The growing problem of Khat in South Africa

Jeffreys Bay has been identified as a key link in the transportation of the illegal drug Khat in South Africa. From the growing fields in the Stutterheim and Bolo area on the eastern seaboard  coast of the country to the market place in the Western Cape, the drug is being transported by road past the surfing mecca of Jeffreys Bay.

Catha edulis (street names: khat, qat) has long been used by humans, dating back centuries before Christ. Its use in South Africa has increased due to the influx of Somalians and Ethiopians into the country. The drug seems to be part of the accepted lifestyle in the Horn of Africa countries.

Catha edulis or commonly known as Khat in South Africa

These new immigrants to South Africa have brought their culture with them and in doing so have created a new way of earning income for the subsistence farmers in the Eastern Cape, who harvest the Khat and then transport it to the bigger centers where there are larger congregations of mainly Somalians. Khat sells for around R 50 per bushel.

In 1980 the World Health Organization declared Khat to be a drug of abuse that can lead from mild to moderate physiological dependence. It is known to cause excitement, loss of appetite and a feeling of euphoria in users.

American forces who took part in the infamous Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 were reportedly amazed by the endurance of the Somalian militiamen who fought for days on end boosted by Khat.

Ancient Egyptians considered Khat to be a divine food and probably used the plant in religious ceremonies.

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The South African Police have taken a stance that the drug is illegal in terms of Section 3 of the Drug Act and it will be policed accordingly.  The plant is also a protected indigenous tree in South Africa. Also known as Bushmen’s tea the national Tree number of Catha Edulis is 404.

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(Above: The Islamic Courts who ruled Somalia for a brief period in 2006 banned the use of Khat. Here is a fighter being punished for being caught chewing Khat)

The full effects of Khat are only felt when the leaves are fresh, therefore there is a demand to get the plant to the market place as quickly as possible. In Europe planes are used to transport the drug overnight, while in South Africa, road transport is utilized.

The Jeffreys Bay Police will be meeting with representatives of the local Somalian community on Thursday next week to discuss the problem in the town and possible solutions.

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