The narcotics industry in our suburbs

The Drug Trade and Governance in Cape Town, a paper written by Khalil Goga, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), looks at how the prevalence of a drug economy in Cape Town suburbs is posing a threat to governance in the city.

Goga looks at how tik, cannabis, heroin and cocaine have created problems for law enforcement, policy makers, city officials and local residents.

These drugs have created platforms in which networks are able to run lucrative economies in local neighbourhoods.

These in turn have created an environment which has put good governance under strain.

Goga argues that a drug economy is thriving in Cape Town communities because of:

  • A reliance on illegal finance in society, so much so that society itself becomes dependent
  • The drug economy’s ability to maintain itself.
  • Criminals developing a level of social control and legitimacy over a region or suburb
  • Society turning to criminals before turning to legitimate state institutions.
  • Those who accumulate income in the drug economy can penetrate legal business and society and ‘taint’ the ‘legitimate’ world.
  • It gives rise to corruption and criminalises the state

The main drugs which drive Cape Town’s drug economy:

  • Tik is the biggest headache for policy makers, citizens and law enforcement. This is not only due to its lucrative criminal economy, but also for the dangers it instigates.
  • Cannabis is smoked more openly in many locations, but law enforcement does not take the same stance as it does with other drugs.
  • Concerns over heroin have been on the severity of its addiction, which drives the local business of this drug.
  • Cocaine, which is primarily trafficked through South Africa, has apparently been the drug of choice for wealthier white South Africans since the end of apartheid. It is also associated with West Africa organised crime.
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