War on drugs: Is execution the answer?

Drug abuse has become a problem not only for Africa, but the world over

Drug abuse has become a problem not only for Africa, but the world over

Hildegarde The Arena
THE Sadc Extraordinary Summit brought with it the usual hullabaloo of protests. This writer’s first impression after looking at the quality of posters held by the MDC-T protesters that are said to have “shamed” President Mugabe underscored the open secret — the party is broke. The posters were sub-standard – all manilla sheets showing that some people worked so hard to print the messages in ink.

Why a “party of excellence” could not print out decent posters, considering how reasonably cheap printing is in this digital age is the mystery. Excellence is not wished, but you work hard to achieve it, and when you attain it, you also maintain the status. Flip-flopping compromises the desired goal.

Did the MDC-T protesters also have to wait for the Extraordinary Sadc Summit to “demand President Mugabe’s resignation” as reported in yesterday’s NewsDay newspaper? How often should they wish President Mugabe to leave office? The last time I recall them making the first demand was in 1999 and 16 years on, they still want President Mugabe to leave office.

I have said this before, and will reiterate it: this attention-seeking deficit disorder will get MDC-T nowhere.

One minute the party is in splinters, the next minute they are demanding electoral reforms. As if that is not enough, they also get into a zillion coalitions with small parties that are as clueless as they are, claiming that come 2018, they will dislodge Zanu-PF from power.

This was an aside. Some of the major international talking points are the deadly earthquake, the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Boko Haram, ISIS, the violent protests in Baltimore (the United States) and the execution yesterday morning of eight drug mules by firing squad in Indonesia. It is the latter that I will deal with in context of Zimbabwe.

According to a Reuters report, “an Indonesian firing squad executed eight drug traffickers, including seven foreigners, in the early hours of yesterday, sparking condemnation from Australia and Brazil who had made final, desperate pleas to save their nationals.

“Four Nigerians, two Australians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian were executed in a forest clearing near the prison, as family members held a candle-light vigil within earshot of the firing range.”

There has been widespread condemnation of the executions from the executed victims’ governments some of whom had made last-minute efforts to have them pardoned, but without success.

However, following the trending on websites and social media, some people argue that the executions were justifiable.

The Indonesian government that last week hosted the Asia-Africa Summit that also coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference supported their position and why they executed the drug traffickers.

They should be given the benefit of the doubt because they are a sovereign state in as much as countries like Australia recalled their top diplomats regarding the issue. This writer is not condoning the death penalty because the life giver — God — is the only one who has the right to take that life.

But what some online commentators said need careful scrutiny. One of them said that the upsurge in drug trafficking has been spawned by poverty, child abuse, oppression, helplessness, unemployment, poor education and over population. Many children have had their childhoods stolen because of the abuse of these substances.

In the midst of the international outcry, One Allan remarked, “the traffickers knew the penalty before they embarked on their mission. Why do people cry when they are caught, sentenced and executed? Do these people demonstrate the same sympathy for the tens, hundreds, maybe? Thousands of people including children who are affected by those drugs!”

Akhmad Khumaidi Khumaidi argued that he agreed with the Indonesian government’s action because drugs have destroyed the younger generation. He also took a swipe at Amnesty International saying that its protests about rights but does not think of the human rights of victims of drug-related crimes.

“How many young people die because of drugs,” he asked?

It is also an open secret that the illegal drug trade is a multi-billion dollar venture, which inter-twines with corruption and mafia-type killings.

Irrespective of the positions we take, the truth is that drug trafficking is a live issue in Zimbabwe. Drugs are killing our communities in towns and cities especially.

As the world becomes more interconnected, countries such as Zimbabwe have become transit points for the peddling of hard drugs and illicit alcohol. The drug barons — local and international are getting away with murder as they lay to waste communities that were once vibrant with a youthful population, and turning to virtual zombies.

When our Chinhoyi Bureau Chief wrote a few years ago about a cough mixture (bron Cleer — Bronco) that was taking away the lives of most youths it sounded unbelievable because unlike Histalix, which can be purchased in local pharmacies through a prescription, “Bronco” is smuggled into the country from neighbouring countries. Is it because the borders are too porous, and/or money is exchanging hands?

Hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy are reportedly used by different age groups. The statistics to show the number of people dependant of these illicit drugs is not known.

Over and above the drugs, there is also a plethora of illicit alcohol drinks that are smuggled into the country. Some claim that taking these drugs is now an acceptable lifestyle and that gone are the days when marijuana used to be the major criminalised drug.

According to some young people who spoke to this writer, drug trafficking and drug addiction are a reality. They alleged that the high levels of unemployment have made some people resort to drugs and the spiral effect is prostitution, school dropouts, criminal activities and other vices.

The made a plea to Government to rescue a majority of young people in the high density suburbs in particular from this vice.

They also claimed that there are many substance abusers, both girls and boys and that the drug barons were living large, and taking away so much from these young people: their money, lives and future.

Kudakwashe Phiri (37) bemoaned: “We never knew that you could take cough mixture to get high. I for one, I started knowing about drinking four years after I had finished my secondary education. And, I could not do it openly. Even though it was a hide and seek thing, no one really gave you the green light until they knew that you are working, and can afford to buy yourself the beer.”

He accused the drug barons for using such evil means to make money: “Substance abuse is being caused by people claiming to be looking for money. Some unscrupulous dealers are smuggling these illicit drugs and substances like bron Cleer, Maniema, Histalix from neighbouring countries. These people are doing well more than business people engaged in lawful ventures, because they are serving a larger market that now lives on these drugs.

“The addicts needs them, and they also need their money. Prostitution is now rife, so too the sexually transmitted infections. With regards to alcohol abuse, I think that there are too many places selling illicit alcohol substances?”

We know that the rule of law is applied in Zimbabwe, but why is the problem of drug trafficking and/or abuse getting out of hand, especially among young people?

Tina Takaedza (30) said they feel let down, and sooner they might end up having scenarios where drug mules are executed because they are killing communities: “We suspect that there are underhand dealings between the drug barons and some influential authorities. We call on the police to clamp down on the problem starting at the border posts. The police must also come clean since there are strong allegations flying around that they own some of the bases where these substances are peddled.”

However, the war on drugs is not won by allegations and counter allegations. Communities need to be united in order to decisively deal with the problem.

The people must be part of the solution because they are the ones on the receiving end.

Kudakwashe emphatically said that the death penalty would never eradicate the illicit trade because it is a two-way process: on one extreme, there are people who believe that it is big business; and, on the other extreme, there are people whose dependency on drugs is beyond redemption.

“The only way is to start talking openly about the problem, because the few organisations that offer assistance to addicts will never eradicate drug addiction,” he said.