‘Magic mushrooms’ farming, drugs unearthed as Operation Shanela rocks Sunnyside, Pretoria areas

Gauteng police chief, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela. File Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Media

Gauteng police chief, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela. File Picture: Jacques Naude/Independent Media

Published Dec 7, 2023


Scores of people were arrested in and around Pretoria on Thursday as Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela led police in the Operation Shanela anti-crime blitz, supported by different law enforcement departments.

Based on intelligence information, the police raided a house in Queenswood, not far from the Union Buildings, where cultivation of the so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ was uncovered.

“This house is the primary scene, and there is a secondary scene. Here is where they are cultivating, processing and so forth,” said Mawela who was flanked by senior Gauteng police officers including Gauteng's deputy provincial police commissioner responsible for policing, Major General Tommy Mthombeni and the Tshwane District Commissioner, Major General Azwinndini Nengovhela.

“At the secondary scene, that is where they are drying up and then they are distributing. What we found is what they call psycho-tropical mushroom, commonly known as the magic mushroom. It is prohibited in our country.”

Scores of people were arrested in Pretoria on Thursday. File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Media

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation website says “magic mushrooms” are naturally occurring and are consumed for their hallucinogenic effects.

“They are psychedelic drugs, which means they can affect all the senses, altering a person’s thinking, sense of time and emotions. Psychedelics can cause a person to hallucinate, seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted,” according to the website.

“The key ingredient in magic mushrooms is psilocybin. When psilocybin is taken, it’s converted in the body to psilocin, which is the chemical with the psychoactive properties.”

Experts say the magic mushrooms, which are problematic in different parts of the world, look much like ordinary mushrooms.

Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General, Elias Mawela. File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/Independent Media

Mawela said the drug-manufacturing at the house was not “stumbled on” but it took meticulous investigations and dedication by the men and women in blue.

“It is intelligence led, they (police) have been working on it. There is a search warrant for this. Today they executed the search warrant on a good day where we are doing this Shanela Operation and they found all these things,” he said.

The provincial police commissioner said a suspect has been identified and arrested in connection with the Queenswood house.

He said the packaging and distribution of the drugs made from the “magic mushrooms” happens at another house which has also been visited by police.

As the day progressed, Mawela said at least nine people have been arrested in the anti-crime blitz which rocked infamous crime-riddled areas including Sunnyside and the Pretoria CBD.

“This shows that Pretoria central and Sunnyside are the problems in terms of drug dealing, peddling, distribution and all those things,” said Mawela.