DA wants probe into lost, stolen police firearms

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is to ask Auditor General Terence Nombembe to conduct an investigation into the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) firearm management system and policies.

The current SAPS firearm management policy does not seem to be succeeding in ensuring that police firearms are properly accounted for and managed, DA spokesperson Dianne Kohler Barnard said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, national police chief Bheki Cele admitted to the police portfolio committee, in response to questions, that 3 226 SAPS firearms were lost or stolen in 2009/10, she said.

This was the third consecutive year that the number of lost or stolen firearms had increased.

“This problem seems to only be increasing and places the lives of ordinary South Africans at risk by adding to the number of weapons in circulation on our streets.

“Clearly, the system as it currently operates is not working. We need to get to the root of the problem. As such, I will be requesting that the Auditor General conducts an investigation into the SAPS firearm management system and policies,” Kohler Barnard said.

During deliberations over the SAPS annual report in Parliament on Tuesday, Cele also noted that the rate of recovery of firearms was worryingly low.

Cele told the committee the 3 226 SAPS firearms lost or stolen during 2009/10 represented a 17% increase in the total number of lost or stolen weapons compared with 2 759 in 2008/09.

This was also a 240% increase in the number of lost or stolen weapons since 2001.

Dismal recovery rate
Even though there had been a high rate of recovery for lost or stolen civilian firearms—roughly two-thirds of civilian firearms were recovered—the recovery rate for lost or stolen police firearms was a dismal 7%, Kohler Barnard said.

Only 233 SAPS firearms were recovered in 2009/10.

“The problem is that errant officers are simply not being held to account.

“Earlier this year, in response to one of my questions in Parliament, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa stated that just 26 SAPS employees were charged in terms of the SAPS Discipline Regulations in 2009/10.

“Of these, only 18 officers were found guilty. This means that in less than 1% of cases of loss or theft, any charges were brought.”

This spoke volumes about the lack of accountability within the police service.

Firearm inventories should be recorded and tracked.

“We should foster a culture of consequences, and we should ramp up training programmes for the police,” she said.—Sapa

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