Mandrax worth R10-million was seized on Monday when police pounced on suspected members of a North Coast drug cartel.
And experts say Mandrax is fast re-emerging as the drug of choice, overtaking heroin and crack cocaine.
About 200 000 Mandrax tablets and 20 tons of base powder, used in the manufacturing process, were seized on a Tongaat smallholding.
A couple were arrested and is expected to appear in the Tongaat Magistrate's Court soon, said police spokesperson, Director Phindile Radebe.
A 30-year-old woman and the man, 48, face allegations of manufacturing, dealing and possessing drugs and ammunition.
Various local police units - supported by the national Crime Intelligence Unit - had been monitoring the syndicate for four months before on Monday's breakthrough.
Officers from the Organised Crime, Flying Squad and Crime Intelligence units raided a Newlands West home at 6am, where 80 Mandrax tablets and ammunition was found.
Information received during the investigation led them to a smallholding in Tongaat, said Radebe.
"All the products were kept in a newly-built three-roomed house, behind the main house of the farm, where the manufacturing (took) place.
"Our intervention programmes are not only focusing on users, but also on manufacturers and dealers. We believe that by diverting our attention to targeted syndicates and dealers, we are striking at the heart of the problem," she said.
A member of the Organised Crime Unit said the chemicals and raw materials found could have been used to make at least a further R20 million-worth of Mandrax.
The officer explained Mandrax was extremely popular in the '80s but the market dipped in the '90s, when it was overtaken by heroin and cocaine.
"It used to be concentrated in suburbs but it's now found its way across the province. This could have a lot to do with its cheap price; it sells for between R40 to 50 as opposed to about R300 per gram of coke," he said.
Senior Superintendent Deven Naicker, the head of the Organised Crime Unit's narcotics division, said the recent successes of the SAPS in stamping out the drug trade was evidenced by the number of busts and the arrests of couriers across the country almost daily.
By Dasen Thathiah
March 30, 2010
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