Home Travel Vic Falls International Airport incapacitated to detect smuggled drugs

Vic Falls International Airport incapacitated to detect smuggled drugs

Victoria falls Airport

Vic Falls International Airport incapacitated to detect smuggled drugs.

Concern has also been raised about porous border posts in Victoria Falls where suspected smuggling of various goods is reportedly taking place. The Victoria Falls International Airport is poorly capacitated to detect drugs that may be smuggled through the port, a situation that might result in the facility being a transit point for dangerous substances.

While no incidents of drugs or dangerous substances have been recorded at the airport, there are concerns that this could be because of lack of proper drug detection mechanisms as staffers for various authorities working at the facility are also not trained to physically identify drugs.

However, authorities have said the airport is unique because it is in the tourism destination where the assumption is that visitors are largely tourists and there are no known fears of drug peddlers. On the other hand, there are fears that drug lords could take advantage of the laxity and smuggle dangerous substances through the port.

This comes amid suspicions that drug traffickers are using Zimbabwe’s ports of entry as transit points to reach the market in China, India and South Africa, with Zimbabweans also used as conduits of international drug trafficking syndicates.

Some of the drugs are also sold locally especially in affluent suburbs and nightclubs, according to authorities. Faced with an increasing drug problem, Government recently launched a National Drug Policy to curtail the problem which is mostly affecting youths and Cabinet formed an inter-ministerial taskforce on Drug Abuse and Substance

Abuse which has established structures at provincial and district level countrywide.

The country is on a drive to arrest the rising drug problem and the taskforce is visiting ports of entry to assess their state of preparedness in terms of curtailing drug supply chain. The taskforce visited Beitbridge Border Post and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo before visiting Victoria Falls yesterday.

Addressing various stakeholders at Victoria Falls International Airport, Deputy Officer Commanding Criminal Investigation Department Drugs and Narcotics section, Superintendent Michael Chibaya who is also a member of the taskforce said the prevalence of drug and substance abuse in the country had reached alarming levels.

“It is against this background that Cabinet directed the need to prevent supply of drugs. The taskforce noted that some drugs are smuggled through designated entry points. In the case of airports, we are encouraged to have a form of identification for everyone working here and limit unnecessary movements,” he said. Supt Chibaya said Victoria Falls Airport will be used as a template for the other ports of entry in Matabeleland North which are Victoria Falls, Kazungula, Pandamatenga and Binga border posts.

Among those who attended the meeting are officials from Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ), Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Department of Immigration, Office of the President, National Handling Services, Zimbabwe National Army, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Ministry, Ministry of Health and Child Care and District Development Co-ordinator’s office.

It emerged that the airport has four sniffer dogs used by Zimra, while the 75 cameras and scanners are all suitable for aviation screening services on travellers and baggage and not drugs. According to Zimra officials, ports of entry in Victoria Falls are porous.

ACZ Acting principal aviation security officer Mr Christopher Chidodo said there is need to capacitate the airport.

“In terms of security we have equipment designed for aviation though in the process we can detect some prohibited items. For drugs what we only have as airport are sniffer dogs. This is not enough to curb the supply of drugs because this equipment was installed for aviation and to protect travellers.

“As aviation we are not trained to detect drugs, we implore the taskforce to spearhead training so that we are trained of drugs and machines. As an airport we are pleading to be capacitated with training and equipment to curb supply chain of drugs and use of this airport as a transit. This is actually a tourist destination which is different from Harare and Bulawayo and people might take advantage and use this airport as a transit point for drugs,” he said.

Mr Chidodo said the airport security fence has no cameras and intruder detection system.  He said there are fears of insider trading where drug traffickers might work with internal staff, which is the greatest threat in aviation. The X-ray and scan machines are meant to screen passengers and baggage.

Countries like Kenya have body scanners that can screen a human body and detect drugs that a person may have swallowed for trafficking, said Mr Chidodo.

He appealed to the taskforce to recommend setting up security system on the fence and training staff to which the committee members said plans were underway for a trainer-of-trainers programme.

Drug peddling is a threat to national security.
Commanding Officer 1.2 Infantry Battalion in Hwange, Lieutenant Colonel Fortune Melusi said: “We will hit the ground running and implement some of the recommendations so that the security issue is improved. It is my belief that this issue of drugs is solved.”

Source – The Chronicle

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