Police stations seen as firearm “source”

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Robbing police stations has, Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald maintains, become “a large source of illegal firearms”.

He was responding to Police Minister Bheki Cele who informed him – in response to a Parliamentary question – 78 firearms and 982 rounds of ammunition were stolen in 13 police station robberies between April 2018 and March 2021.

“Apart from showing criminals do not fear the police, it is equally and more alarming that not one of 24 suspects arrested in connection with the firearm thefts has to date been successfully prosecuted,” Groenewald said in a 31 October statement. This, he adds is “poor police work”.

Included in the stolen firearms list are 5,56mm calibre assault rifles and 9mm pistols – “commonly used in cash-in-transit and other robberies”. This, Groenewald said shows police stations are “a convenient source” of firearms for criminals. The types make up 80% of the firearms stolen with only six of 23 assault rifles and four of 40 pistols stolen recovered.

The FF+ parliamentarian further took Cele to task for supplying “factually incorrect” information when answering his question.

“In his reply the Minister stated there were no robberies at police stations in the 2021/22 financial year. Yet the Northern Cape police station at Hotazel was robbed of three R5 assault rifles, eight 9mm pistols and two 12 gauge shotguns on 31 July 2021,” Groenewald said adding he will be asking Cele to explain.

In addition to clarification on the Hotazel robbery, Groenewald will also ask the police minister to provide insight into “thousands of firearms lost or stolen from police stations”.

“To me, it’s clear the police are one of the biggest suppliers of firearms in the country for illegal use.”