Berg bust: The dagga, worth an estimated street value of R1.8 million, was seized by police near Sani Pass.

Four men and a 16-year-old boy appeared in the Bergville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday after being found in possession of nearly a ton of dagga.

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said the men were arrested last week after a joint intelligence operation between the Pietermaritzburg Equestrian Unit, the SAPS Airwing and officials of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

The operation was carried out under the command of Colonel Sean Jacklin in the Cathedral Peak area bordering Lesotho.

“Forty-eight large bags of dagga and an unlicensed 9mm pistol were seized by the police near Sani Pass in the Drakensberg mountains. The dagga weighed in at 920kg and has an estimated street value of R1.8 million,” Zwane said.

It is believed the suspects were members of a syndicate that transported the dagga on donkeys across the Lesotho border and into SA through the mountain passes of the Drakensberg.

The arrested suspects, Mcebo Hlongwane, 22, Mthobisi Hlongwane, 24, Mondli Hlongwane, 22, Ngake Ntene, 24, and the teenager, who cannot be named, were charged with possession of dagga and an unlicensed firearm.

They were remanded until April 17, when they will make a formal bail application.

KZN provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni commended the members for the arrests and the recovery of the drugs and expressed her concern about cross-border crimes.

“We will increase the number of crime prevention operations along the border between Lesotho and SA to curb cross-border crimes, especially drug trafficking and stock theft, which are prevalent in these areas. If we had not seized this consignment of drugs, it would have most surely ended up on our streets during the Easter holidays, and would have contributed to an increase in crime,” she said.

Cathedral Peak business owner and resident Chantal Maxim said it was of great concern that criminals felt safe bringing drugs into the country near the border.

“It is so scary knowing that this sort of shady criminal activity is going on right under our noses. We cannot applaud the police enough for their vigilance,” Maxim said. - Daily News