Police loses 13 438 firearms over five years – only 1 incident in every 100 results in disciplinary charges
The Minister of Police, in reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question has confirmed that 2 603 firearms have been lost or stolen by the South African Police Service over the last year. This means that a total of 13 438 have been lost over the last five years. The outcome of this is that Police negligence is actively fuelling crime and at the same time, the Police Service is spending enormous sums replacing firearms – money that could be spent elsewhere in fighting crime. An example of this is the tender put out in January of this year to purchase 4 000 new SAPS pistols at a cost of R16 million.
The most concerning figures revealed are:
The 138% increase in firearm losses in KwaZulu-Natal, up from 353 firearms in 2008/09 to 840 in 2009/10. This is equal to five firearms lost per station in the province in 2009/10.
The Eastern Cape has lost the most number of firearms over the last two years – 1 708 have been lost or stolen, which, incredibly, amounts to one firearm lost for every 10 officers.
The Western Cape has the lowest number of firearm losses per officer. Over the last year, one firearm has been lost for every 276 officers – a 27% decline from the previous year.
Although there has been a small year-on-year decrease according to the figures released today, we also note that there exists a strange anomaly in the data supplied for 2008/09. Previous data supplied by the ministry suggested that 2 507 firearms were lost last year; the figure is now, in the reply submitted by the minister today, 2 759. This means that there has been a marginal decline in firearm losses using the new data for 2008/09, and a marginal increase using the previous data supplied by the Department. In either case, the broad outlook is that firearms continue to be lost and stolen at an unacceptably high rate.
The problem is that errant officers who lose guns are simply not being held to account for their behaviour. Last year only 18 officers were found guilty in terms of the SAPS Discipline Regulations. Even more concerning is that just 26 SAPS employees were charged when 2 603 firearms were lost. This means that only one in every 100 firearms that are lost results in any form of charge. Even fewer result in convictions. In 2009/10, 275 firearms were recovered which is just over 10% of the total number lost or stolen in the same period, the rest of the firearms are still out there.
It is imperative that this situation is dealt with decisively and urgently. Firearm inventories must be recorded and tracked, we must foster a culture of consequences, and we must ramp up training programmes for the Police. I will also be writing to the Minister to request that an external audit of firearm management is conducted.
Dianne Kohler Barnard MP – 082 823 7047
Melany Kühn – 078 887 7004