ON February 2, 2017, the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda took the 'bull by its horns.' He declared war against drug trafficking and abuse, ordering the arrest of five businessmen and 17 police officers reportedly linked to the illicit trade.
He also directed at least seven Bongo flava and movie stars to appear before the police to help with investigation into a syndicate of drug smugglers and peddlers in Dar es Salaam.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Makonda released a statement detailing the names of over 70 people whom he had investigated, in his efforts to combat the menace in his area of jurisdiction. He said the war against illicit drug was inevitable since a handful of people were benefitting by destroying the youth across the country. Mr Makonda promised to tirelessly fight drug dealers in Dar es Salaam Region.
"I am ready to lose my job or even die, but I will have done my bit," he declared. He directed the 17 police to be removed from work and investigations into their role in the drug business be probed fully and steps be taken against them. He ordered those outside Dar es Salaam should be recalled from their duty stations. "These police officers have questions to answer as to why the business thrived under their nose.
My investigation shows that they were involved in the illicit trade and were in fact paid for the tips they gave drug traffickers to dodge the authorities' trap," Mr Makonda said. He added that the list also included businessmen running night clubs in the city. Tanzania is listed among countries in the region notorious for drug trafficking. The country has featured in several international reports as a conduit for drugs headed to Europe and the Americas.
On February 8, 2017, The RC released another list of 65 people, whom he said should be interrogated on various issues. Speaking during a press conference, Mr Makonda said those on his list should report to the Central Police Station in the city. The list included the names of prominent politicians, a religious leader and businesspersons.
Among famous artists mentioned include Khalid Mohamed alias TID, Rachel Josephat (Recho), Hamidu Chambuso (Dogo Hamidu), Rajabu Salum, Johan Johannes, Cedou Madigo, Anna Kimario (Tunda) and a DJ Romeo Bugura alias Romes Jones.
Others were Ahmed Hashim alias Petitman, Said Linna alias Said Alteeza, Nassoro Mohamed, Bakar Khelef and Lulu Chelangwa alias Lulu Divah. The list also included prominent businessmen, religious leaders and politicians.
Some politicians who were directed to Central Police for interrogation include Chadema National Chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe, CCM cadres, Yusufu Manji and Idd Azzan and Rev Josephat Gwajima. As a result a big number of artists, business persons, politicians and religious leaders turned out at the Central Police Station for interrogation.
Some were referred to the Chief Chemist for test. It is in record that some of the suspects were arraigned as others walked free. A few days after the RC released the list of drug suspects, President John Magufuli picked long-serving police officer Rogers William Sianga as Commissioner General for the Drug Control and Enforcement Authority DCEA).
A statement from the State House announced the appointment of Mr Sianga as the first head of the anti-drugs authority. The new agency was established in 2015 under the Drug Control and Enforcement Act which repealed the old law of 1995.
The office of the agency's boss had, however, remained vacant for nearly two years and was seen as the reason why the war against drug trafficking had slackened. The role of the war was in the past shared between a unit of the police force and the largely moribund drugs control commission whose mandate was limited to public sensitization.
President Magufuli's pick was interpreted as the best strategy to galvanise the war on drugs in the country. Members of Parliament who were interviewed shortly after the appointment said they were generally satisfied with the way the fifth government fight illicit drugs in the country.
Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban-ACTWazalendo) said: "I must congratulate President Magufuli for the appointment of the commissioner general, it is a proud moment for this Parliament because it means the government is listening to our advice."
The Kasulu Urban MP Daniel Nsanzugwanko of CCM said he was pleased to hear the announcement on radio. "Now we are assured that the anti-narcotics campaign has received its legal custodian and commander." On his part, Mr Joseph Selasini (Rombo-Chadema) also showered praise on the House.
"From the beginning we said we were behind the President in this war," said Mr Selasini. Among activities that the commission under Mr Sianga is tasked with are to develop and implement a national plan of action for drug control, develop guidelines for addressing the drug problem and its consequences to the general public, update and adapt drug control laws and regulations, promote the prevention of drug abuse and trafficking including education, dissemination of information to the general public and other drug initiatives as well as take measures to combat drug trafficking including arrest, search, seize and investigate on drug related matters.
The US State Department through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs says in its report for 2016 that Tanzania was a serious drugs conduit, most notably heroin originating in Afghanistan and cocaine from South America, with a growing domestic user population.
"Tanzanian drug trafficking organizations and courier networks operate globally with cells throughout Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America," reads part of the report adding: "These Tanzanian drug trafficking organisations play a prominent role in the Southwest Asian heroin trade.
Tanzania also produces cannabis both for domestic consumption and international distribution." Speaking after swearing in the DCE Commissioner General, Sianga, the Head of State tasked Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, the Chairperson of the Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA), to spearhead the crackdown on illicit drugs in the country.
Dr Magufuli accused drug barons of not caring about the effects of narcotics on the lives of people but rather driven with greed for wealth which they use to bribe officials to attain their goals. With Tanzania being mentioned as among the transit hubs of illicit substances in the region, President Magufuli urged Tanzanians to support all people who are on the forefront to tackle the illicit trade. He reiterated that no one should be spared in the fight against drugs, directing the new DCEA Commissioner General to work bravely in dealing with criminals involved in drug cartels.
Speaking at the event, the premier said the war against the illicit substances had just started, vowing to keep it a sustainable blitz. "I thus direct all Regional Commissioners and other leaders to continue with efforts to clear out the menace in the society. Courts of law should as well expedite hearings of drug-related cases," he urged.
The premier was optimistic that the establishment of the anti-narcotics authority and appointment of its boss will play a critical role in curbing importation, distribution and use of illicit drugs in the country.