March 24, 2018

REGULAR Few answers to Parliament’s Questions

The number of firearms that have gone missing from SAPS provisions stores has skyrocketed from one in 2015/16 to 43 the following year.

This was a response from Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula to the EFF’s Phillip Mhlongo who asked how many firearms had gone missing from SAPS stores and evidence rooms.

A further 20 exhibit firearms were also reported stolen from evidence rooms in the current financial year. “These firearms were reported stolen at the Bellville South Police Station,” Mablula said. “An investigation is underway.”

Police service pistol unattended on top of the toilet paper holder – fully loaded.

These shocking figures follow a report last week in a local newspaper that an ordinary citizen using the public bathroom at the Edenvale Police Station in Gauteng found a police service pistol unattended on top of the toilet paper holder – fully loaded.

A shocked Riaan Smit, who found the gun, reportedly told the publication: “When I saw the gun I knew it was a Z88 police issued pistol. I questioned why it was there and wondered whether I was on candid camera.”

He wasn’t on candid camera. He reported the gun. A case of negligent loss of a firearm in lawful possession was reportedly opened.

This incident gives a glimpse into the magnitude of the problem with police issued firearms that are either stolen or lost. It raises questions about the competence of SAPS officers.

Last week, the Police Ministry released statistics that about 2,200 SAPS firearms were stolen or went missing in the past three financial years. This was in answer to a parliamentary question by DA MP Zak Mbhele.

The ministry’s figures show that in the 2014/15 financial year almost 70 police firearms went missing. Of these, 12 went missing from bathrooms and at least five went missing while the police officer was under the influence of alcohol. In the same financial year 612 service firearms were reported stolen, mainly through robberies in township areas and house break-ins. A further 79 firearms have not been classified, meaning it is not clear if they were stolen or missing.

In the following two financial years a total of 160 firearms went missing of which 21 vanished from bathrooms. The figures also show that in these two financial years at least five police officers were drunk when their firearms went missing.

Over the same period just over 1,200 firearms were reported stolen and further 204 firearms are yet to be classified as either missing or stolen over this period. Most of the incidents occurred in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. According to the ministry only 11 pistols and two shotguns have been recovered since April this year, which is a miniscule amount compared to the thousands of firearms lost.

DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard, in a statement, this is “unacceptable as it makes a mockery of the fight against crime.Gun violence remains one of South Africa’s top crime categories and SAPS cannot continue to turn a blind eye to disappearing firearms from its police stations.”

Kohler-Barnard said the DA will submit further questions to determine how many of the lost or stolen firearms have since been linked to crimes. She said this showed “carelessness and neglect” on the part of SAPS. “We cannot have a police service that is aiding and abetting criminal activity due to negligence.”

Alicestine October

A version of this story first appeared in GroundUp News.

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 18:37

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