Theft and loss of weapons in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) over the past three years totals 58 and worryingly includes assault rifles and machineguns.
The reaction by Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald to information supplied by the Defence and Military Veterans Minister was “shock” because of the damage and bloodshed the stolen weapons could cause if they found their way into the wrong hands.
“The SANDF must not become a source of weapons and ammunition for criminals,” Groenewald said, adding “poor discipline and management” of the national military “is such that it contributes to crime in South Africa while also tainting the reputation of the SANDF”.
Groenewald was told by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in a written response 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.
Where military personnel are found guilty of weapon and/or ammunition theft, sentences of up to a year in detention barracks have been imposed. This was for the theft of an R4 rifle.
Two SANDF personnel were each sentenced to four years in prison following investigations into the theft of hand grenades. A similar sentence was handed down to the pair of soldiers found guilty of stealing Uzi machineguns and the buyer of these stolen SANDF weapons was sentenced to a year in prison.
A soldier who lost a 9mm pistol was fined R4 000 and given a two year suspended sentence and the loss of R4 rifles earned other soldiers fines of between R1 000 and R5 000 and a two year prison sentence. Two other soldiers were discharged after being found guilty of theft of a Star pistol and the loss of R4 ammunition.
According to Darren Olivier, Director at African Defence Review, the loss of weapons over the last two years “is not that high a number…Any number above zero isn’t ideal, of course, but this is an improvement on older numbers and seems to show counter-theft interventions are working. It’s also not that far off weapon loss rates in the US military.”