Durban - The Hawks swooped on a drug laboratory that was in the process of being dismantled at a house in Waterfall on Thursday night - linked to other labs found in the past weeks.
And in another breakthrough, police have arrested a fourth man allegedly linked to the R20-million Kloof drug bust last month.
A police source said the man, who is alleged to have paid R3.8m for the Kloof house in April, had handed himself to police this week.
Sophisticated drug manufacturing equipment had been seized there. The source said they were closing in on the kingpin.
South Africa’s head of detectives, Lieutenant-General Vineshkumar Moonoo, was at the scene on Thursday night and on Friday. He said it had been cordoned off until forensics had been completed.
“The problem of drug labs in the country is a huge one. But we have focused task teams in place that are determined to clean up.”
On Thursday night police seized a pressing and drying machine and chemicals believed to be used in the manufacture of mandrax, in a building adjoining the house in River View Drive.
The source said the house was dilapidated and well hidden in tall grass and bushes.
Four suspects who had been “cleaning” up the almost dismantled laboratory, were arrested.
Hawks spokesman, Captain Paul Ramaloko, said the latest raid could be linked to two other drug factories uncovered in Hillcrest and Kloof, in recent months.
He said it appeared that the site had been abandoned by the alleged drug manufacturers.
It appeared the laboratory stored mainly the raw materials used in the manufacture of drugs.
The materials could have been dispatched from the Waterfall house to the two drug manufacturing factories already shut by police, Ramaloko said.
He said two machines and some chemicals were found.
There was also the possibility the laboratory could have run out of chemicals, Ramaloko said.
The seized chemicals have been sent for forensic testing.
“We believe these men were just part of the cleaning operation. We do not think that they played a major role in the operations,” he said.
A resident said police had been observing the River View Drive house in an unmarked car before the raid at 1am.
The resident, who requested anonymity, said police wearing protective clothing had stormed the premises.
When the Daily News arrived, four men, all casually dressed, were standing next to an unmarked police vehicle with cable ties binding their wrists.
Police used swabs to check their hands for any sign of drugs.
Hillcrest police, who have jurisdiction of the area, removed the media from the scene.
The area around the house was poorly lit and surrounded by trees.