South African police have ‘lost’ 500 guns

As many as 500 service pistols have been ‘lost’ over the past three financial years by South African Police Service (SAPS) officials who were allowed to take their firearms home, claims civil rights organisation AfriForum.

An additional 10,765 rounds of ammunition were also ‘lost’ by officials while they were off duty, AfriForum said.

This information was confirmed by Police Minister Bheki Cele in response to written parliamentary questions, it said.

The news comes at a time when crime in South Africa is at an all-time high, with data from the SAPS in September showing the number of murders investigated in the last year rose by 685 cases or 3.4% to 21,022 cases.

The number of cases of attempted murder also climbed by 747 cases, or 4.1% to 18,980 cases.

“What aggravates the situation is the fact that the Portfolio Committee on Police recently approved an amnesty arrangement for private firearm owners. If Parliament approves this arrangement, between 450,000 and 1 million firearms will have to be handed in at police stations in a short period of time,” AfriForum said.

The majority of these weapons will come from legal firearm owners who have neglected to renew their firearms licenses within the 90-day period stipulated in the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act 60 of 2000), it said.

AfriForum said that the fact that the SAPS apparently cannot even manage its own firearms, “is proof that they would most likely be unable to manage the nearly one million illegal firearms that would be handed in during such an amnesty period. Moreover, these firearms will most probably end up in criminal hands”.

“This – whether in addition to or as part of the 9,5 million rounds of ammunition and 4,357 firearms otherwise lost by SAPS over the past six financial years – is a clear indication that the police is incapable of looking after the firearms already in its care.

“As a result, they should not and cannot be trusted with an additional 500,000 firearms if the amnesty is implemented. It would be like using a wolf to guard your sheep,” said Marnus Kamfer, legal and risk manager at AfriForum.

The SAPS, with Stats SA, published the country’s crime statistics for 2018/19 in September, showing which types of criminal activity have increased – and decreased – in the past year.

SA crime stats for 2019 (1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019)

Category 2018 2019 Change
Contact Crimes 601 366 617 210 +2.6%
Contact-related Crimes 115 361 117 172 +1.6%
Property-related Crimes 507 975 495 161 -2.5%
Other Serious Crimes 438 113 444 447 +1.4%
Total public reported 1 662 815 1 673 990 +0.7%
Crime detected as a result of police action 433 966 339 281 -21.8%
Total 2 096 781 2 013 271 -4.0%
  • Contact crimes include murder, attempted murder and sexual offences, as well as common assault and robbery.
  • Contact-related crimes include arson and malicious injury to property.
  • Other serious crimes include commercial crime, shop-lifting and all other types of theft – while aggravated robbery includes hijackings, robbery at residences and cash-in-transit heists and bank robberies.
  • Crimes detected as a result of police action cover crimes discovered by active policing, such as road-blocks and raids. Categories covered by this are the illegal possession of firearms, DUI or driving under the influence (of drugs or alcohol); and the use, possession or trade of illegal drugs.

Read: Crime levels in South Africa are far worse than what is reported

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South African police have ‘lost’ 500 guns