Criminals stocking up on guns from police stations in South Africa – here’s what they’re taking

 ·28 Oct 2022

Thirteen South African police stations were robbed between 2019 and 2021, with criminals making off with weapons and ammunition, the South African Police Service (SAPS) says.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, police minister Bheki Cele outlined exactly which stations got robbed, how many guns and rounds of ammunition were stolen, and what was eventually recovered.

According to the minister, 13 stations were robbed, most of which occurred in the 2020/21 financial year. No robberies took place in the 2021/22 year, he said.

In 2018/19, the Ngocobo, Karredouw and Eersterust police stations were robbed, where criminals stole 18 weapons, including pistols, rifles, shotguns, and 235 rounds of ammunition.

Eight of these weapons were eventually recovered, with 10 people arrested. To date, none of the people arrested have been prosecuted, however, with two criminal cases before the court. One case was withdrawn.

The following year, Middledrift and Windsorton police stations were robbed, with eight guns and 277 rounds of ammo stolen. Nothing was recovered. Despite one person being arrested, no one has been prosecuted.

The 2020/21 financial year was a heavy year for police station robberies, with eight stations hit. This includes Badplass, Moyeri, Tyefu, Tsineng, Sommerset West, Steve Vukile Tshwere, Malamulela and Bushbuckridge.

During these robberies, criminals made off with 52 guns in total on top of 470 rounds of ammunition. Of this significant pile of weaponry, only nine were recovered.

14 people were arrested for the 2021 robberies, but as was the trend in previous years, none were prosecuted. Six cases are still pending.

The minister noted that it is not possible for the SAPS to determine how much ammo is recovered as it is not identified by serial numbers. Hence any recovery of ammunition may include SAPS and civilian stock.

The table below outlines the stations hit, the guns stolen, the guns recovered, the persons arrested, and the persons prosecuted.

Year Stations Robbed Guns stolen Guns recovered Arrests Prosecutions
2018/2019 3 12 x 9mm pistols
5 x 5.56mm rifles
2 x 12-gauge shotguns
4 x 9mm pistols
2 x 5.56mm rifles
2 x 12-gauge shotguns
10 None
2019/2020 2 4 x 9mm pistols
4 x 5.56mm rifles
None 1 None
2020/2021 8 24 x 9mm pistols
15 x 5.56mm rifles
13 x 12-gauge shotguns
4 x 5.56mm rifles
5 x 12-gauge shotguns
14 None
Total 13 78 guns 17 guns 25 None

2022 robberies

Devon Police Station in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, was robbed of its firearms earlier in October 2022 – bringing the total of SAPS stations that have been robbed of their weapons to eight in 2022 alone.

This has sparked criticism from several bodies, including the South African Gunowners Association (SAGA), saying that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is mandated to secure the citizens of the republic and their property against crime and violence, but are themselves failing at securing their own stations.

According to SAGA’s Gideon Joubert, 10% of the SAPS’s firearms have been reported as lost or stolen over the past two decades, while 9.5 million rounds of ammunition have gone missing since 2016.

A further 158 firearms disappeared from the evidence room at the Norwood Police Station in Johannesburg in January 2022.

In the past five financial years, 3,405 official police firearms were stolen or went missing, while between 2005 and 2017, 26,025 firearms that were issued to police officers were stolen or could simply not be accounted for.

A recent survey run by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) – a think tank that surveys South Africa’s perceptions – said found that trust in police in South Africa has sunk to a new low.

The council said that on top of high crime statistics, one of the main issues that give South Africans even more anxiety when going about their day is the fact that if they were to be a victim of crime in the country, justice would not be served.

Out of 3,200 interviews conducted countrywide compiled in the South African Social Attitudes Survey only 27% of respondents said that they actually trust the South African Police Services. 40% said it was pointless to hand over criminal suspects because it is perceived that it won’t be taken to justice.

On a state level, the perception of how the government is handling crime is low, with only 24% saying that they are happy with how it is being handled.

This lack of trust in the police is echoed by Stats SA’s Victims of Crime Survey, which shows that a large number of crimes in the country go unreported.

Read: South African police stations – a one-stop-shop for criminals looking for guns

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