Officials implicated in gun theft

More than 40 guns went missing from the SANDF, while 18 handguns and 295 rounds of ammunition were either stolen or lost from prisons across the country in the last four years.

More than 40 guns went missing from the SANDF, while 18 handguns and 295 rounds of ammunition were either stolen or lost from prisons across the country in the last four years.

Published Jan 11, 2024


SANDF and Correctional Services officials have been implicated in the theft of missing of firearms including assault rifles, and ammunition, which has alarmed anti-crime activists.

More than 40 guns went missing from the SANDF, while 18 handguns and 295 rounds of ammunition were either stolen or lost from prisons across the country in the last four years.

At least 20 Correctional Services officials and at least 22 SANDF members have been implicated in the incidents.

This emerged from two parliamentary responses following questions by the FF Plus. The party’s leader, Dr Pieter Groenewald, had asked ministers of Defence and Military Veterans, Police as well as Justice and Correctional Services about, among other things, state firearms that had been lost or stolen.

In the Western Cape, the Brandvlei Youth Corrections Centre recorded 22 ammunition magazines going missing between 2019/20, while 45 went missing in the Brandvlei medium correctional centre over the 2023/24 period, according to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.

Across nine correctional centres in the Eastern Cape, 10 guns were reported either stolen or lost along with at least 120 magazines of ammunition.

“No arrests were made in the incidents. However, all incidents were reported to the South African Police Service for criminal investigation. Internal investigations have found that officials were involved and disciplinary processes were meted out.”

To curb the phenomenon, Lamola said they conducted monthly inspections and proper handing over of firearms was being done daily.

“Continuous checking and control of firearms is done daily; physical counting of firearms and ammunitions is vigorously done; weekly certification is done and forwarded to the Area Commissioner according to the stipulations of Department B Order Chapter 16 Paragraph 5.6.4 and 5.6.5; the SAPS is also conducting random inspection to monitor compliance with the Firearm Control Act 2000; (and) continuous orientation of security officials and armoury controllers about the essence of registers.”

In the case of the SANDF, 42 firearms were stolen of which 33 were R4 and R1 assault rifles. More than 3 000 rounds of ammunition for assault rifles were also stolen.

The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, said: “Crime Risk Surveys have been conducted at Military Units since April 2018 on a continuous basis. The aim of these Crime Risk Surveys were to identify weaknesses in the current security measures at the various Military Police (MP) structures and advise the Regional and Area Provost Marshals as well as the Detachment Commanders on measures to be implemented in order to improve the security of assets on the premises.”

She said short-term preventative measures included repairs to perimeter fences, increasing patrols at damaged fences and security awareness programmes, among others. Medium and long term measures included installing alarm systems within identified areas and erecting security perimeter fences around MP structures, among others.

Former police Colonel Christiaan Prinsloo was found guilty of having stolen firearms in police possession and selling it to gangs. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Groenewald said these measures and the penalties imposed on implicated officials were not good enough.

“What stands out in the replies is the light penalties imposed on members of these departments for the loss and/or theft of firearms and ammunition. In some cases, guilty members were fined a single month's salary or given only a written warning, which will clearly not serve as an effective deterrent. It also appears that there are serious delays in investigations and prosecuting members, which reinforces the impression that there is no real commitment to putting an end to firearm theft,” said Groenewald.

It was unclear if any of the firearms had been involved in the commission of a crime.

Anti-crime activist Hanif Loonat said the figures were not surprising as gangs could pay up to R10 000 per rifle.

“It has been going on for many years, with knowledge of high ranking officers, there is big financial gain. Imagine the impact of these guns on the Cape Flats, how many people can get killed,” he said.

“My call is for authorities to clamp down on illegal guns and ammunition so easily stolen from police stations.

Nobody is holding those people in charge accountable for the losses. There needs to be lengthy sentences for officers and army personnel in cahoots with criminals which are killing our people,” added Loonat.

In 2021, former police colonel Chris Prinsloo was released on parole after being sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment in 2016 for a string of charges, including corruption, racketeering and theft. He is believed to have sold 2 400 firearms between 2007 and 2015 to gangs.

Anti-crime activist Roegshanda Pascoe said that the corruption in the system had reduced the value of innocent lives lost at the hands of illegal guns.

“Our country has very strict gun laws, you cannot just walk in a shop and buy a gun,” she said.

Cape Times