A search of just one cell block at Leeuwkop prison in Johannesburg has exposed the reality that crime often doesn't stop once prisoners are behind bars.
On Thursday morning the Department of Correctional Services executed a surprise raid of the C-Max prison, catching inmates off guard and revealing their illicit possessions.
Cells were searched, one by one, by a team of correctional services officers and members of the department's emergency security team.
Prisoners were made to line up in pairs, crouch on their haunches, with both hands placed on their heads, and told to look down at the warm tarmac.
Department officials then proceeded into the cells of one of South Africa's most overcrowded prisons, which is also home to Boeremag member Kobus Pretorius. It is also where convicted Czech drug dealer Radovan Krejcir was held for 17 months.
While the cells were being searched, other officials frisked the prisoners from head to toe.
Inside the cells, most of which have a strong smell of sweat and urine, multiple double bunk beds stand in rows, each with its own small locker compartment.
Dagga market very active in Leeuwkop
Officials found contraband and various items that are not allowed in the prison, including cellphones, dagga, nyoape, shanks and other makeshift weapons.
Under one of the mattresses, a prison warder uniform was discovered.
Correctional Services Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla, who attended the raid, said that the recovered contraband told a very telling tale about the state of Leeuwkop.
Makwetla said that the amount of dagga found revealed an active market inside of the prison. He also noted that the smuggling of cellphones in Leeuwkop is rife and gave the prisoners a line to the outside world.
"Into the new year, some of these revelations that we got exposed to through this operation, management must seriously plan to make up for the shortcomings that are glaringly evident," Makwetla told media.
The deputy minister conceded that some of the contraband is supplied by department officials but added that 192 officials were dismissed in 2017 for this reason.
Despite the finds, Makwetla said that what the department had managed to accomplish with a shortage of personnel was commendable.
Smuggling 'sophisticated and systematic'
"I am happy with the commitment of employees and management of the department under the circumstances to be doing what they are doing, we are a department that is executing its responsibilities with very dangerously low levels of human power."
When Operation Vala was launched at the beginning of December, Makwetla said among its aims would be addressing the smuggling of drugs and other contraband into prisons.
"We continue to confiscate drugs and other contraband, such as mobile phones, either at our entrances or inside correctional centres – a clear demonstration that we are in a battle, and I dare say we will never retreat nor surrender," Makwetla said during the launch.
"Smuggling has gone from the crude and opportunistic: a friend or family member chancing their luck, to sophisticated and systematic, overseen by criminal gangs.
"It is, therefore, important that we do not only respond and react to security problems, but we must be proactive and get onto the front foot if we are to stay ahead of criminals," he said.