The public spiritedness of a Democratic Alliance (DA) MP in revealing the theft of assault rifles from a Lyttelton, Centurion, military base was almost grudgingly admitted by the senior communications official in the Department of Defence (DoD).
A two sentence statement by DoD head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini confirmed “a break-in” at Tek Base adding investigations were underway and that “a few suspects” were being questioned.
Kobus Marais, DA shadow defence and military veterans minister, first brought to South Africa’s attention the theft of 19 R4 assault rifles from the Centurion military facility on Christmas Eve.
“Following up on information led me to believe the theft took place sometime after September, when there was last an apparent physical check on the armoury at the base. It is unclear whether all 19 the rifles were taken at once or removed in smaller numbers over a period of time,” he told defenceWeb.
On this issue the DoD and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) have not made any public statements with another statement, again issued in Dlamini’s name, providing literary overkill rather than fact.
It reads: “Following the utterly cowardice (sic) act of betrayal committed against the Defence Force of the Republic by unpatriotic and self-serving thugs on Monday, 23 December 2019, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula would like to take all law-abiding South African citizens into confidence and indicate that 11 suspects have been identified and are currently under a (sic) high level investigation. The Minister is in constant consultations with the Chief of the South African National Defence Force (C SANDF) on the matter.
“The Minister is confident that the current investigations will yield the required results and that all perpetrators, albeit any member(s) of the SANDF and or civilian(s), will be subjected to all applicable criminal laws of the RSA. In expediting and supporting the investigations, the Minister has instructed the C SANDF to cancel all vacation leave for members of the Military Command Council including the relevant Command Structures at all levels to ensure that all Key Infrastructure of the SANDF throughout the country are secured and to give assurance that the citizens are and feel safe.”
Those arrested appeared before a military court, convened at the former SA Air Force (SAAF) Gymnasium in Valhalla, now AFB Zwartkop West, and were remanded in custody until their next court appearance, set down for Monday, 6 January.
Marais told defenceWeb the theft was brought to his attention by a trusted member of the defence community.
“I had no reason to doubt what he told me, given previous instances of theft and other mismanagement issues in the SANDF,” Marais said justifying his statement. He pointed out confirmation of its truth was the first DoD statement confirming “a break-in” at Tek Base.
He will follow-up with Parliamentary questions to Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula asking, among others, for harsh punishment for those found guilty of the theft of military weapons.
“This I see as an indication that safety and security are indeed national priorities.”