Two people were arrested on Wednesday at what Police Minister Bheki Cele described as a state-of-the-art underground drug lab in rural Harding, KwaZulu-Natal, on Thursday.
The South Coast Herald reports that more arrests are imminent in this drug bust operation, the minister warned.
The lab had been manufacturing large quantities of narcotics resembling Mandrax, as well as other paraphernalia.
There was not a single sheep left on the 10ha plot when police raided it. Mandrax and lab equipment valued at nearly R250 million were seized.
On Wednesday the Hawks and Crime Intelligence raided the farm and arrested two men working on the property.
“We did not find a single sheep there‚” Cele joked, saying they were now targeting the owners of the farm.
“It was a serious factory which was established on this farm. This is a 10ha property which had housed the facility and tall walls had been built around it‚” he was quoted by Times Live as saying.
He said the drugs were probably intended for export as well as national sale.
He added that it was one of the biggest drug busts in the country to date. He did a site visit with members of the Port Shepstone crime intelligence unit.
He said machines found in the drug lab were valued at R2.1 million each. Several other machines had recently been bought.
“Each machine makes about 16 tablets in two seconds … now you can imagine how much is made per day; this tells you that this is a well-established business,” he said.
According to the minister, the drug lab had been operating at the farm purchased two years ago.
The owners of the farm had only bought 10 sheep, which were used as a front to hide what was really going on. There were eventually no sheep left.
The minister gave the owners of the lab 24 hours to hand themselves in and explain why they had bought a second farm near Howick.
“It’s suspected that the drugs are being distributed to Cape Town in particular, but also to other parts of the country,” he said.
The owners of the farm are said to have recently purchased another farm in the Pietermaritzburg area, which was also being investigated by police.
“We suspect the farm could also have been purchased to create another drug lab.”
Cele said drugs and substance abuse were a serious problem and vowed to clamp down on drug factories one by one.