South Africa: Heroin Capsules Have Transformed Durban's Drug Market, Fuelling Violent Competition


The port city is almost the only known area in all of East and southern Africa where heroin is widely sold in capsule form. While such capsules are a relatively recent phenomenon, they have quickly become a major part of the heroin market in Durban. Our new research explores the impact these capsules have had there in terms of violence, profitability and local demand for the drug.

This article appears in the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime's monthly East and Southern Africa Risk Bulletin. The Global Initiative (GI-TOC) is a network of more than 500 experts on organised crime drawn from law enforcement, academia, conservation, technology, media, the private sector and development agencies. It publishes research and analysis on emerging criminal threats and works to develop innovative strategies to counter organised crime globally. To receive monthly Risk Bulletin updates, please sign up here.

In early 2020, a police operation targeting a drugs-processing facility in Pinetown, Durban, yielded a significant find: A machine for filling and processing pharmaceutical-style capsules. According to police, the machine was capable of processing up to 25,000 capsules per hour.

This was yet another sign of the trend for capsulised heroin that has been sweeping Durban...

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