Drug dealers using woman ahead of World Cup?

Date: March 29, 2010
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What was supposed to be a joyous day turned into a nightmare for one family, when on Monday morning 1 February, Maria Lungu* arrived at Lusaka International Airport after a two-month long business trip in Asia. Joy turned to shock and disbelief when Lungu was caught and arrested for drug trafficking upon arrival, just meters away from her anxiously waiting husband, children and other family members.

Drug and security personnel quickly whisked Lungu away, straight to cells where she stayed while awaiting her trial. During trial, Lungu contended she was not guilty, arguing that she was not aware that she was carrying drugs. She said that a man she met at an airport in Mombasa, India asked her to deliver a parcel to his friend in Zambia. Lungu had no tangible proof, and the court found her guilty and sentenced her to five years in prison.

Maria Lungu is not the only one. Currently many women from Zambia and other countries have been caught and arrested at home and abroad for drug trafficking. The rising numbers concern to the Zambian government, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), the church, civil society and the community at large, who fear there may be a link to the upcoming World Cup.

Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) Public Relations Officer John Nyawali said the commission is worried about the escalating number of women arrested and prosecuted for drug trafficking. Some are clearly guilty, even inserting drugs in their vaginas to hide the illicit substance. Likewise, on 15 March 2010, Swaziland security personnel at Matsapha International Airport arrested a Zambia woman living in South Africa on her arrival from India, after she swallowed 72 sloops of heroin weighing about one kilogramme.

Airport authorities arrested four other women on 12 March 2010 for allegedly trafficking in pure grade cocaine concealed in their vaginas. One of the four women pleaded not guilty to the charge saying her sister-in-law allegedly forced her and inserted the drugs in her private parts. Still more have been arrested at different intervals.

“From January to date, we have arrested 126 women for drug trafficking. Some have been prosecuted while others are undergoing trial. The increasing number of women being involved in drug trafficking is worrying to everyone. The sharp increase can be said to be the dark side of the upcoming World Cup and the recent African Cup games that were held in Angola,” said Nyawali.

Nyawali said women are easy targets for drug barons who themselves do not come in contact with the drugs. “It is difficult to know whether the drug barons that use women for drug trafficking are men or women but women are targeted because they portray less suspicion and they are the most hit by economic hardship,” he said.

Nyawali said the drug barons have changing preferences for who to use to courier their drugs. He added, ” you may recall that some time back, a number of disabled people were being used in drug trafficking. Then the trend changed to young girls. Now it is adult women between the ages of 20 – 40 who are being used for drug trafficking.”

While the DEC has intensified their efforts in curbing the perpetrators of drug trafficking, the upcoming World Cup is viewed as a better opportunity for drug dealers to make money. Nyawali said at the moment, the drug barons are busy bringing drugs to all countries in Southern Africa in preparation for the World Cup. “The drug barons are frequently using women to bring drugs to Africa so that they can pile the drugs and have enough in stock for easy dealing during the World Cup,” he said.

Nyawali urges women not to involve themselves in a life threatening business saying there was more life and everything to lose when one in caught in drug trafficking. Nyawali further said while many people were aware about the dangers of drug trafficking, not all women engaged in vice deliberately, as some were duped into the business.

He stressed that there are many consequences. “Apart from being arrested and prosecuted, there are many other consequences that women go through such as psychological effect, stigma from society and the family, health risks which sometimes end into death,” he said.

He called on women’s lobby groups to come out and speak against drug trafficking to supplement the commission’s efforts. The commission has embarked on a massive sensitisation against the vice country wide. Civil society organisations, the church, government, women’s groups including Gender and Women in Development Minister Sarah Sayifwanda have condemned the involvement of women in drug trafficking saying it was disgraceful.

While many are engaging in worthwhile business opportunities prior and during the World Cup, it seems that women have again found themselves in the dark side of the World Cup business opportunities. Maybe women cannot not find good and clean business opportunities in the run up to the world cup and are tired of walloping in poverty with desperate needs?

As we are nearing June 11, 2010, it is upon everything women, governments and society to mount massive sensitisation on such vices that can push women to a further corner of disadvantages.

Perpetual Sichikwenkwe is a writer from Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.


0 thoughts on “Drug dealers using woman ahead of World Cup?”

Mahlao Diaho says:

This idea of women inserting drugs in their private parts is not a new phenomenon. we must really ask ourselves: are all these women being forced to put drugs there and why do they wait until they are cought to report this exertion of power over themselves?

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