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11,935 SAPS firearms ‘disappear' over 5 years - DA

Dianne Kohler Barnard says recovery rate is at a dismal 7%

11 935 SAPS firearms ‘disappear' over five years

Once again it has been revealed to the Democratic Alliance (DA) that the South African Police Service (SAPS) has been fueling the illegal arms trade. In a reply to a parliamentary question asked by the DA to the Minister of Police, he admits that in 2010/11 a total of 1 335 SAPS firearms were ‘lost or stolen'. 101 of these were rifles, 46 were shotguns and the rest were handguns. Only 167 of the firearms have been recovered.

A copy of the DA question and the Ministers reply is available upon request.

We have no doubt whatsoever that these firearms have found their way into the hands of criminals and contribute to the levels of dangerous crime police officers have to face.

This is the result of institutional failure at the SAPS. I believe that to ensure professional policing the SAPS must:

  • Ensure all SAPS members receive adequate, quality training on professional policing that is continually updated and refreshed.
  • Introduce a successful and visible system of accountability, with police negligence, corruption and incompetence being easy to report and harshly and swiftly dealt with.
  • Make police members pay for firearms they lose.
  • Be instructed to implement rather than ignore the Independent Complaints Directorate recommendations on SAPS criminality.
  • Create a national anti-corruption unit to ensure that police officers involved in corruption and criminality are investigated, caught and charged.

This high number of "missing" firearms goes far beyond the occasional case of negligence and is evidence of a problem that is not unrelated to high levels of corruption and criminality within the SAPS.

On the 27th January last year, I revealed that the 4000 new pistols ordered by the SAPS were mostly to replace lost and stolen SAPS firearms. The 4000 Beretta pistols meant that another R16 million (R4000 per pistol) was being spent on procuring weapons almost entirely as a consequence of the fact that thousands of SAPS firearms were disappearing. The recovery rate for lost or stolen police firearms is a dismal 7%.

The National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele finally admitted to me in October that 3 226 SAPS firearms disappeared in 2009/10. In 2009 it was 2 944 - approximately three firearms from each station in the country. In 2008, there were 2 507, compared with 1 923 in 2007. This latest revelation means that over the past five years 11 935 SAPS firearms have been ‘lost or stolen'.

The public deserves, and pays R58-billion pa for, a police service that is well trained, accountable and which acts in the best interest of our citizens. In order for this to be achieved the management structures, accountability structures and training need to be of the highest standard. Thus far, under the current Minister and his National Police Commissioner, they are not.

On receipt of this information, I immediately put through a Parliamentary question to the Minister asking if any member of the SAPS or any member of the public has been shot by a missing SAPS firearm. I await the Minister's response.

Statement issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police, September 11 2011

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