By John Harvey
SYNDICATES suspected of having links with Colombian and Chinese druglords are ferrying millions of rands worth of dagga through the Eastern Cape each month – and police admit they are powerless to stop the trade.
Despite constant crackdowns police believe that the quantity they have been able to seize – hundreds of kilograms – is just “the tip of the iceberg”. The bulk of the dagga is destined for the Western Cape.
It is believed most of the dagga is sourced from impoverished farmers in remote parts of the Eastern Cape who earn a pittance for their efforts compared to the millions the syndicates are getting for the drug on the street.
Port Elizabeth police spokesman Warrant Officer Alwin Labans said: “We are only catching the runners who use buses, taxis and other passenger vehicles but there are some big fish involved, here and overseas, and it will take extensive investigations to get to them. In the past 11 months our precinct [Port Elizabeth] has confiscated about R800 000 worth of dagga but there is a lot more getting through – I would definitely say millions of rands’ worth.”
Labans added: “We are making a lot of inroads but what we are confiscating is the tip of the iceberg.”
A national expert on cannabis says the syndicates operate mainly in Pondoland, which includes the crime-ridden town of Lusikisiki and the remote rural areas near Port St Johns.
He also believes some of the cut-throat syndicates behind the dagga trade are being run from as far as Hong Kong in the Far East and Colombia in South America.
Highlighting the recent escalation in the illicit dagga trade have been a series of recent high-profile busts. These include:
* Five men being arrested for possession of dagga with an estimated street value of R500 000 on the R67 near Fort Brown.
* Mthatha police confiscating dagga with an estimated street value of R450000 from a bakkie abandoned by its driver after being stopped on the N2 between Mthatha and Tsolo.
* A man from Khayelitsha being arrested after 200kg of dagga (valued at R200 000) was found in his taxi in Beaufort West.
* Two women being arrested when 60kg of dagga was found in their suitcases at a roadblock in Plettenberg Bay. The haul had a total street value of about R60 000.
“Dagga in its natural form is a relatively mild drug, although I am not saying that I approve of smoking it,” the expert said. He could not be identified as he feared being made a target by the syndicates. “However, as soon as it comes into the possession of these criminals and is processed, that is when the dangerous elements emerge because of competition in the market.”
The expert said the heads of these organisations were “sophisticated and seem very normal, as they sit in an office every day.”
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday March 31, 2012.
Article source: http://theweekendpost.com/2012/04/02/dagga-cartels-threat/