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Bheki Cele admits that 3226 SAPS firearms lost or stolen in 2009/10
Growing problem indicates that firearm management policy and system are not working
DA to request Auditor General to conduct an investigation into system
The current SAPS firearm management policy and system does not seem to be succeeding in ensuring that police firearms are properly accounted for and managed. Yesterday, the National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele admitted in Parliament, in response to my questions, that 3 226 SAPS firearms were lost or stolen in 2009/10. This is the third consecutive year that the number of lost or stolen firearms has increased. This problem seems to only be increasing and places the lives of ordinary South Africans at risk by adding to the number of weapons in circulation on our streets.
Clearly, the system as it currently operates is not working. We need to get to the root of the problem. As such, I will be requesting that the Auditor General conducts an investigation into the SAPS firearm management system and policies.
During deliberations over the SAPS Annual Report in Parliament yesterday, National Commissioner Cele also noted that the rate of recovery of firearms was worryingly low. Bheki Cele told the Police Portfolio Committee that 3 226 SAPS firearms had been lost or stolen during 2009/2010, representing a 17% increase in the total number of lost or stolen weapons compared with 2 759 in 2008/2009. This is also a 240% increase in the number of lost or stolen weapons since 2001.
He also noted that the rate of recovery of firearms was worryingly low. Even though there has been a high rate of recovery for lost or stolen civilian firearms - roughly two thirds of civilian firearms are recovered - the recovery rate for lost or stolen police firearms is a dismal 7%. Only 233 SAPS firearms were recovered in 2009/2010.
The problem is that errant officers are simply not being held to account. Earlier this year, in response to one of my questions in Parliament, the Minister of Police Nathi Mtethwa stated that just 26 SAPS employees were charged in terms of the SAPS Discipline Regulations in 2009/2010. Of these, only 18 officers were found guilty. This means that in less than 1% of cases of loss or theft, any charges were brought.
This speaks volumes about the lack of accountability within the police service. Firearm inventories should be recorded and tracked. We should foster a culture of consequences, and we should ramp up training programmes for the Police.