CHRISTMAS Eve of 24th December 2021 will go down in memory as the Zanzibar House of Representatives passed a bill of an Act to establish the ‘Zanzibar Drugs Control and Enforcement Authority (ZDCEA)’ into law.
Despite heated debate on some of the sections of the law, the sailing through of the bill in the house brought great excitement to the lawmakers and other people outside the house who have been following up the drugs issues in the Islands, also used as trafficking areas. The law waiting to be asserted by the Isles President aims at “enhancing the authority’s capacity” to deal with illicit and narcotic drug issues in the tourist Islands of Zanzibar.
Many legislators laud the government for this significant law improvement in the history of the anti-drug campaigns in the country. The new law also gives birth to the new ZDCEA that includes the Zanzibar President as the chairman of the National Drugs Control and Enforcement Council (NDCEC), leading a team of ministers expected to produce good results.
According to the law, the First Vice President, the Second Vice President, the Attorney General of Zanzibar; Minister of State in the First Vice President’s Office; and the Minister of State- Second Vice President’s Office are members of the Council. Other members of the council are the Minister responsible for drugs control; Minister responsible for legal affairs; Minister responsible for Regional Administration; Minister responsible for health and social welfare; Minister responsible for youths; Minister responsible for finance; and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The importance of the law includes the Institution to be established shall be capable of investigating, arresting, investigating and prosecuting in court; there will be effective management in drug control and control, and take specimens themselves and avoid those specimens returning to the community after the primary case is over.
Other benefits are a significant reduction in drug-related trafficking, which will lead to a reduction in drug side effects; strengthening the workforce especially the youth, and ultimately boosting the country’s economy; and controlling the use of prescription drugs that can be used as drugs.
Functions of the authority, among others, are to educate the public on the effects of drugs; facilitate civic institutions, including external institutions that provide education on the effects of drugs; and develop various guidelines on drugs and their effects on society, including the establishment of sober houses and education on the effects of drugs.
Before the House approved the law, the Minister of State in the First Vice President’s Office, Dr Saada Mkuya Salum mentioned other functions as encouraging communities to participate in controlling drug use and trafficking; and to encourage and ensure cooperation with the international community in drug control. She said that punishments range from one-year, seven years, thirty years to life imprisonment, and fines between 2 and 10m/, depending on the size of the offense, which include cultivation, ownership, distribution, trafficking and processing or manufacturing.
“Smoking… or if found in any house, room or place illegally used for smoking, injecting, inhaling, sniffing drugs; or without lawful and reasonable excuse, commits an offense and shall, upon conviction, be liable to a fine of not less than 5m/- or imprisonment for a term of one year or both,” the law states. Despite the heated debate, the members of the House finally approved the law, with most of them arguing that illicit drugs are still a big problem in Zanzibar and that the laws had a weakness in enabling success in eliminating drugs in Zanzibar.
One of the stated purposes of the Zanzibar anti-drugs new drug law is to treat drug-addicted people in sober houses, but several backbenchers, including Prof Omar Hamad Fakih (Pandani), argued why ‘treat people engaged in the illegal practice of using drugs?’
“Not all youths use drugs at will, as some use it and we cannot leave them without help, because they can still get back to normal life and contribute to building the nation,” Dr Salum said, adding that the new law gives hope to the authority as it strengthens its ‘teeth’ and to people who have been neglected by society, and have been continually punished and demonized instead of being provided with much-needed support.
The minister insisted that drug use, as well as supply, production and trafficking, remains an offense under the new law same as before, including the widely used Bangi (Cannabis), where the difference is better laws to be enforced by the authorities and improved fines and imprisonment. The minister informed the House that Zanzibar is not alone in this move, because numerous countries have made improvements to their laws,
“But in Zanzibar, we have moved further with great hope of success to win the war against drugs.” “Drugs cost lives, ruins families and economy,” Mr Zubeir Ali Maulid- Speaker of the Zanzibar House of Representatives said after the passing of the bill into law, urging Zanzibaris to be enthusiastic and optimistic about this new drug law.
“According to the law, our President is among the forefront leaders in the campaign against the narcotics. We are eagerly waiting for enforcement immediately after the president assents,” the speaker said, adding that it demonstrates political will.
However, Ms Panya Ali Abdalla (CCM Special Seats) protested the clause that makes the Zanzibar President the Chairman of the Zanzibar National Drugs Control and Enforcement Council, arguing that the Presidency is the highest position that shouldn’t in anyway be “attached to other duties like being the chairman of the anti drugs task.”
Dr Saada Mkuya Salum was joined by defendants, Minister of Trade and Industries Development Mr Omar Said Shaaban and Attorney General Dr Mwinyi Talib Haji to defend the Zanzibar president’s role in the anti-drugs council. “The war on drug is a war on people, creating obstacles for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, violating human rights, undermining public health, therefore we must be glad that the president is going to lead us in this fight, and his role as president will not be affected,” they said.
Zanzibar is already constructing a modern rehab center for drug addicts, and the new law also intends to help and support youths who abandon drugs. A total of 3,161 youth who successfully stayed in sober houses abandoned the use of drugs. More than 9,000 youths joined sober houses between 2009 when sober houses were established in 2019.
During the period, sober houses lost contact with 271 youths, and 813 youths who had recovered from using the drugs turned to substitute drugs, while 4,786 youth went back to use of drugs (relapsed cases). Sober Houses (Sober living houses- SLHs), also known as sober homes and sober living environments, are facilities that provide safe housing and supportive, structured living conditions for people exiting drug rehabilitation programs.
President Hussein Ali Mwinyi has repeatedly directed respective authorities to work tirelessly to ensure importation, supply, and use of illicit drugs are controlled, and that almost everyone should be engaged in the war. The current measures to control drugs include increased public awareness, reviewed laws, and commitment that have enabled quick handling/hearing of reported drug-related cases in a short time.
Increased collaboration with police, the Zanzibar Anticorruption and Economic Crime Authority (ZAECA), improved data collection of drugs abuses related cases, and the Director of Public Prosecutor (DPP) are helping to control the ‘importation, distribution and use of illicit drugs. It is estimated that there are about 200 million drug users globally, while Zanzibar has about 12,000 users.
The effects of drugs include poverty, domestic conflict, armed robbery, death, accidents, STIs, mental problems, unplanned pregnancies and hepatitis B and C among other health problems. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) encourages individuals, nonprofit organizations, the private sector and Member States to get involved in its social media campaign against drugs.
Cannabis (bangi) is the most used substance. Around 275 million people used drugs worldwide in the last year, while over 36 million people suffered from drug use disorders, according to the 2021 World Drug Report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“The theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is “Share facts on drugs. Save lives”, emphasizing the importance of strengthening the evidence base and raising public awareness, so that the international community, governments, civil society, families and youth can make informed decisions and better target efforts to prevent and treat drug use, and tackle world drug challenges.”