Botswana: The Minister of Defence and Security, Thomas Kagiso Mmusi met with various representatives from the health sector, law enforcement, District Commissioners Office, immigration, education sector, doctors and security personnel to allow them to share their insight into the illicit drug usage in Francistown which has negatively affected the country.
The Minister highlighted that when he came to the Ministry he realized that there was a gap which needed to be closed through the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Agency, hence the extensive nationwide campaign.
Mmusi added that the security chiefs need to first identify the drug peddlers especially those who gain access into the country, adding that if law enforcement makes it difficult entry into the country, it means that access to drugs in the streets will be limited and diminished, making it difficult for young children to buy them. The Minister reiterated that they welcome the view to close existing gaps in creating a synergy and not work in silos given that the illicit drug issue affects all sectors.
Minister Mmusi reminded the gathering that not so long-ago Botswana was hit by HIV/AIDS scourge and at some stage COVID, sighting that this too is a wave that will surely pass should all minds put in the hard work required to arrest the situation.
It was refreshing to learn that the representatives held similar views when it comes to illicit drug usage. Education sector for instance, highlighted that they are the custodian of a large youth, whose appetite to experiment is very high. Adding that, as the education sector their mandate is to make sure that they teach the children the curriculum.
However, that they have run into obstacles in the delivery of the curriculum and they found drugs to be at the core. The Regional Education representative told the meeting that of the 21 secondary schools in the region, they had registered one hundred and fifty-two (152) cases of illicit drugs in schools from January 2023 to date.
Adding that they have put in place guidance and counseling syllabus in schools which is taught and offered as a service. Teacher counsellors are trained in all senior secondary schools to encourage children, they also make referrals to social workers, law enforcement and community development organizations such as ‘Stepping Stones, Youth Impact, Connect with Respect programs which tend to empower young minds to make better life decisions. However, he said the lack of parental involvement or engagement makes it hard for them to arrest drug usage in these children.
The Mental Health representatives pleaded with powers that be to look into the establishment of appropriate rehabilitation facilities and employment of Psychiatrist doctors in order to meet the current demand. In a nutshell, they revealed that sporting codes (extra curricula activities) should be brought back in schools in order to keep the children engaged.
Adding that, there is need for Boarder detectors and the increment of boarder officials complimented by sniffer dogs. They spoke in one voice and agreed that the drug situation in Francistown needs a multi-faceted approach including collaborating with stakeholders, engaging the community and doing ‘house to house’ campaigns as part of the activation campaign.
The meeting was held at Cresta Marang Gardens in Francistown on the eve (14th September 2023) of the final lap of DEA campaign where Minister Mmusi will officiate to address multitudes on illicit drug usage.