Seven guns were stolen from the Eastern Cape provincial traffic department offices in Grahamstown on Saturday, and apparently the thieves who broke in also torched the place.
Six computers and a server, including a mainframe containing the department’s data and other content – like traffic fines – were destroyed in the fire.
Provincial transport spokeswoman Khuselwa Rantjie said the incident occurred on Saturday some time after 2am.
Rantjie said: “We can confirm that seven firearms were stolen from the departmental safes that are in the building and about 20 handgun safes were left open [ransacked]”.
Rantjie said the blaze would not affect some of the services offered at the Huntley Street building, but it would cause delays in capturing fines and processing summonses.
Eastern Cape provincial police spokesman Captain Khaya Tonjeni said a case of arson and housebreaking had been opened at the Grahamstown police station.
Tonjeni said when firefighters arrived at the scene at 3.20am, the building was engulfed in huge flames. Later, several forensic and crime scene investigators were called to the scene.
“Police are still combing for clues. There are no arrests yet.”
Rantjie said the department would rely on the regional server in Port Elizabeth to see if they could retrieve some of the data lost in the blaze.
“At this stage the department, together with the provincial department of public works, is still conducting an assessment of the damage to determine the full extent,” Rantjie said.
“However, the damage is such that it is not possible for the officials to work from the building as desks, chairs and about six desktop computers were damaged in the fire.”
Public works spokesman Mphumzi Zuzile said power was knocked out by the inferno, which had left behind a trail of destruction.
“The building is currently uninhabitable as the electricity supply is unavailable.
“The building is ruined. The odour is strong,” he said.
“The electricity supply interruption has also affected the adjacent building. The electricity section is attending to the problem,” Zuzile said.
His department, together with the department of transport, were still assessing the damage.
Rantjie said public works was trying to find temporary accommodation for 18 traffic officials who were based in the building, most of them traffic law enforcement officers who were out on patrol. — firstname.lastname@example.org