Cops swoop on dagga garden

By Time of article published Apr 16, 2010

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The fence gate was locked and police officers snapped the padlock with a bolt cutter, revealing a garden filled with rows of dagga plants of various sizes.

On Thursday morning more than 60 police, metro and law enforcement officers raided the Rastafarian informal settlement of Marcus Garvey in Philippi.

Some 950 dagga plants, worth thousands of rands, were confiscated from the plantation and nine people were arrested in the hour-long raid which turned violent when residents started throwing stones at officers.

Police retaliated by firing rubber bullets into the crowd. One man was injured.

Metro police spokesman Nowellen Petersen said police had opened a docket of public violence.

As more than 20 police vehicles drove onto the road next to the railway line, at least two community members could be seen disappearing from the area where a large building, painted in the symbolic stripes of green, yellow and red, stood.

Officers soon set to work searching through the first shack they came across - a resident, reclining on his bed, watched as police rifled through his belongings.

"You can't treat me like that," he said, as an officer discovered a packet of dagga.

Each shack appeared to be fenced off in the front, and behind every fence stood rows of dagga plants.

In every direction, police officers could be seen carrying armfuls of dagga or loading piles of shrubs into the back of vans and trucks.

The area at first appeared deserted but later community members drifted from their houses to complain about the "brutality".

"Where is the warrant. You can't just come here and vandalise," a resident complained.

Officers found dagga inside a creche and arrested the teacher, while residents claimed the raid was proving stressful for the youth.

Another man said: "Ganga is a herb. Why you people come here with your guns?"

"Where is our freedom of our religion, our culture," a woman screamed.

Community members had complained to the police about the illegal growing and selling of dagga which led to the raids.

"We will be coming back and doing continuous operational raids.

"Unfortunately the situation became a bit volatile but you can see the extent of the problem," said Wayne le Roux, the acting deputy chief of the Metro police.

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