The other day, two young men (Nigeria nationals, we are told) were allegedly found with a stash of cocaine (some grams) in Lilongwe’s Area 49 and it was only a matter of hours before we heard that the country’s Home Affairs Minister, Richard Chimwendo Banda, had ordered that they be deported. My curiousity was immediately aroused with the quick manner in which they were dispatched back to their home country; not that there was anything wrong as the minister was within his given mandate to act as such. However, I was left wondering if at all those who had nabbed the two had managed to extort all the information they needed to get from them, so that they dot all the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s. Indeed, why the hurriedly executed deportation of the two suspects? Could there be, perhaps, more than what meets the eye? Who exactly are we trying to protect in this case? I know the immediate response would be the youth of this country but this is Malawi where you cannot put it past our public officials to try and seep matter under the carpet.
All that aside, I was happy with the swift response with which both the Malawi Police Service and the minister reacted to this issue. We heard, for a long time, that some people had turned locations in the Capital City such as Area 47, Malangalanga (I guess now we have added Area 49?) into drug havens and it appeared that there was little or no goodwill from the authorities back then to do something about the situation.
And then, boom! Here we are witnessing our good police officers and government officials seemingly making a breakthrough on the subject. I was of the view that these two Nigerians were going to lead us to the ‘hotshots’ of the business. It is sad enough that, at one point, we lost a young man from Area 47 in Brazil who had acted as a drug mule for a Nigeria national, whom, we were told by the young man’s family, had been their tenant.
Anyway, I am digressing. What we need to hear is; just how much of the dangerous drug is exchanging hands, obscured, as they do, from public eye? Who are the kingpins of this illegal and dangerous business in our country? Did we get all the answers from the two Nigerians we deported?
Authorities need to mount a serious campaign to mop out such dangerous and illicit drugs from our neighbourhoods and what we have witnessed is a good start. But if we are to completely wipe it off from the face of our country; then we must nail the kingpins in some of these high-towered gates in our vicinities, once and for all. Just observe for a minute some of our youths (surprisingly even some adults) acting silly and senseless in public and you tend to wonder, if at all, their faculties are all in order or are under the influence of some of these drugs.
How are cocaine, mandrax and other drugs of such nature finding their way into Malawi? Does someone want to tell me that our borders, airports and staff there, perhaps, are not sophisticated enough to detect such substances?
I remember back then, when I was still a resident of the Capital City, we even had organisations such as Drug Fight Malawi helping in the campaign against such vices, and I believe we even had a Drug and Alcohol Policy crafted but, like we always do, this must have been carefully hidden away on a shelf. Not much has been heard of lately though but, make no mistake about it many people (including productive citizens) are falling prey to drug and alcohol abuse, some (sadly) even losing their lives in the process.
And then there is drug pilferage!
I cannot say I was surprised when I heard that research had shown that six years ago, about 35 percent of drugs found in private healthcare facilities were diverted from Malawi’s public healthcare service delivery system and now it appears the episode is re-enacting itself as we are told that, according to the Universal Health Coverage Coalition (UHC), 30 percent or about K7 billion of the national drug budget is lost to the same.
I will not comment much but suffice to say that while somebody is blowing away these resources, our kinsmen, who are ill in several parts of the country, are struggling to access medical drugs, who you have sold to merchants or diverted to private clinics or pharmacies. This has to stop now and those responsible should be held to account!
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).