A shortage of ammunition in the SAPS stores has meant that police officers are unable to complete their firearm-proficiency tests. Picture: EPA/Kim Ludbrook
Cape Town - The service firearms of thousands of police officers countrywide were withdrawn due to them not completing their firearms proficiency tests.

Solidarity national spokesperson Renate Barnard has received numerous complaints from police officers in the Western and Eastern Cape and Gauteng. Barnard will take up the matter with the national police commissioner on how best to address the issue.

Solidarity union provincial member Ronel Stander said they were inundated with calls for help from officers who feared for their lives while attending crime scenes without guns.

In terms of legislation, police officers who don’t undergo the annual proficiency test will not be issued permits to use their service firearms.

Stander said: “Just at Elsies River police station alone 45 police officers’ service firearms have been withdrawn and they cannot perform their duties in the crime-ridden area.

“In Genadendal we have the scenario where there are five members on a shift but none have completed the proficiency tests. The position is the same in the Overberg region.

“This is not a provincial issue but a national one. We can’t hold provincial management accountable because ammunition is purchased at a national level. Criminals are aware that some officers don’t carry firearms and nothing prevents them from taking out an unarmed police officer,” she said.

A Ravensmead officer said: “There are only two officers on our shift competent to shoot. They have used their own ammunition to undergo proficiency tests.”

Another city officer, in a WhatsApp message, said: “We have a big problem now with the shortage of ammunition. Members go for the shooting exercise using their existing rounds. When they leave they have nothing left and then go to work with empty guns. This is very wrong and it is putting our lives in danger.”

Stander added that they were aware of officers who, despite not completing the proficiency tests, still go out with a service firearm to investigate matters in hot spots.

“The union has warned such members that they run the risk of facing charges of attempted murder if they shoot a person without being issued a permit to use a firearm.”

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said that the SAPS was reportedly experiencing an ammunition shortage which impacted on officers’ ability to complete their proficiency test.

National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said: “The SAPS did indeed experience challenges with non-availability of ammunition in the recent past.

“However, this is now in the past after their having recently taken delivery of ammunition from a supplier, while they are expecting more in the near future.”

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