By John Ekongo
A joint operation by the City Police and the Namibian Police Narcotics Unit yesterday pounced on unsuspecting drug (cannabis) dealers right in the centre of town, after a tip-off from members of the public.
The dealers were caught in the Zoo Park selling the stuff to the public without any attempt to be discreet about their business. The police raid follows a two-day stake out.
The suspects, whose names are known, upon arrest denied any dealing in illicit substances, despite some of them being found with the drugs on their persons. One suspect even had a pending case of drug possession with the authorities.
The dealers hide the substances in nearby bushes particularly around the enclaves of the Chinese Pavilion in the park, from where they fetch the stuff and sell to customers. They start selling as early as 06h00 until well after working hours.
Aside from the dealing, the suspects also smoke the ‘holy herb” in public, a situation that does not reflect well on the nearby Government and Deutsche Evangelical Lutheran Kirche offices adjacent to the Zoo Park, as the smell emanating from the smoke is a distraction to workers in the offices.
Namibia has progressed from being a transit route for hard-core drugs to a consumer country with a growing number of people sniffing cocaine. Drugs that normally find their way from Angola to South Africa and some European countries have found a foothold in Namibia with cannabis, methaqualone, cocaine powder, crack and ecstasy being sold on the local market at an alarming rate. Statistics from the Drug Law Enforcement Unit (DLEU) indicate the use of hard-core drugs is on the increase compared to previous years. In 2006, about 526 people were arrested for dealing in or being in possession of drugs, while last year the number of arrests shot to 863. The biggest single cannabis haul was 544 kilogrammes, with an estimated street value of N$1,6 million, which was confiscated from two South African truck drivers.
The biggest single cocaine powder haul was 32.477 kg valued at N$16 million and was confiscated from Angolan nationals. Police have expressed concern over the increased use of hard-core drugs in the country.
“Cocaine took over the market of mandrax and at this moment, crack (cocaine) is our biggest concern,” said Inspector Bart de Klerk of the Namibian Police Drug Unit, in an earlier interview with this newspaper.
A fortnight ago, an operation code-named Rasta, where 12 people were arrested on the streets, was launched.
A Drug Act is expected to be enacted this year, said De Klerk. Once in place, a mandatory minimum sentence for the first offender will be 20 years without an option of bail. Previously, once caught in possession of drugs, a first offender would be given a fine not exceeding N$15?