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SA Becomes Critical Node in Afghan Heroin Smuggling Rings Into Europe, Africa and Australia

SA Becomes Critical Node in Afghan Heroin Smuggling Rings Into Europe, Africa and Australia

Heroin generates billions of rand in South Africa as local criminal syndicates become pivotal in the global market and domestic demand rises.

Lee Rondganger, IOL News

2 October 2023 at 12:00:00

South African crime syndicates have positioned the country as a critical node in international Afghan-produced heroin smuggling rings to Europe, Africa, and Australia, the 2023 Global Organised Crime Index has revealed.


IOL News reports that this illicit industry has ballooned into a billion rand trade that spider-webs the global black-market.


According to the report, South Africa finds itself at the centre of an the intricate web of the global drug trade, serving as both a significant consumer and a pivotal node in the international narcotics network. 


The country is grappling with the proliferation of various drugs, from heroin and cocaine to cannabis and synthetic drugs, each with its unique set of challenges and implications.

Heroin: The Billion Rand Trade

The heroin trade in South Africa is a lucrative enterprise, generating billions of rand annually and positioning the country as one of the largest heroin consumer markets in Africa, the report reveals.

The market is under the stranglehold of violent gangs, predominantly in major cities, with connections stretching from South Africa to southern, West Africa, and South Asia.


Durban has seen the emergence of ‘caps,’ cheap heroin packed in pharmaceutical-style capsules, reflecting the innovative and sinister methods employed by drug gangs.


South Africa’s role as a critical node in international Afghan-produced heroin smuggling rings to Europe, Africa, and Australia highlights the global dimensions of the local heroin problem.

In addition, South Africa’s growing influence in the global cocaine trade is marked by growing domestic markets and international connections to Europe, Hong Kong, and Australia, the Global Crime Index noted.


South Africa has the highest prevalence of cocaine consumption in Africa, and sees most of its cocaine arriving in shipping containers from Brazil.


South Africa’s excellent transport infrastructure, coupled with high-level police corruption and resource shortages in drug control, plays a pivotal role in facilitating the transit of the drug, highlighting the systemic challenges in curbing the cocaine trade, the report says.

Cannabis: A Moderate Trade

Cannabis, colloquially known as dagga, stands out as the most widely used drug in South Africa, although the trade is moderate compared to other high-prevalence consumer countries on the continent.


The trade of cannabis, predominantly produced in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, is facilitated by domestic and regional organised criminal groups, often in collusion with corrupt cops.


The report notes, however, the cannabis trade is generally not characterised by violence, and South Africa has witnessed a significant reduction in cannabis seizures, reflecting shifts in production and demand due to legalisation.

Synthetic Drugs: A New Trafficking Route

Concerning, however, is that South Africa has emerged as a new trafficking route for methamphetamine to East Asia, serving as both a manufacturing and transit hub for the drug.


The country is witnessing an influx of Afghan methamphetamine and is also a major consumer market for the drug, with gang distribution and control of the ‘tik’ market prevalent in major cities.


The high estimated methamphetamine use levels in some areas of the country are alarming, suggesting a far higher number of users than previously thought.


Chinese syndicates are reportedly providing chemical precursors for methamphetamine production to West African and Nigerian syndicates in South Africa, illustrating the international collaborations in the synthetic drug trade.

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