Cablegate: Methamphetamine-a Growing Problem in Cape Town

DE RUEHTN #0233/01 3300726
P 250726Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) An article in the November 17 2008 edition of the Cape Times
reported that, according to the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cape
Town has become the methamphetamine capital of South Africa, with 98
percent of patients seen across the provinces coming from this city.

2. (U) Methamphetamine, or Tik as it is commonly known in South
Africa, is a white, odorless, bitter crystalline powder, which
dissolves easily in water or alcohol, it is a powerful stimulant
that affects the central nervous system and is highly addictive. It
is easy to ingest, most commonly from a light bulb heated from below
to produce fumes that can be inhaled. Dopamine levels in the body
which are responsible for keeping a person happy, stable and
balanced are reduced by Tik usage. Through ageing a normal person
loses between five and ten percent of their dopamine over ten years.
According to the MRC, Tik users are losing 40 percent to 50 percent
every two years and once the levels in the brain drop below 50
percent the risk of Parkinson's Disease increases. Hospitals in Cape
Town are now seeing 34-year-olds being treated for Parkinson's, the
direct result of Tik usage.

3. (U) The MRC estimates that nowhere else in the world has Tik
grown as quickly as in the poorer coloured communities of the
Western Cape, surpassing mandrax as the drug of choice. Five years
ago just 15 cases involving Tik were reported in the Western Cape.
Last year this had increased to 2,628 cases with 91 percent of the
users being coloured males between the ages of 12 and 21.

4. (U) The increase in gangs in the Western Cape has been a cause
for concern in recent years. Street gangs have a long history in
Cape Town, dating back to the aftermath of the Second World War when
they grew rapidly due to returning servicemen. Large-scale forced
removals of coloured, under apartheid during the 1960s eroded social
controls, creating an environment of increased criminal activity.
These factors coupled with South Africa's high unemployment rate has
narrowed opportunities for young people and created the perfect
environment for drug dealers and gangs to profit. Communities are
seeing an increase in gang activity and crime directly as a result
of Tik usage.

5. (U) The increase in the use and addiction of Tik is not only a
social problem, but is having a larger impact on economic and
security issues. According to the South African Police Services
(SAPS), 60 percent of all crimes are related to substance abuse, and
in the Western Cape that figure is closer to 80 percent largely as a
result if Tik. The perpetrators of these crimes are either under the
influence of Tik, or trying to secure money for their next fix. The
Central Drug Authority estimates that the socio-economic costs of
drug abuse are R20 billion every year. The direct economic impact of
Tik can be found in a study released in July by the Small Business
Project in the Western Cape. The study found that more than half of
small businesses in the region had experienced at least one incident
of crime in the last year. Small businesses lose up to 20 percent of
their turnover to crime. According to the government's crime
statistics, robberies from business premises have increased by 47.4
percent since last year. In short Tik is driving crime up and the
economy down.

6. (U) Confidence in the criminal justice system is at an all time
low and the situation is aggravated by the drug dealers and Tik
users. Drug syndicates often have members of the police service on
their payroll. To make matters worse, it has been noted that drug
Qtheir payroll. To make matters worse, it has been noted that drug
cases tend to drag on for months or years in court, to the point
where witnesses either lose interest, are threatened not to testify
or in some instances are killed. Crime is also a key factor in the
brain drain, over half of South Africans who emigrate cite crime and
corruption as their main reason for leaving. When they leave, they
take their skills and capital with them and drastically reduce the
prospects for growth and job creation for the unemployed.

7. (U) According to the MRC, Tik is also a sexual stimulant and
will certainly impact upon the transmission of HIV through
unprotected sex. Cape Town has seen a rise in HIV infection rates,
which has been linked to the growing popularity of Tik. In addition,
the backroom laboratories manufacturing the drug have to be cleared
by teams specializing in biohazardous matter, due to the health
hazards of the by-products of manufacturing Tik. This poses an
additional drain on already overextended resources and leads to
service delivery problems.

8. (U) Illegal drugs in South Africa are not only a threat to health
and social development; they are becoming an issue of national
security. The Institute for Security Studies released a report in
May 2007 which said that while coloured gangs are believed to
produce and control Tik, the Chinese mafia is the main supplier of
the production ingredients. The report also noted that greater
international cooperation is essential if the authorities are going
to make significant inroads into the illegal drug trade.

9. (U) Comment: As it is linked to health and security issues, Tik

CAPE TOWN 00000233 002 OF 002

is fast becoming a political platform and campaign issue in the
Western Cape. Local opposition parties are placing more emphasis on
the messages of drug prevention and are blaming the increase in
gangs, Tik, and crime on poor governance. The governments disbanding
of the South African Narcotics Bureau (SANAB) in 2004 is being
directly linked to the increase in drug-related crimes and the
disbanding of the Scorpions is used as further evidence of
government's inability to effectively rule. As many of the poorer
coloured communities are directly affected by gangs and drugs,
anyone campaigning on this platform will be well received. End

© Scoop Media

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