Officers swooped in and found drugs and firearms in what appeared to be a normal family home owned by a registered pharmacist.
Calling it a “house on steroids", the police, using their K9 unit and the Flying Squad, went to the house on a plot to find a garage with a drug-making machine. The machine produced steroid tablets, while a microwave in the kitchen stored glass vials to keep them sterilised.
On the farm was livestock, as well as chickens and ducks.
Inside it was a well-furnished home, with family pictures hanging on the walls in the lounge and bedrooms.
The house was furnished in good taste, down to “his and hers” logos across the main bedroom.
National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole said the house had been utilised to manufacture drugs worth millions of rand.
“The owners disguised the house and the plot as an agricultural type of venture, yet it was a drug house. We have seen this to be a new modus operandi, the first operation being in Harding in KwaZulu-Natal last year,” he said.
Sitole said the Harding suspects had three big drug-manufacturing machines, the same as those found at the Hammanskraal plot.
He said operating on the outskirts was a new trend for criminals who knew that in townships and urban areas, the police were likely to find the factories and to bust them quickly.
#sapsHQ #SAPSNPC Gen Khehla John Sitole has welcomed the detection of a clandestine drug laboratory and praised the #SAPS team for a job well done. Qualified pharmacist (55), life partner (52) and employee (38) arrested on the scene. #DrugsOffTheStreets NP https://t.co/YxjikWmKdD pic.twitter.com/8ZqOZWsaAa— SA Police Service (@SAPoliceService) March 21, 2019
“Criminals know that if they operate in rural areas they will stay for quite a long time. This operation has been in business for over eight years.
“From the book of supplies they have made we were able to tell they have been operating for a number of years. We have found that the person was once arrested and has a police record.”
Sitole said the primary suspect was a registered pharmacist who would never be suspected of illegal manufacturing.
“The machines used to manufacture drugs often come into the country illegally.”
He said the suspect manufactured legal tablets illegally.
Three people were arrested for allegedly manufacturing drugs, among other charges. Among them was the pharmacist in his early 50s, the manufacturer, 37, and the wife of the main suspect. “I have ordered a 12-hour turnaround on another suspect who has been the supplier and receiver for more than three years,” Sitole said.
He further said they had sought advice from the SPCA, who suggested that vets should be sent to check if the livestock on the premises were used as “guinea-pigs”, as they looked "fatter than normal". “Further investigation will be following where the stuff was going.”
Three unlicensed firearms and ammunition, two pistols and a shotgun were recovered by the police. Bags of chemical powder and bottles used for manufacturing were also seized from the house.
Sitole said the police were focused on the war against drugs. He said the house was discovered through intelligence operations. “We took into consideration the Harding modus operandi analysis, which got us to put intelligent processes in place in order to track similar operations; hence we are here today.”
Last year, two people were arrested at Harding during the R150 million drug bust.