Monday, May 4, 2015

Govt imposes stringent new measures to curb illicit drug trafficking

Despite having a series of changes on laws to curb the illegal use of drug barons in the country, the government has continued to review some of the penal codes so as to impose harsh punishments with a view to deter drug users and dealers who facilitate cross border illegal business deals. The Attorney General (AG) George Masaju clarified the matter recently in Dar es Salaam and noted that, changes of the new penal codes have been analysed in the Drugs Control and Enforcement Act 2015 recently passed by National Parliament. He said at a function of presenting certificates of attendance to 18 journalists who underwent a seven month short training course on reporting on illicit drug trafficking as well as on reporting on areas of Millennium Development Goals. The short training courses which were sponsored by Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) in collaboration with the United Nations office in Dar es Salaam started in May 2014 and ended in January 2014, aimed at giving capacity building to journalists. The essence of doing this, he further noted is due to negligence and non compliance by some individuals who do not want to show cooperation in support of the government’s move towards eradicating the illicit drug use in the country and tracking across the border.  However, the AG noted that, despite having a law that prohibits the escalation of the phenomena, still the situation is growing at an alarming rate an aspect that it has tarnished a good image of the nation to the outside world. He said that the first efforts by the government was seen in mid 1990s when the Parliament enacted a law aimed to suppress an illegal business on illicit drug which is under clause 95 of the Anti-Drug Act of 1995. Through this law the government established Anti-Drug Commission which is under the Prime Minister’s Office and officially started to charge its duties in 1997. In order to facilitate the move the government established special branches in its institutions and departments to curb illicit drug use and illegal trafficking. The institutions are the Police force, National security Agency and Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA). “Despite of all these efforts, still people are obstinate and do not want to comply by the rules and regulations set that could deter them to stop with immediate effect the malpractice”, he said. Some of the new penal codes that the government has seen the need to introduce as severe punishments in this new Act which is workable in both Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar. 

Tanzania's Attorney General Mr. George Masaju

He further added that, the current law in use has shown some discrepancies in it as it does not give a deserved punishment according to the magnitude of a mistake committed an aspect that lacks a weigh of righteousness, but the new law has imposed minimum punishment should be a fine or imprisonment. He gave an example saying that according to section 12 of the current law, the punishment imposed to an individual found to have engaged in illegal cultivation of a farm product that produces ‘Bhang’ is fined Sh. 1 million or a length of imprisonment which does not exceed 20 years. The new law he said has imposed a punishment of fine between Sh. 50 and 500 million and a maximum length of imprisonment which should does not exceed 30 years for the same offence committed. He further noted that, the punishment given to those who finance the illegal drug business according to the current law is fine that amounts to Sh. 10 million. But according to the new law it has imposed the punishment of Sh. 1 million or an imprisonment which does not exceed 30 years and have the culprit’s properties confiscated. Elaborating on the mistakes committed for transporting illicit drugs, the current laws has waived out fines and imprisonment punishments, and in the new laws the punishment imposed is only life imprisonment only. “The aim of doing this is to minimize the possibility of the offenders to be fined at all counts related to the offenses committed by them  which in turn the government has seen that they find them easier to pay and quitted in courts of law once arraigned to answer charges”, he said.

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