Part of a drug haul found by the provincial Drug and Firearm Unit in a raid in Phoenix this week.
Part of a drug haul found by the provincial Drug and Firearm Unit in a raid in Phoenix this week.

Heroin on our doorsteps

By Tanya Waterworth, Duncan Guy, Sameer Naik Time of article published May 8, 2021

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​Durban - Suburb are hotspots for drug kings and they’re bringing crime to our gates.

Drugs are sold in capsules and used to lace other drugs to increase addiction, with some police officers suspected to be on the payroll of drug lords.

These are just some of the startling revelations from people working to stop the flow of drugs, particularly heroin, on to our streets.

Mobi-Claw 911 chief executive officer Mike Myers said yesterday: “They (dealers) are lacing a lot of different things with heroin because it's so addictive in nature. New drugs come out with new stuff every day.

“Sup​p​liers will look for lots of avenues to market to people on the ground. It’s organised crime and the guys sitting at the head and giving instructions do not take any of it.

“Drugs are prolific at the moment and I believe heroin and cocaine are coming in through our ports. Drugs are easily available and so common in middle and upper income suburbs. That also brings that criminal element into a suburb when a vehicle comes in to deliver drugs. It’s scary, you don’t know what’s going on in your neighbour’s home,” said Myers.

Wentworth Pastor Donny Anderson said: “There are so many new drugs in the area. There’s serious competition as suppliers try to outdo one another.”

Two addicts who spoke to the Independent on Saturday on condition of anonymity, said heroin capsules were popular because “if the cops catch you, you can always say it’s medicine”.

“Also some people are scared of injections,” said one, adding that he needed a new hit about every five hours.

He said the drug trade involved huge amounts of money being made by dealers who pay “taxes”​ to the police to look the other way.

“The state knows all about this. That’s why the dealers can stand on a street corner and openly offer heroin to people to try for free.”

He said the capsules were not swallowed, but just to distribute drugs.

EThekwini metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad agreed that ​some ​police ​officers ​were complicit​ in the drug trade​.

“Police are even policing their own people. That’s how much of a vicious cycle it has become,” said Sewpersad, adding that with such big profits to be made, drugs had infiltrated the tow truck, private ambulance, nightclub and restaurant sectors.

Yesterday police confirmed that the provincial Drug and Firearm Unit arrested two suspects, aged 19 and 32, in Phoenix on Thursday. Police recovered 672 capsules of heroin and 119 pieces of rock cocaine, with an estimated street value of R32 000.

Denis Hurley clinic co-ordinator Ruth Birtwhistle, who deals with drug addiction on the streets of Durban​,​ said there had been reports of heroin capsules being used since 2016.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s (GI-TOC) East and Southern Africa Risk Bulletin, Jan/Feb 2021 edition, included an analysis titled Civil Society Observatory of Illicit Economies in Eastern and Southern Africa which looked at heroin capsules as a Durban-specific phenomenon.

The report said there had been no other reports of heroin capsules being seized in South Africa outside of KwaZulu-Natal.

This was contradicted by Gauteng private investigator Mike Bolhuis​ yesterday.

“This is nothing new and it’s being sold nationwide, not just in Durban,” said Bolhuis, who has investigated numerous drug-related crimes

“Any drug that sells well in Durban will sell well in Joburg and Cape Town, and that has been the case with capsulised heroin.

“As a matter of fact, the possibility of most drugs starting from the coast and Joburg at the same time is a very big possibility.”

Bolhuis said while he had not come across any evidence of capsulised heroin being manufactured in Gauteng, he wouldn’t be surprised if it was being made in the province and with similar operations in Durban.

“It’s very possible that these drugs are being manufactured in Gauteng but I don't have any factual information on it.”

“What I can tell you though is that it definitely is being manufactured here, but these drug labs just haven’t been discovered as yet; 99% of drug labs don’t get discovered in this country. The percentage of drug labs being identified and discovered is very low, and they shift them a lot so it’s hard for police to trace them.

“They don’t run these drug labs from buildings, they do them from houses, and places that are quite obscure and won’t draw any attention at all, so the drug industry has completely changed.

“They can even do it from a caravan, or in an open field so there is no such thing as it's in a building. And because they move them regularly, it becomes near impossible to discover them,” said Bolhuis.

Drug expert, Simon Howell said: “If you think about Durban, the pill form came in and replaced drugs being sold in straws. There was a period where whoonga was big in Durban and it was being sold in straws. The cops managed to make a substantial number of busts during that time and ever since that, they (dealers) have needed to change the way they package their drugs, so pills were the next logical progression.

“They needed to find a way to distribute this stuff in a manner where it doesn’t look suspicious and in a container that you can move large quantities. Pills are great for that because they look like normal pills and you can buy large quantities of them at a very cheap price. It’s not the first time drugs have been dealt in capsules for sure,” said Howell.

The GI-TOC analysis, which included Independent Media reports, delved into the drug underworld of Durban which revealed a frightening scenario of drug lords escalating an increasingly violent turf war as suppliers compete to outdo one another.

It highlighted the September 2020 Hawks raid of an upmarket estate in Ballito, during which 170 000 heroin capsules were uncovered – one of the biggest drug hauls in recent years.

Also tracked down by police in March 2019 in Springfield Park were capsule pressing mach​i​nery and thousands of empty capsules. Police estimated up to 10 000 capsules containing heroin ​w​ere being manufactured each day.

The report indicated that capsules could easily be disguised as medicine, while some police officers have suggested that dealers can produce a larger quantity of capsules more efficiently than in other forms.

The analysis also noted that police seizures of capsules in KZN were all along major roads leading out of Durban, within a 200km radius.

But the analysis also looked at reports of police corruption, where dealers may or may not be arrested​, ​were rarely prosecuted and often regarded as “Robin Hood” figures who dispense largesse around their communities.

This included Chatsworth’s notorious “Teddy Mafia”, real name Yaganathan Pillay, who was shot at his home earlier this year. A former police officer said of Pillay: “(He) had big pockets, so many people loved him and would easily fall on a sword for him.”

GI-TOC is a network of more than 500 experts on organised crime drawn from law enforcement, academia, conservation, technology, media, the private sector and development agencies.

​Senior Superintendent Sewpersad said two prosecutors had been dedicated to deal with drug related cases in the Durban Magistrate’s Court and the public could share information on such crimes by contacting Captain Marlon Pillay on 084 447 7568.

The Independent on Saturday

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