The Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, has noted progress being made in relation to firearm control in some provinces, at the same cautioned against those provinces who continue to lose firearms. He has accordingly tasked police management to strengthen firearm control measures with immediate effect, particularly in provinces where there is no improvement.
The Minister was responding to a Parliamentary question on whether any firearms assigned to members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) were stolen, misplaced and whether any of these firearms have been recovered for the financial year 2011/12 as well as the beginning of 2012/13.
“During the 2011/12 financial year a total of 885 firearms were lost and for the first six months of 2012/13 there were 317. In addition, as on 1 September 2012, there were no official SAPS firearms which had not been returned by SAPS members who had left the SAPS due to retirement or any other reason in the specified periods. It is therefore fundamentally important that police management must attend to these challenges and put in place various corrective measures,” stated the Minister.
There has been notable progress made at some provinces in implementing greater controls to prevent losses but also some provinces where the management needs to take more responsibility in ensure strict controls, the Minister said. Amongst the few provinces where there has been progress, these include KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Head Office. Provinces were further interventions are required include Limpopo, Gauteng, Northern Cape.
“Our major concerns relate to the number of losses as this indicates negligence but also concerning is the number of unknown circumstances, under which such losses occurred. From top management to the lower ranks, the SAPS must ensure that they remain alert and responsible for any firearm allocated to them; failing which, tough actions will be taken against whoever is not complying,” warned the Minister.
Such losses are worrying as they at times contribute to the escalation of crime. Criminals do not require an avalanche of firearms to rob and kill, but one firearm lost by police or civilians, that ends up in the hands of criminals is sufficient for them to commit criminal acts, the South African Police Service said. “That is why we also need to ensure that firearms that are in the hands of police officers are properly monitored to avert any loss,” the police ministry said.
“Our success or failure in fighting crime is to a large extent, dependent on how effectively we manage these tools of trade. We cannot begin to advocate to society to improve and be responsible with their legal firearms when in fact our own house is not in order,” concluded Minister Mthethwa.