By Ackel Zwane | 2020-08-01
No sooner had a law seeking to recover what has been stolen by organised criminals is put to good use than politicians of a certain club began maneuvering their defences.
They were quick to jump and show their head first that what if this happened to them, what would become of them. The best way therefore is to stop the law before it hits home. As if they are dealing with a blind public they even claim that they want this law put on hold in the public’s interest. They give the impression that they have obtained the mandate to tamper with the new law from us the public when no such consultation was ever made, instead it was a handful of interested persons in Parliament who popped up a motion to extract certain sections of this law and also demand regulations in the hope that dagga dealers would be spared in the interim.
The spirit of the motion is not so much about protecting the small man but it is about dagga dealers or suspects in dagga dealing. The motion does not protect the public from anything else that the law may be violated but solely the dagga peddlers’ interests.
This law speaks beyond dagga dealers or people who have amassed wealth through proceeds from dealing in the illegal drug.
There is every reason for certain persons to defend dagga trading which has been thriving in Hhohho, particularly, and other areas where millionaires have mushroomed overnight, thanks to the absence of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. Proceeds of crime are very sweet because they come quite easily in countries with defective policing methods and where the greater public is generally very poor and helpless.
But we all know which direction this conversation is taking, that once Eswatini legalises the drug then those already in the dagga business would be first to get the rights and licences then declare the dagga industry a monopoly. They will make entry into the trade so impossible that it would only be for themselves and their families. Now POCA, the Makhundu law, seeks to stop the madness.
True it is a violation of human rights to effect arbitrary arrests, that is, arresting people without thorough and waterproof investigations. If people fail to account as to how they acquired certain assets, especially when it is suspected that they are proceeds of crime then the state has the responsibility to intervene. If you have a million bucks stashed somewhere and you can’t remember how it was acquired then you might as well not mind if it disappears into the custody of the state because you would have no regrets or pain for the loss. Easy come easy go.
A major problem emerges when proceeds of crime begin to influence the direction in which a country is taking, the destiny of a nation. In such cases it is the citizens of that country who must not allow their destiny to be predetermined by crime, this is what Sicilians did to release themselves from the clutches of the Italian mafia and they have not completely succeeded to this day.
This law again speaks to the lifestyle audit of citizens, that it is not just enough for politicians to declare their acquisitions or business dealings by word of mouth but they must bear it all to the public because they have no fears or regrets about how those assets were begotten. That would also eliminate the suspicion that certain politicians are using their influences over this law to get even with their nemesis or political rivals. Good implementation of this law must lead to the exposure of how dagga money has found its way into mainstream business, having been laundered behind the scenes while this law was still non existent. This will put paid the notion that some individuals are born business geniuses when in fact they have free financial fuel from the proceeds of huge cross border consignments of dagga where the state has lost substantially in taxes by its failure to legalise the drug instead of leaving its regulation in the hands pushers and drug mules. We have also seen drug money finding its way into the coffers of the church disguised as offerings, tithes or collections. It is very difficult to intercept money that is laundered through the churches because once it is there it becomes holy, it comes out as proceeds of gospel music or innocent fund-raising for the construction of some church structure, but it all stinks.
Politicians have begun screaming that their houses are made of glass and therefore stones coming from this law must not be thrown at them but instead elsewhere they cannot point. We also saw how the Public Order Act and Barnabas Dlamini’s Suppression of Terrorism Act two laws that were unleashed on striking civil servants and their allies who protested for what they thought genuinely belonged to them, the cost of living adjustment. Parliament kept deafeningly quiet until it was pressure from such international forums as the International Labour Organisation that certain reforms were made. Now that it is time for the state to deal with organised crime by confiscating proceeds of crime, lawmakers are screaming murder.
It is true that the law must not discriminate against a class of citizens or individuals, it must apply evenly but the screams of agony when the law bites must not come from criminals or their sympathisers, it must come from people who have been treated unfairly in the spirit of the law.
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