A secret drug lab manufacturing crystal methamphetamine (tik) was discovered by mistake in the upmarket East London suburb of Vincent Heights yesterday afternoon.
East London police said two armed response officers from Red Alert came across the lab in Linaria Drive while responding to an alarm that had gone off in the house next door.
The officers then saw the gate of the property was open and thought a suspect might have fled in there.
As they entered the property, they stumbled on the lab. There was no one in the property.
Police spokesman Captain Mluleki Mbi said police were now calling on property owners in other suburbs “to be more inquisitive of their neighbour’s activities”.
The lab was found inside a double garage of a luxurious four-bedroom property managed by leading estate agency Pam Golding.
The agent responsible for the property, Rica van Schalkwyk, told the Daily Dispatch at the scene that the property was leased to someone, but did not want to name their client.
By late yesterday, police were still looking for the tenant.
Materials and equipment used to manufacture tik were found in the garage and in all the rooms of the picturesque, multimillion-rand property overlooking the Nahoon valley.
Van Schalkwyk said they had not been at the house “in a long time” to check up on things.
Police said the house had no furniture inside and each room had its own role to play in the manufacturing of drugs.
Mbi said lab experts from Pretoria still needed to visit the scene to quantify and analyse the scene.
In the lab were three large bags of tik ready for export, valued at an estimated R30000.
In the rooms were bits of tik manufacturing equipment and on the floor were quantities of tik laid neatly on plastic sheets to dry.
One room was used as a cooking room, with steam pipes placed on the windows.
Police on the scene said it was the first known lab of its kind and the biggest drug lab they had come across in East London.
The house’s locks were changed yesterday by a locksmith in order to secure the scene.
“Police are investigating cases of dealing and illegal manufacturing of drugs,” Mbi said.
Red Alert spokesman Brett Harvey said he could not comment on his officers’ discovery for fear of jeopardising police investigation.
lIn a separate drug bust, 900 mandrax tablets were seized in Mthatha on Monday by the National Intervention Unit (NIU).
Two NIU members arrested two men, aged 34 and 39.
“The NIU members followed up on information which led to the arrests of the two suspects at about 11.30am on Monday.
“The pair were arrested during an intelligence-driven operation conducted at Northcrest taxi rank in Mthatha.
“The tablets, with an estimated street value of R72000, were confiscated,” said police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukis Fatyela yesterday.
Fatyela said police swooped on the men as they were counting their drugs which police suspect were to be distributed in and around Mthatha.
The arrest came barely a week after undercover police arrested a 33-year-old man with 225 mandrax tablets and R9993 in cash, suspected to have been the proceeds from selling the drugs.
The suspects are from the neighbouring Ngangelizwe and Waterfall townships in Mthatha.
Fatyela said police were on a drive to clamp down on drug dealers in Mthatha, saying that drug-addicted criminals were robbing and killing citizens.
Police also suspect drugs were a major factor in three gruesome murders involving cannibalism in Port St Johns, KwaBhaca (formerly Mount Frere), and at Mdeni in Tina Falls near Qumbu.
Provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga applauded the SAPS members on both busts.
“As we enter the festive season, we will enhance our visible policing, stop-and-search operations and intelligence-driven operations to effectively deal with all crime generators and ensure that our communities are rid of drugs,” said Ntshinga.
Police said two suspects appeared in the Mthatha Magistrate’s Court yesterday for possession and dealing in drugs.