Investigators were still busy on Friday at the notorious house where police this week made the country’s biggest drug bust. But their work has been made more difficult after the names of three men arrested at the Outer West home became public.
And in another development, residents in Durban’s leafy suburbs are being urged to be on the lookout for drug syndicate activities amid concerns there could be more drug labs in their midst.
Crimefighters say that with high walls and fencing, gardens blocking views and a lack of knowledge about neighbours makes the Outer West area a “prime target” for drug syndicates to establish narcotics manufacturing laboratories without anyone knowing.
Earlier this week, the Umhlali K9, Umhlali Task Team, Phoenix Crime intelligence and Tactical Response Team closed down a drug lab in Everton Road in Kloof.
Three suspects, two Hong Kong Chinese men, aged 57 and 58, and a 24-year-old South African believed to be from Cape Town, were caught in the processing plant section demarcated in the house.
More than R3 billion worth of pure heroin powder was seized, but this figure could rise as forensic teams pore over the house.
Colonel Jay Naicker of SAPS KZN said forensic teams would be busy over the weekend, finalising their work.
The suspects’ bail application is set to continue in court next week. Samlal Garbaran, the attorney representing the two Chinese, said he would be seeing his clients and would need to make arrangements with an interpreter. He said they had the support of “friends or family friends” who were in South Africa.
On Thursday afternoon magistrate Wendy Robinson ruled that their identities not be made public after the Hawks, who are investigating, said that revealing their names could jeopardise the case. There could be further arrests and ID parades.
One newspaper revealed the names in a report on Friday. Reacting, Naicker said this constituted contempt of court and it would be up to the magistrate to decide on a course of action.
The Chinese embassy said it gained consular access to its citizens yesterday. “The Chinese government attaches great importance to anti drug efforts and supports the South African government in combating drug-related criminal activities in accordance with the law,” said spokesman Wei Xin.
Meanwhile, neighbours are shocked that such activities are taking place. “Everyone is talking about it,” said Nikki Mohlmann, of the Kloof CPF.
Hillcrest CPF chairman Sifiso Mhlophe said: “As a community we are very concerned that this is happening and that similar things could be happening in other houses in our suburbs.”
He said people needed to rally together and be the “eyes and ears” on the ground and report suspicious activities to the police and community forums.
Mohlmann added that if residents knew each other it would serve to deter drug labs.
“It’s so important to know your neighbour, go and knock on their door and chat to them. People in the upper west area have been blasé in the past, but crime is everywhere and we need to work together to fight it,” said Mohlmann.
Local ward councillor Rick Crouch said criminals did not come to operate in quiet suburbs by accident.
When the Independent on Saturday visited the house on Friday, all was quiet except for police on the inside of the house. The suspects will appear in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on July 8.
- Independent on Saturday