Police are fighting an endless battle to get illegal firearms off the street. File picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Police are fighting an endless battle to get illegal firearms off the street. File picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

'How can police root out illegal guns when they are giving those guns to gangs?'

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jun 2, 2021

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Cape Town - Police are fighting an endless battle to get illegal firearms off the street, for as soon as they confiscate guns, those guns find themselves on the streets again because of corrupt cops.

Over the weekend police arrested 14 men for the possession of firearms as well as ammunition at Khosa Street Y 745, Site B, Khayelitsha.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) crime hub manager Lizette Lancaster said the police have made progress after the enactment of the Firearms Control Act, but the efforts have been eroded as firearms leaked back into the streets through corrupt police members and other security agencies and groups “selling on” guns in their possession.

Lancaster said the most well-documented case was that of a former police officer, Christiaan Prinsloo, who sold over 2 400 firearms to gangs in the Western Cape.

"Furthermore, the quarterly crime statistics released by the police for the period April 2020 to March 2021 showed a marked decrease in the seizure of illegal arms and ammunition," said Lancaster.

She said as a consequence, firearm violence has been increasing in the past decade and showed no sustained decreases during lockdown.

"For those key reasons, it seems that the police have not made any significant progress in rooting out illegal firearms," she said.

SA National Civic Organisation provincial chairperson Bongikhaya Qhama said the police management should also focus more on the conduct of their officers who were alleged to be the ones leaking illegal firearms.

Qhama commended the police and called for tougher sentences for those arrested for being in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.

Khayelitsha community police forum (CPF) chairperson Fransina Lukas said the police had not really made progress, because there were still too many illegal firearms in communities used to kill, especially the youth.

Anti-crime and violence activist Roegchanda Pascoe asked: "How can the police root out illegal guns when they are giving those illegal guns to the gangs?"

Pascoe said they must prosecute those who sold their weapons to gangs, and those who reported their firearms as lost or stolen when they were later found in the hands of criminals.

Bishop Lavis CPF chairperson Graham Lindhorst said as long as there were corrupt police officers, the proliferation of illegal firearms would not be stopped.

Criminologist at Stellenbosch University's political science department, Guy Lamb, said historically, the police did a good job, confiscating thousands of illegal firearms in the early 2000s, that led to significant reduction in the murder rate.

"We then saw a number of firearms entering the illegal market, and more criminals having access to firearms after 2010, with some of those guns being sold by the police, and some stolen from legal gun owners," said Lamb.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said firearm control was much bigger than just confiscating unlicensed firearms from gangsters.

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