Candid Comment: Govt targeting small fish in drugs fight

HE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) this year launched a massive national operation against trade in drugs, which has so far netted thousands of suspected peddlers.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe also said authorities were on the trail of some high-profile drug kingpins.

To date, however, no high-profile kingpins have been nabbed. Looking at crime statistics, the profile of drug dealers being brought to court has been rising.

But exhibits being brought to court show that the kingpins are not facing the law.

Where are the real drug kingpins? Who is protecting them? Some unconfirmed allegations have implicated top security officials and politically connected persons as the major drug kingpins. But that’s an issue for another day. The real shadowy characters behind the pushing of drugs remain in the background and it looks like the police are not yet ready for that conversation.

The government has not been doing enough in terms of creating a drug-free environment. As long as they keep pursuing small fish, the problem will persist. Law enforcement agencies know who is pushing huge volumes of drugs in the country, but their silence remains a mystery.

 Zimbabwe's illicit substance use problem has increased dramatically since the Covid-19 pandemic. Of particular concern has been the upward trend in drug use among adolescents and youths. Commonly used substances in Zimbabwe include glue, bronclear, Mangemba, cane spirit, marijuana, codeine and methamphetamine.

Despite current efforts by the police to clamp down on drug dealers, the problem has failed to vanquish and drugs are being pushed into the market daily.

In 2021, President Emmerson Mnangagwa set up an inter-ministerial committee which came up with the Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan (ZNDMP 2020 to 2025) and Treatment and Rehabilitation Guidelines of Alcohol and Substance Use Disorder of Zimbabwe (TRGASUD ZIM) in the quest to fight drug abuse. Statistics compiled in 2021 by the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network revealed that 60% of psychiatric admissions were due to drug abuse and 80% of these were people aged 16 to 25, including schoolgirls.

The government is taking a lax approach towards this, and that is proving detrimental. Going forward the government needs to take a holistic approach in the fight against drug abuse. The government must come up with initiatives to keep the youth busy while also putting more effort into the revival of the industry and the manufacturing sector. 

There is a need to create a platform that will absorb the large number of youths graduating from universities. It is also critical to note that drug and substance abuse continues to

make it difficult for young people to seek help when they suffer from the effects of drug abuse.

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