumulated from selling drugs.
Mmegi: How many suspects have you arrested so far? How many have you charged and with what charge?
Lesetedi: Since the raids started, close to 75 people have been arrested and are still being investigated. We have charged 25 suspects and 14 cases have been registered with 12 cases of dagga and two cases of cocaine seized.
The suspects are being charged with unlawful possession of drugs. Of late we have received positive reports from the community alerting the police about drug dealers in their areas. People should not look at the recent arrests as punishment from the police, but a process meant to curb the pandemic that needs immediate attention. I am calling on every stakeholder to play a role either in rehabilitating those who are now addicts or to provide them with counselling.
Mmegi: There is a perception that the police have been going after drug peddlers at the street level, leaving kingpins untouched. Your comment?
Lesetedi: Such allegations are not true because our raids target everyone. Members of the public should know that the police do not have any influence from anyone and we treat people equally. From our investigations, we have established that most drug consumers are from the lower class, but they buy them from middle and high-class people who are the suppliers. We have established that these are the people who live luxurious lifestyles, owning huge property, but failing to account as to how they have accumulated that wealth.
Of late the government has appointed a receiver and that person has the right to confiscate all property, goods or money accumulated from the profits of crime. I promise Batswana that those drug dealers will be investigated further. In fact, we are going to involve the Botswana Unified Revenue Service to investigate their finances and wealth.