The Internationalization of the War on Drugs and Its Potential for Successfully Addressing Drug Trafficking and Related Crimes in South Africa

Article excerpt


The current decade has brought revolutionary change to onceapartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela, a political dissident imprisoned for twenty-seven years,1 was released from prison and led Black South Africans in their quest for equality and democracy. The realization of these ideals became possible when former President F.W. de Klerk and his National Party agreed to write a new interim constitution and to hold the first democratic elections in the nation's history.2 De Klerk and Mandela, the principal negotiators of the interim constitution, finalized it in 1993.3 The first elections took place in April 1994, and Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) garnered 62.7% of the popular vote.4 This percentage provided the ANC with a sufficient proportion of the National Assembly's seats to enable Mandela to become the nation's president5 De Klerk's National Party won 20.4% of the vote.6 A provision of the constitution allowed any party receiving more than twenty percent of the vote to name a deputy president, enabling de Klerk to retain an important position in the government.7

With a new constitution and democratic representation, South Africa exhibited the necessary political tools to become a major player in the global economy. Although South Africa always has been one of the most developed and richest nations in Africa, its infamous apartheid policies impeded its international status.8 The nation faced trade embargoes, a lack of foreign investment, denial of membership in the United Nations, and a reluctance among foreigners to travel within its borders.9 Once South Africa abolished apartheid, it expected its fortunes to change-which they did. The removal of apartheid's stigma opened borders, and the allure of a relatively untapped economic reservoir attracted foreign investment and the international community's desire to trade and interact with South Africa.10

Unfortunately, the transformation of a society once shielded from the outside world to a society permeable to extraneous influences has brought new problems, namely crime. South Africa's rising crime rate makes it one of the most disturbing and dangerous countries in the world. In particular, South Africa's murder rate ranks as the fourth highest in the world, and its overall violent crime rate is among the world's highest.11 Although general lawlessness existed under apartheid, democratization makes this lawlessness increasingly apparent.12 The crime of drug trafficking, however, is a new problem to South Africa, one borne out of its transformation into an open society. Drug trafficking has recently received widespread attention because it breeds murder, money laundering, and vigilante justice.13

South Africa needs to develop a strategy to combat its drug trafficking problem. Most, if not all, nations that are major production or consumption stops along trafficking routes have had such strategies in place for years.14 Moreover, in the last decade, nations have begun to realize that acting alone is not enough, and have internationalized the war on drugs through effective international cooperation and enforcement.15 The internationalization of the war on drugs utilizes three primary arrangements: (1) nations acting in accordance with a United Nations policy; (2) multilateral agreements, usually among nations within the same region of the world; and (3) bilateral agreements between the United States and another nation, usually a major narcotics producer.16 As stated, most nations also employ domestic policies that deal with the production, trafficking, and consumption of illicit drugs.

First, this Note examines the current drug trafficking problem in South Africa. It then discusses the four common ways of prohibiting and fighting drug trafficking. Finally, this Note proposes a strategy that South Africa should employ to address the problems it faces. This proposed strategy borrows heavily from those already in place, and includes measures from each of the four methods by which countries are waging the war on drugs. …