THE government is preparing a Bill to amend the Drugs and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Drugs Act by doing away with fines as penalty and replacing them with life imprisonment.
State Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs) William Lukuvi said this yesterday at a press briefing on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is to be commemorated at Tandale in Dar es Salaam today.
He said the government planned to do away with fines and retain life imprisonment for drug offences.
He said the Bill would be tabled in Parliament before the end of this year.
Lukuvi said the current Act had many weaknesses, including interference with other laws, thus giving room for drug traffickers to carry on with their activities.
Lukuvi mentioned other loopholes the Act had as giving room for magistrates to fine persons convicted of drug offences not exceeding 10m/-.
“Have you ever heard of a person sentenced to 30 years imprisonment after being convicted of drug trafficking though the law allows the magistrate to do so? It is only one person who has been so charged,” he said.
Lukuvi said the law gives a chance for traffickers to slip through the legal dragnet because when drug mules are caught, especially youths, they refuse to name their bosses.
“Now this new law will pin them down because they will be jailed for life and therefore they will not fear to expose those who sent them,” said the minister.
Lukuvi also said that the issue of taking drugs as evidence in court when hearing a case has been an obstacle because their quantity and quality has been reducing as time went on.
The minister said storing narcotics as evidence has been tempting their keepers to steal them.
The minister said in the new Bill only a certificate from the government chemist will be enough evidence for existence of drugs instead of producing them in court physically.
The minister cited an example where courts ordered a return of seized property related to drugs to the owners who are suspected of drug dealing.
“Some of the properties were the machines used to produce drugs in Mbezi and the vehicles impounded countrywide,” he noted.
Lukuvi said 234.061kgs of heroin and 16.845 kgs of cocaine were ceased between January and May, this year.
“The commemoration comes at a time when there is an increasing wave in drug trafficking in the country, which means there is an increased use of such drugs,” said the minister.
Giving statistics, Lukuvi said in 7646 men and 806 women were arrested in 2007 and 6230 men and 367 women were arrested in 2008.
He said in 2009, 3751men and 263 women were arrested and in 2010, 51 men and 11 women were apprehended.
According to the minister, 93 men and 11 women were arrested in 2011 and this year 18 men and 4 women had so far been apprehended.
“Already 15,942 people have been affected by drugs, according to statistics from health centres between 2008 and 2010,” said Lukuvi.
According to the minister, 211 Tanzanians were arrested in foreign countries for drug trafficking between 2005 and 2010, some of whom were sentenced to death.
The theme of the day, according to Lukuvi, is 'Build healthy community without narcotics; give views on the constitution and participate in the 2012 census.’