Eastern Cape police continue to lose state firearms at the rate of 128 a year.
Since 2015, the province has lost 297 firearms, and DA MPL Bobby Stevenson said that from 2009 to 2014 a further 730 guns had disappeared.
That means a total of 1027 guns may have fallen into the hands of criminals in about eight years – a rough average of 128 guns a year.
“Police members need to be disarming criminals, not arming them,” Stevenson said in a statement.
“Every lost or stolen firearm becomes a weapon in the hands of criminals who slaughter countless innocent victims in this province.
“Every effort must be taken by the SAPS to ensure that police firearms are safeguarded and recovered.”
The Dispatch has previously reported that:
lIn July 2017, 13 state-issued firearms were stolen from Ngangelizwe police station in Mthatha;
lIn March 2017, at least 30 firearms were stolen from the Peddie police station’s evidence locker; and
lIn 2012, Dimbaza police station lost 35 firearms.
Last month, in a question-and-response session in the Bhisho legislature, Stevenson asked Eastern Cape MEC for safety and liaison Weziwe Tikana to say how many weapons belonging to the SAPS had been reported missing and stolen from police stations and members.
Tikana revealed that during the last three financial years, 153 firearms had been reported missing while 144 had been stolen.
From the 2015-16 financial year until 2017-18, only 48 firearms had been recovered.
Asked about checks and balances in place at police stations, Tikana said: “Inspections are conducted twice every financial year and a provincial task team was formed to verify physical availability of firearms at all provincial stations and performance evaluations were performed on an ad hoc basis.”
Stevenson was not happy with this, saying: “Clearly, the twice-yearly inspections, physical verification of firearms at each station and safes supplied to stations are not enough.
“Serious steps must be taken against members who are found to have been careless in losing or having their firearms stolen.
“A lack of discipline, accountability and consequence management are the root cause of this negligence.”
Eastern Cape police spokeswoman Colonel Sibongile Soci said police management had prioritised control over state firearms.
“To ensure that compliance on control of firearms is executed on a daily basis by local commanders, a special team has been established to visit all stations in the province to do a complete audit of all firearms.
“Safe inspections are conducted by all station commanders and other commanders at least once daily.”
There were also quarterly inspection of members’ personal inventories and daily checking of firearm registers when shifts were changing, and retention cords were used to ensure the “safety of firearm in the holster of every member”, Soci said.
She said disciplinary steps were taken against any member who lost a firearm.
“Members who have been found to have negligently held their firearms are declared unfit to possess a firearm according to section 102 of Firearm Control Act,” she said.
There was also a loss management policy which determined whether a police officer could be held liable for the loss of a firearm.
“When it has been proven that a member has negligently held or contributed to the loss of a firearm, he or she is made to pay or compensate the value of the lost firearm.” — firstname.lastname@example.org