this news article is a little old but interesting. as to the drug problem reffered to, it has grown & making headlines at least once a week in our local papers. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/23/china.southafrica
[h1]Rare shellfish bartered for drugs[/h1]
Triads are fuelling a trade that has seen a surge in violence in the aready crime-riddled Cape, writes Sam Kiley
As green rubbery sea creatures are emptied from a bin liner into a sink in the police interview room at Muizenberg, Cape Town, a shabby white man looks on guiltily. He is the first link in an international, multi-million-pound illegal trade that has brought Triad gangs and drugs to South Africa and is tearing the Cape region apart.
- <LI class=byline>Sam Kiley <LI class=publication>The Observer,
- Sunday September 23 2007
- Article history
The man's flippers and wetsuit lie on the floor. He was caught by game wardens poaching abalone - a saucer-sized mollusc prized as a delicacy in the Far East. He could have earned around £220 for his catch of 12 kilos but now faces five years in Pollsmoor prison.
The stolen abalone, an endangered and protected species, would have been eventually sold to predominantly Chinese buyers for around £225 a kilo. And that's the problem: the enormous value of the delicacy has brought the Chinese Triad gangs to South Africa. In a cash-free transaction, the Triads swap the abalone for the ingredients to make methamphetamine, or 'tik'.
Hundreds of tonnes of abalone is smuggled out of the Cape every year, to be exported through Hong Kong, according to Wildlife Department officials who say that the local abalone is on the brink of extinction.
But it is the effects of tik on South Africans that are most noticeable. Already suffering a murder rate of 50 a day, and a rape every 26 seconds, the Cape is gripped by an epidemic of tik - a highly addictive crystallised form of speed - that has resulted in a 200 per cent surge in drug-related crime in two years. It's driving the region mad - literally.
'Tik has a high propensity for causing neuro-psychiatric problems.
We were seeing about 40 patients a month, we're now seeing about 180 per month. So that's more than a quadrupling of psychiatric patients,' says Dr Neshaad Schrueder, the head of the emergency unit at GF Jooste hospital in Manenberg, Cape Town.
Visitors to Cape Town's affluent suburbs and centre are so struck by the beauty of the city's setting that it take a while to notice what's missing - non-white Africans. About 250,000 people, most of them white, live in the touristy areas. Under apartheid, two and a half million non-whites were forced from their homes in the Sixties and Seventies and dumped in the dunes and swamps of the Cape Flats. Since then the mixed-race 'coloured' communities have been plagued by gangs, drugs and alcohol.
Action, a member of the Americans gang, tells me he's been prosecuted 27 times for murder and attempted murder. He smokes tik with his mates in a cramped room he rents. As the drug takes effect he starts waving his .45 pistol about. 'We need about R400 (£30) a day to pay for the tik. None of us work, so we steal, we tax and we sell tik. If you've got tik, you've got money. We get lots of sex because the girls who want tik will give us sex for a straw (a one-inch measure of tik in a drinking straw).
'We say "tolly for a lolly" - pussy for drugs,' says Action as we walk onto the street where he sells the drugs. Every few hundreds yards across Manenberg and Mitchell's Plain street junctions are choked with piles of wire, piping, old beds, pots and pans. Desperate tik addicts tear apart schools, bus stops and their own homes to sell scrap metal to people like Action.
Tracy-Lee Smit is 17 and a mother of two. She's been using tik for two years. To pay for it she has sold her children's nappies, her mother's furniture, curtains, crockery - and the pipe which used to carry water to the toilet.
Tik sucks a lifetime of dopamine out of the human body in months and speeds up ageing tenfold. Tracy-Lee is still beautiful and wants to be a singer. 'I used to sing in the church choir but I don't go any more because of tik. It's all I do, tik, tik, tik,' she says.
Provincial Prime Minister Ibrahim Rasool declared war on the drug with the slogan 'Tikked Off'. His efforts led to death threats from the Triads and Cape Town gangs. He said: 'I think it's still largely a "coloured" issue. I think our challenge is to make sure it doesn't take root in other communities.'
It may be wishful to think the tik epidemic is confined to non-white areas. With Sea Point Stadium set to be the 2010 Football World Cup's most gorgeous setting, it is important for the city fathers not to spook the fans.
Plans for a stadium at Athlone on the Cape Flats have been shelved, and no one likes to mention that tik is now spreading into the affluent parts of town.
Last year two white middle-class men were seized in affluent Bakoven and murdered by men from the Cape Flats on a tik binge. Perhaps the tik epidemic is finally breaching Cape Town's apartheid-era walls.
In swish Camps Bay, bar manager Neville Crawford sucks deeply on straw shoved into a lightbulb globe where heated tik is vaporising. 'Here and in Seapoint there are a lot of high schools where kids are doing it and it's getting out of hand. People say it's a township drug. Let me tell you, it's everywhere.'