R4m dagga up in smoke
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DAGGA worth R4 million went up in smoke after a plantation was destroyed in a big anti-crime operation in Soweto.
Police believe they have destroyed a dagga plantation on land bigger than a rugby field at Meadowlands hostel yesterday.
This was part of the festive season’s Operation Duty Calls by the police, Joburg metro police, the army and community patrollers.
Residents watched from a distance as throngs of soldiers and police in more than 30 vehicles descended on the hostel at 8.30am while a police helicopter hovered above.
While others walked down the valley towards the wetland where dagga had been planted among maize plants, equestrian units patrolled the hostel on horseback.
Soldiers and police armed with rifles stood guard atop a hill above the hostel with sniffer-dog handlers in the background. The real work soon started down in the plantation, where dagga plants were being uprooted and loaded onto army trucks. The trucks later drove to an open space outside Soweto where the tons of dagga plants were set alight.
Moroka police cluster commander Major-General Eric Nkuna said the operation was planned after they had arrested a man found in possession of dagga a week ago.
“The suspect told us during questioning that he bought the dagga from the hostel and gave us information on the plantation. We came here and indeed found a big plantation, and that’s when this operation was planned,” Nkuna said. “If you look at this place (hostel), everybody will end up smoking with this dagga planted right next to a soccer field and close to the hostel. The plants will be burnt as a measure to stop the dagga from reaching the streets.”
Nkuna said the operation would not be a once-off event.
“More operations are coming as part of Operation Duty Calls, through which we’ll increase police visibility around Soweto so communities can feel protected. We’re also sending a message to criminals that we’ll go after them and make sure they stay behind bars,” he said.
Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said although only two men had been arrested, it was “suspected that more people are responsible for the plantation”. “Further investigations are continuing to discover the stash of dagga suspected to have been harvested before the destruction.”
Dlamini added that police had held three enormous roadblocks in Soweto where more than 700 vehicles were stopped and 1 200 people searched. He said 49 traffic fines were issued.
“Festive season operations are continuing, and the police appeal to the public to co-operate and report all suspicious vehicles and people.”