Majority of missing SAPS firearms not recovered

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Men and women in National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola’s SA Police Service (SAPS) reported 742 firearms stolen in the 2022/23 financial year with just a third of them – 245 – recovered.

The numbers were provided in reply to Parliamentary questions posed by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow police minister Okkie Terblanche and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) public representative Zandile Majozi.

Terblanche, a former SAPS two-star general, said earlier this year that the statistics provided by Police Minister Bheki Cele showed the service was steadily losing yet another war on crime – the ever-increasing theft of official SAPS firearms. Analysis of a written response to a question months overdue for answer and in violation of the Rules of Parliament, showed 61 official police firearms were stolen every month between April 2021 and July 2023 – 1 725 in a 27 month period. He noted, taking the second calendar year quarter of 2023 as a guide, the stolen firearms number for the 2023/24 financial year look set to top the 800 mark for the first time in 10 years.

This is against the 600 a year target set by the SAPS, which in its last annual report noted that the loss of SAPS firearms can be attributed to various factors, including the escalation of crime against members, including, but not limited to, robbery in townships or other places, housebreaking, theft from offices/stores, negligent loss by members, and the loss of property during motor vehicle accidents.

The province where the most “misplaced”/lost or stolen police firearms were recovered in the 2022/23 financial year was KwaZulu-Natal with 57. Next in line was Gauteng on 43 followed by Eastern Cape (38) and North West (30) with the remaining seven trailing number-wise down to the lowest – Northern Cape with six.

Wanting to know about “consequence measures” for police unable to account for firearms issued to them, Majozi was told if investigation showed negligence it was “regarded as serious misconduct” with disciplinary steps and a criminal case in terms of the Firearms Act in the offing.

Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald was told in a separate response by Masemola that one case for possession of a firearm without a license was affected after the theft of 357 firearms and 148 rounds of ammunition from the 13 stores where the SAPS stores evidence. “The forensic analysis of the firearm had not yet been done, at the time of its theft,” the response reads.