By Emmanuel Kafe
Some law enforcement agents who are supposed to secure illicit drugs seized during operations are reportedly working in connivance with drug syndicates in Harare, pocketing huge sums of money by selling the same opioids back on the streets.
While police have taken action through a crackdown on drug peddlers which netted more than 200 drug hawkers and was hailed as a major victory in the war against drug abuse, the tentacles of the syndicates in the capital extend far beyond imagination.
In most suburbs, criminal dealers sell dangerous drugs to adults and children in broad daylight, often not taking too many precautions, while allegedly enjoying the protection of rogue cops.
What is more disturbing is that the suspected drug peddlers are enlisting the services of children roaming Harare’s streets as drug mules to avoid detection.
The innocent children “hawking sweets” have become part of a bigger drug syndicate rearing its ugly head in the capital.
Besides marijuana, other commonly distributed drugs are crystal methamphetamine — which has evolved to be commonly known as “guka, marijuana cakes and a prohibited cough syrup called BronCleer (Bronco).
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that some police officers were indeed ‘conniving with drug peddlers’.
“We have received information in regards to police officers conniving with drug lords and we have since effected arrests on some of those officers,” he said, urging the public to pass on to the Police General Headquarters (PGHQ) any information that could be helpful in apprehending more culprits.
“The ZRP is on record as saying it has no place for such unruly elements.
“We have zero tolerance to corruption. Give us information on these unruly officers and ZRP will pluck them out.
“As long as there is any incriminating evidence, feel free to come forth. The police officer involved will face the full wrath of the law”.
Police are running drug abuse awareness campaigns countrywide with a view to conscientising the public about the devastating effects of the dangerous substances.
The CID Drugs and Narcotics section recently embarked on an operation to curb drug abuse code-named “No to drug and substance abuse” and a number of suspects were rounded up.
Drug abuse is also contributing to a rise in serious offences.
The Sunday Mail recently went behind the scenes to find out how the drug syndicates operate.
The former Zimex Mall area, located along Jason Moyo and Inez Terrace streets in the CBD, aside from being the location of popular mobile phone vendors and foreign currency traders, is now synonymous with the drug trade.
As money changers solicit customers, so do the suspected drug hawkers, mostly women and teenagers.
Purporting to be an interested client, this reporter approached multiple suspected drug dealers peddling illicit substances around the area.
“We only have codeine syrup and BronCleer – meth is now hard to come by, it is now expensive since police swoop on us,” a dealer identified as Jerald, (also known by his peers as Murungu), said.
Out here, everything is on the fast lane.
Dealers as well as buyers are wary of the police and security operatives who raid the location regularly.
As the conversation continued, the dealer furtively brandished bottles of BronCleer and codeine at the reporter’s request.
“With this one you will never go wrong,” said another dealer who came in from the opposite end.
He must have felt the transaction was taking too long.
As the deal was ongoing, other illicit drug vendors were either on the look-out for cops or beckoning on prospective customers.
But for Jerald ‘Murungu’, everything seemed normal as he went about his business unperturbed – calm and collected to the shock of this reporter.
We further learnt that Jerald enjoys special protection from some rogue cops whom many believe are the ones who supply him with seized drugs.
This was the same situation at Fourth Street and Cobacabana bus ranks, where suspected drug peddlers could be seen on both sides of the road discreetly exchanging money for different types of drugs, including codeine.
A security source – who we will not name because of the nature of his job, revealed that indeed some police officers were working with drug peddlers in the distribution of drugs in Harare.
He said the ring involves officers who are in strategic positions of influence and only sell to the rich and affluent.
What is so striking is that women seem to be the biggest mules and peddlers in these syndicates.
Residents – mostly from Mbare – said dangerous drugs have become a menace and accused some law enforcement agents of tipping-off well-known dealers in advance before they launch their raids.
In Mbare, this reporter was introduced to Natasha (surname supplied) who lives in Tagarika Flat D – and posing as a potential client, the woman hesitantly inquired about the person who had recommended this reporter to her.
After assuring her that we meant no harm, the lady told us that she deals in Crystal Meth.
Known scientifically as methamphetamine, Crystal Meth is a highly addictive stimulant popular for its powerful euphoric effects.
“Which one do you want so that I can collect it for you – you don’t have to go inside the flats because I am not sure where you are coming,” she said.
She sells it in grammes and has a mini-weight scale she uses to measure according to request.
A 10 gramme satchet of meth costs between US$5 to US$7.
Further inquiry from our sources revealed that Natasha works for a police officer called Chemuli (surname supplied), popularly known in the area as ‘Muchawa’.
“She is not even afraid because she knows ‘Muchawa’ will always come to her rescue. During a recent raid that netted almost every known drug peddler in the area – Natasha was left untouched,” revealed our source.
They also enlist the services of children as mules.
“These children are young and vulnerable to these drug peddlers because they too need money and have been denied their fundamental right to education,” said Loice Ruzha, a vendor and a mother who has been observing the trend for quite some time.
“There are also those who have been pushed to the streets to seek solace because of poverty, family breakdown and abandonment,” she added.
In a brief interview, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe said drug cartels will be hunted down.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is coming after all drug cartels peddling drugs in communities. The syndicates will be dealt with once and for all by law enforcement officers,” he said. The Sunday Mail