DRUG LAB IN HEART OF DURBANVILLE
by Carmen le Roux
The Hawks swooped on a drug lab in the heart of Durbanville on Monday October 4. Tik, chemicals to manufacture drugs and equipment worth R20 million, were confiscated and two men were arrested the next day. Police media spokesman Colonel Billy Jones said the Hawks had been monitoring the house, at 11 Vlei Road, just below Aurora, for a while. They pounced at about 9pm on Monday. Inside a garage they caught a South African, believed to be in his early 20s, red-handed as he was busy cooking up methamphetamine (tik) in large stainless steel pots. “Within 30 minutes the street was full of cars. There were flashing lights everywhere,” said a neighbour, who did not want to be named. She said police were busy on the scene until 4am the next day, during which time five trailers filled with kitchen equipment, 20-litre barrels of chemicals and large bags of tik ingredients were carted away. The woman said police had held another stake-out at the house the next morning as they were waiting to arrest a second person, reportedly a Nigerian national, linked to the operation. Police in unmarked cars unobtrusively parked in driveways and around street corners and waited for their second man to appear. They had been tipped off that he would be there by 11am. As the man arrived at the house, driving a silver Opel Corsa, he opened the automatic garage door and policemen pounced from the inside of the garage, ordering him to stop. “I could see the man’s face – it was expressionless as he reversed and raced off,” the woman said. Police chased after him. “Within four minutes, they were all back at the house and they arrested the man,” she said. Another neighbour said she also saw the pursuit. “I heard shouting and tyres screeching and could see the suspect racing off towards Vissershok Road”. She said the police raced after the man as he sped down Vissershok Road, hurtles around the traffic circle in front of Durbanville High School and raced back up Vissershok Road. Both men appeared in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday October 6 on charges of manufacturing and dealing drugs. Colonel Jones said on Wednesday that the men were to be remanded in custody at Pollsmoor Prison until a date had been set for their bail hearing, which the Sate intended to oppose. Specialists from EnviroServ Waste Management, contracted by the police to deal with hazardous chemical spills and clean-ups, also arrived at the house on Monday to collect evidence, sanitise the house and clear it of all chemicals. The technicians were dressed in white protective suits and wore gas masks. EnviroServ’s Piet Joubert said they found acetones and sulphuric acid among other chemicals in the lab, and general kitchenware such as hotplates, a microwave over and fridges. “This is the equipment they use to manufacture drugs,” he said. The foul smell of sulphuric acid still hung in the air in the neighbourhood last week and Mr Joubert said it would for a while to come. He said they would be washing the inside of the roof, the ceiling, walls and floors of the house with special degreasers and would collect the waste water from the wash and dispose of it properly at their hazchem waste disposal site at the Vissershok dump site, outside Durbanville. The pots and equipment the drug manufacturers had used, would be destroyed, he said. He said the man who had been cooking up the tik, would definetely have suffered damage to his lungs, kidneys and liver from inhaling the toxic fumes. “But at least the fumes were well contained as they kept the house closed and sealed tightly,” he said. He said however that they most likely disposed of toxic waste by simply dumping it down the municipal drains. While one neighbour said her husband regularly notices a sulphurous smell in the air and that, in the last two months, she had ofter felt a burning sensation on her skin and suffered from an allergic reaction around her eyes and on her eyelids, others said they had not noticed anything. Neighbours said the house had been a problem in their neighbourhood. “The house has always been run down and people have run various businesses from it in the past. We have seen a computer company, sewing business and even a tattoo parlour being run from there,” the neighbour said. They said the house had been sold on auction about eight months ago. “For the last while we saw no movement at that house; no cars or people coming in and out. Only once did I see a young guy working in the garden,” a neighbour said. Another said she had, on occasion, noticed the silver Corsa and a BMW passing the house very slowly. Rental agents, Prime Point Properties, based in Cape Town, in the interim pasted a notice on the house’s front door. The notice, addressed to Princewell Osimiri, alleged that Mr Osimiri, as the tenant, is in breach of contract as he had used the premises for something other than residential purposes, had been a nuisance to neighbours, had manufactured illegal substances on the premises and had contravened South African law from the premises. The letter further says that the lease contract, which was entered into on Monday August 2, allows Mr Osimiri to remedy the breaches within five days of its date (Wednesday October 6) or else the lease agreement would be cancelled, in which event they may take legal action against Mr Osimiri for damages suffered as a result of the cancellation. Colonel Jones would not confirm how far the drug-network around the house stretched or how they had known about the house. “We are still investigating,” he said. From what neighbours have said, however, it doesn’t seem as if the manufacturers had dealt drugs from the house. Neighbours praised the Hawks for the swift and professional way they had handled the situation and had dealt with the public. “They were super-courteous and never once did we feel unsafe or scared,” a woman said.