2011-03-11 00:00

A SURPRISE drug-busting operation in four high schools in Pietermaritzburg yesterday led to the seizure of dagga, knives and cigarettes.

The campaign is the first of many similar raids to be carried out at KZN schools this year. The objective is to flush drugs and weapons out of the school system.

A large police contingent swooped on unsuspecting schoolchildren at Copesville, Haythorne, Sobantu and Eastwood secondary schools.

Pupils were frisked and their bags searched in an operation conducted by the Education Department and police. Some children were asked to take off their shoes for the searches.

Education MEC Senzo Mchunu said the four schools raided were chosen because their surrounding communities are known as areas where drugs dealers operate.

“We have declared war on drugs, be it learners who use, carry or supply drugs in schools. We want to send a very strong message that we want our schools drug-free. Drugs will no longer be tolerated. We also wanted to make these campaigns public because we need the communities to rally behind us so we completely cut off the hands that put drugs in schools,” he added.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said about 300 police officers from the Mountain Rise and Central police stations, Pietermaritzburg dog unit and public order policing unit were part of the operation, carried out simultaneously in the four schools.

Two okapi knives and a switch­blade were retrieved at Copesville Secondary, which Mchunu visited. One of the knives was found on a girl.

The Witness understands from teachers at the school that girls carry knives in order to hire them out to boys.

A police sniffer dog, Lady, was able to lead police to two small bags of dagga in the boys’ toilet. A police officer said the dagga was packaged for sale. A white paper was found inside the dagga packs. Police said this paper is often dipped in a cleaning solution. When smoked with the dagga, this apparently gives smokers an added kick.

Jeevan said Eastwood Secondary was the only one of the searched schools that was found to be clean.

In Haythorne an okapi knife was found, along with four dagga joints. In Sobantu a dagger was found on a pupil.

Mchunu reassured pupils as they were frisked, telling them: “We love you, but not the drugs you carry.”

While the pupils who spoke to The Witness generally said the raid had shocked and terrified them, many welcomed the move.

Said a pupil at Copesville, “Drugs are a big problem in our school and I personally don’t mind this. I think it is something that should be done occasionally. The police presence makes me feel safe.”

Another pupil said she was worried about the smoke she is exposed to every day at school.

“Walking past the toilets you would think the place was on fire or something. Both girls and boys smoke,” added the girl.

The pupils described whoonga, dagga, cigarettes and alcohol as the main drugs.

They said knives are also a problem.

A teacher said they have only now learnt that classroom ceilings are broken because pupils hide drugs there.

Wayne Marais, whose children attend Haythorne, said he is concerned about his two daughters being endangered by children who bring knives to school or who are on drugs.

He said guilty pupils should “be expelled, plain and simple”.

Other parents whose children attend Haythorne, Bianca Lambert and Sharon Ulbricht, said they believe that poor discipline in schools is a direct result of the government banning corporal punishment.

Julian Howard, who has a daughter at Haythorne, said the school has a big problem with gangs, and pointed to the fact that numerous stabbings have taken place, which he blamed on a lack of security.

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