Major drug lab bust

2013-07-15 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG residents can take cold comfort in the fact that drug dealing and manufacturing are not as pervasive in the city as they have become in other cities such as Durban.

This is according to the police after the Hawks narcotics unit in Durban raided a suspected drug laboratory and distribution point in the Amanzimtoti area, where they recovered drugs worth an estimated R4 million.

A senior Pietermaritzburg police officer said, “There are problems in the residential areas like Northdale and Oribi, but not in the city centre. Durban has bigger problems because the harbour is there and drugs are coming through there.”

The officer said drugs came into Pietermaritzburg partly from Durban and through the Lesotho border, but said the manufacturers in Durban had not pushed their products extensively here.

Police spokesperson Thulani Zwane told The Witness yesterday that following a tip, officers had monitored activities at a flat in Illovo Beach.

The police raided the flat last week and recovered 10 kg of a substance suspected to be heroin with a street value of more than R2,5 million. They further seized about 1 800 Ecstasy tablets valued at R1,5 million.

No one was in the flat, which is believed to be a laboratory distribution point to Chatsworth and the greater Durban area, at the time.

However, on Saturday, a man and a woman, believed to be renting the flat, were arrested and are expected to appear in court this week.

Zwane said the man was found in possession of R50 000 in cash and drugs.

The police then moved to another flat at PGA Park in Umhlanga, which is also rented by the arrested man. It was searched and R150 000 in cash and 500 Ecstasy tablets were seized.

Zwane said powder similar to that found at Panorama was also seized from the Umhlanga flat. He said two vehicles were also seized as part of the investigation.

André Beetge, a ward councillor in the Amanzimtoti area, said they have never experienced a drug bust of this magnitude. “We’ve had small incidents of marijuana before, but nothing like this.”

“Our area is quite a security conscious area. I do not think this [flat] was a main distribution area; I think they hid here and they distributed from other areas.”

This was the second major drug bust in the province since January, when a Chatsworth man and his son were arrested after being found with drugs totalling R5 million.

On New Year’s Eve last year, the man’s wife was arrested after she was found with R740 000 in cash, R5 000 worth of drugs and three firearms.

The latest bust comes soon after President Jacob Zuma bemoaned the scourge of drugs that has taken over many communities. Speaking at a Youth Day rally in Newcastle, on June 16, he said drugs were a threat that could reverse all the gains made through freedom.

In Pietermaritzburg, Finance MEC Ina Cronjé, the political champion of the uMgu­ngundlovu District, is spearheading a campaign to tackle social ills like crime and drug abuse in the northern suburbs.

The campaign will be extended to the entire district to address issues including crime, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.

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