Cleaning up the country
Towards the end of last year, the Botswana Police Service embarked on a highly publicised operation to route out the country’s drug dealers.
The man spearheading the ‘war on drugs’, which includes televised raids on Btv news, is Assistant Commissioner, Nunu Lesetedi.
With 39 years experience in the Police, the Serowe born detective is the ideal candidate to lead such a gruelling, extensive and dangerous campaign.
Indeed, under Lesetedi’s watch, no drug dealer is safe.
Voice journalist Portia Ngwako-Mlilo caught up with the 57-year-old top cop this week to find out how the operation is going.
Our animal-loving reporter was also keen to get the latest on the legendary sniffer dog, Boots, the canine who stole the nation’s heart with her uncanny ability to sniff out drugs – an ability that even led to Boots receiving death threats on social media!
Q. What prompted the police to start these drugs raids?
A. When you deal with crime, the first thing you need to find out is what makes offenders commit it.
What we found out is that drugs can make someone change character; under the influence of drugs, people become brave enough to commit crime.
Drugs are expensive so using them regularly means you always need money, so people end up stealing.
Uprooting drugs will definitely help to reduce crime.
Q. What impact has the operation had so far?
A. We have seen a lot of improvement – it has stopped some people from selling and using drugs.
We cannot deny there are people who continue repeating the offence but they are the minority.
Parents who did not know the cause of their children’s sudden change of behaviour are now aware, and that’s because we are educating people.
Q. What’s the most commonly available drug?
A. The most common and cheapest drug is Marijuana/motokwane.
It is easy to plant and does not need any specialty to harvest and process.
There is also cocaine but it is not common because it is said to be too expensive.
Q. Which are the most affected areas, cities or villages?
A. From our research, it is everywhere, including cattleposts! I have been to Mahalapye, Serowe and we were shocked.
I know there are drug dealers at Lentsweletau, Lephepe and Dimajwe – we are coming for them, it is just a matter of time.
The only problem we have is the limitation of resources, which means we do not reach as many areas as we would like within a short period of time.
Q. In regards to that, how long is the operation going to take and are you intending on covering all of the country?
A. Our intention is to cover the whole country. We need more personnel and resources, transport and financial support to achieve that.
This kind of operation requires a lot of funds. As long as people continue selling and using drugs, we will intensify our efforts.
We are cleaning the country. We have realised some of these drugs are from other countries.
Eventually we are going to see a lot of people going for mental treatment due to drug abuse and a lot of money laundering cases.
This will affect our economy so we will not rest.
Q. Without jeopardising the safety of your informants, how do you normally get tip-offs?
A. We can go to the areas, make some observations and we have trained officers who can tell there is drug use in that area.
We also get information from the public. Having this operation documented on national television news bulletins made a lot of people come to us with tip-offs.
We are really grateful for that and it shows the community is fed up with crime.
Q. Why do you think drug use is on the rise?
A. Because people view it as quick cash. They do not pay tax on the money they are getting from selling drugs.
It is not accounted for in any system of the government.
It is an illegal business which kills people.
Q. These drug suspects paraded on television, are you not afraid that if they are found not guilty they will sue the police?
A. We cannot be afraid of being sued. It is every individual’s constitutional right; if they feel their rights are violated they can go to court and we will tell court why we did that and what evidence we had.
We believe we are doing the right thing because we are trying to sensitise the public about the dangers of drugs.
Q. Where are the Botswana Police Service’s sniffer dogs trained?
A. Some police officers were trained abroad and they came back to train our dogs.
They are not just ordinary dogs, we also brought them from outside the country and we started doing the breeding.
We have about 42 trained dogs and they are very intelligent when it comes to sensing illegal drugs.
We have a special unit called the dog section, or Canine Brigade in military language.
Q. There was a statement issued warning those who threatened to kill Boots. Is she safe?
A. She might not have a badge but killing her would be equal to killing a police officer!
Whoever dares try will regret the consequences.
Boots, together with her offspring, has been accorded tight protection following the threats.
Q. Do you ever receive any threats?
A. I cannot say I am safe. If you are dealing with these kinds of operations you are a threat to other people’s businesses.
They might be tempted to eliminate you.
All of the investigating officers are always alert and we avoid being seen in areas that might put our lives at risk.
Q. When did you join the Police?
A. I joined the service in 1979. I had wanted to be a professional Photojournalist so when I joined Police I was taking pictures as part of evidence collection during the investigations.
I was a crime scene investigator for many years.
I used my photography skills for purposes of enhancing what the police were doing as far as securing the nation is concerned.
I really enjoyed it; doing something you are passionate about makes your job a lot easier.
Q. What challenges do you face as an investigating officer?
A. People repeating offences is still a challenge; it makes you wonder if what you are doing to stop crime is enough – it really demoralises me!
During investigations, we see incidents that are traumatising like murder, car accidents and others.
Q. What advice or warning would you give those who sell drugs?
A. They are risking their lives; in some countries drug dealers kill each other and we are gradually getting to that point.
It is not right to live in fear of being attacked at any time.
If we catch you, all the things you acquired by selling drugs, like houses and cars, will be possessed and you will become poor.
If we find you in possession of money without source, we take it.
Those who are using drugs should seek counselling because they (drugs) are not good for their health and it affects their families too.
Q. How do you kill your time?
A. I spend time with family since my job is demanding.
I also like reading, though I hardly finish a book because of the reports I get that need my attention.
Every morning, before coming to work, I exercise.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. I feel refreshed, I have been on leave for almost a month and have a lot of investigations to do.
I will be following my targets.
There are reports I have to go through and work on.