Over 30 firearms were stolen from Bellville South and Mitchell’s Plain SAPS stations during August this year. According to Western Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, 15 firearms were discovered missing from Mitchell’s Plain SAPS on 25 August, and 20 firearms were discovered stolen from Bellville South SAPS on 28 August. All were 9mm Parabellum handguns, and as of present two of the stolen guns from Bellville South have been recovered, meaning 33 are still unaccounted for in total. The Hawks are investigating both cases.
The weapons missing from Bellville South SAPS were stolen out of the SAP13 evidence stores at the station, while SAPS members were present. At a sitting on 6 September, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Policing fired numerous questions at Genl. Jula in an attempt to gain clarity. Angie Molebatsi of the ANC asked whether or not the SAPS have ever looked at their own facilities “from a criminal’s point of view”, and Zakhele Mbhele of the DA wanted to know whether or not “the basics of monitoring and review, both routine matters, were properly in place?” before adding that “if this is the first time these problems are discovered, that is a problem.” One MP enquired whether or not the thefts that occurred at Bellville South and Mitchell’s Plain were but “the tip of the iceberg” and “is the leaking and theft of police guns fuelling gang violence? How are break-ins happening while the SAPS are present at the station?” Dianne Kohler-Barnard of the DA asked whether or not the firearms stolen from the SAP13 were evidence in gang-related criminal cases, and “will those cases collapse because evidence has now disappeared?”
Genl. Jula confirmed that some of the stolen firearms were indeed evidence in some cases, but he “does not think cases related to stolen guns are compromised.” The General added that the station commanders of both stations are currently under investigation, but have not been suspended as recently confirmed by the Deputy Minister of Police, Bongani Mkongi. Genl. Jula added that he cannot conclusively say that the SAPS have corrupt elements working with gangs, who leak firearms to gangs, but there is evidence for it.
PPC Chairman Francois Beukman concluded the session by stating “we need consequences. We need examples to be made.”
Now, I note the protestations of the good General about the alleged gang-connections of some SAPS members. To that I present one name as a rebuttal – Colonel Chris Prinsloo.
Colonel Prinsloo was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison last year for masterminding the leak of over 2400 firearms from police armouries and stores to violent criminals. Of those guns, approximately 900 found their way into the hands of gangsters on the Cape Flats, where the firearms have been connected to the murders of 1060 people.
It is significant to note that many of these guns were surrendered to the SAPS during the previous amnesty by their licenced owners who were coerced into doing so by the SAPS and Gun-Free South Africa. Instead of the guns being destroyed, many were leaked to violent criminals by corrupt members of the SAPS, and were then used in the commission of robberies, heists, rapes, and murders. These weapons were once safe and sound in civilian hands, where they very likely would have remained until this day. Considering that between April 2005 and March 2011 the SAPS lost 18 196 firearms, and that over 14 000 SAPS weapons are estimated to be in criminal hands as of 2014, this cannot possibly be considered to be a new and undocumented problem. (A separate report by Afriforum indicates that the SAPS have lost nearly 8000 weapons in the five-year period from 2009 to 2014.)
It is clear that senior SAPS management has for years turned a blind eye to the corruption that runs rife throughout the service, and even as it takes its bloody toll on citizens there has yet to be any hints of meaningful action. Senior SAPS officials threaten law-abiding gun owners with the confiscation of their private property, whilst simultaneously indulging the gross criminal negligence and corruption within their ranks that resulted in thousands of SAPS weapons finding their way into criminal hands. The management of the Central Firearms Registry is beyond shambolic, with the SAPS failing to comply with the requirement to provide electronic connectivity facilities to dealers more than 13 years after the implementation of the FCA. Effective and efficient police officers are side-lined for promotion, and senior officials who have made inroads against gangs and corruption are dismissed from their posts. Senior SAPS officials have twice this year shown contempt for Parliamentary procedure when they attempted to irregularly sneak a firearm amnesty past the Portfolio Committee, once by failing to seek Parliamentary approval before proceeding, and again when they tried to force it through via the National Council of Provinces. Both these breaches of protocol are entirely unacceptable, and the PPC expressed its displeasure regarding their occurrence.
All of these signs indicate that the South African Police Service has gone rogue. It has no leadership worth speaking about, and the contempt shown for citizens and our government structures by its management borders on high treason. It is imperative that Parliament regains control over a government service that is running wild, and which directly threatens the personal safety and security of millions of South Africans in the process.
Until that happens, public trust and confidence in the SAPS may be irreparably destroyed.
Instances of State weapons discovered lost or stolen this year (2017):
- 35 firearms (9mmP) stolen from SAPS Bellville South (SAP13) and Mitchell’s Plain during August 2017.
- 6 fully-automatic R4 rifles were stolen from 9 SA Infantry Battalion’s base on 14 April.
- 30 firearms, which included 12 fully-automatic R5 rifles, were stolen from the SAP13 store in Peddie SAPS station on 14 March.
- A rogue constable stole five guns from Dimbaza SAPS station in January. The station commander attempted to hide the incident. In 2012 30 handguns (9mmP) were stolen from the station by a female accounting officer.
- Over 20 000 rounds of ammunition (supposedly 7.62mm NATO) were stolen from the TRT armoury at Pretoria Central SAPS on 3 November 2015. The SAPS failed to inform the PPC of the theft, and omitted its occurrence from the SAPS 2015/16 Annual Report.