Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula faces at least one grilling from the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) in the coming parliamentary session.
Cyril Xaba, who took over chairmanship of the committee from Malusi Motimele in July last year, told defenceWeb the Minister will have to provide clarification and information on the apparent theft of military weapons. The latest reported theft was 19 R4 assault rifles allegedly spirited from Tek Base in Centurion over a period of time and discovered in December.
Speaking on Cape Talk radio after the Tek Base theft was made public by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais, Xaba said the portfolio committee would ask Minister Mapisa-Nqakula about it and other incidents of weapons theft from SA National Defence Force (SANDF) bases and facilities. He specifically mentioned Tempe in Free State where soldiers detailed for guard duty were apparently held up and had military issue weapons stolen from them while on duty.
A board of inquiry into the Tempe theft attributed the loss of weapons and other equipment to negligence, a lack of discipline and failure to obey orders or instructions. The SANDF did not make public whether a sentence or disciplinary measures – and what they were – were suggested by the board.
The theft of military weapons from the SA Navy armoury at Simon’s Town in July 2016 will also be brought to the Minister’s attention, he said.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) MP Pieter Groenewald is another parliamentarian who has asked questions of the minister following incidents of military weapons theft.
In April last year Groenewald was told by Mapisa-Nqakula the financial year 2016/17 saw 11 pistols, 10 rifles, four machine guns and 36 hand grenades either stolen or lost. In 2017/18 the stolen and lost numbers were nine pistols, 15 rifles and ammunition including 155 R5 rounds, four light machine gun rounds and 60 R4 rounds. The figures for the 2018/19 financial year show four pistols and three rifles missing along with 330 rounds of R4 ammunition and seven 9 mm rounds.
Xaba said the portfolio committee would take the Department of Defence (DoD) “to task” on the issue of weapons theft.
“There appears to be a feeling it will happen again unless security is improved at military bases and facilities. The committee will ask the Minister what has been done to up security and, if not, what is planned to improve security to prevent further loss of weapons.
He is also adamant those found guilty of weapons theft “have to be brought to book”.
In addition to Xaba the remaining members of the defence portfolio committee and their parties are Alexandra Beukes (ANC), Bantu Holomisa (UDM), Tidimalo Legwase (ANC), Jerome Maake (ANC), Kobus Marais (DA), Nthako Matiase (EFF), Thabo Mmutle (ANC), Moleboheng Modise (ANC), Mzwanele Nyhontso (PAC) and Malitakhe Shelembe (DA) with alternates Russel Cebekhulu of the IFP, Dorries Dlakude of the ANC and the DA’s Thomas Walters.