Durban - Two senior Richards Bay policemen were charged with negligence after their State firearms were stolen from their car while they were allegedly inside a hotel in the Durban CBD and said to be engaging with prostitutes.

A well-placed source said the men went to the hotel on Sunday morning with the prostitutes and when the men returned to the car, which was parked at the intersection of Dr Goonam (Prince Edward) and Joe Slovo (Field) streets, they found one of the passenger-side windows damaged.

Criminals had gained entry to the car and stolen goods including both their firearms and ammunition.

A police source said Durban Central Police Station detectives gathered information from informers and had recovered both firearms by yesterday afternoon. The source said one of the firearms was found in the nearby KwaMashu Taxi rank along Dr Goonam Street. A second firearm was sold to a minibus taxi driver at the Osborne Street long-distance taxi rank in Greyville.

One of the policemen is apparently a sergeant based at the KwaMbonambi police station while the other is said to be a colonel based at the Richards Bay detective branch.

Police did not provide answers to emailed questions on whether the men were on duty or if they were on holiday, or whether they would face any sort of disciplinary hearing and whether they were using a State or private vehicle. Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said they were still awaiting a full report and would comment today.

South African Police Union (Sapu) provincial secretary Nurse Mdletshe said she was aware of the incident, but was also awaiting a detailed report from the police provincial headquarters before she could comment.

In a written reply to a DA parliamentary question in 2017, then-police minister Fikile Mbalula revealed that more than 2 500 police firearms had either been stolen or lost between the 2014/15 and 2016/17 financial years. The amount of firearms lost or stolen in a year increased by 8%.

Dianne Kohler Barnard, the DA’s police spokesperson, said while the 2017/18 year was not finalised, the loss of police firearms makes a mockery of the fight against crime.

“Gun violence remains one of South Africa’s top crime categories and SAPS cannot continue turning a blind eye to disappearing firearms from its stores, police stations and officers.

“Of major concern is the clear lack of urgency by SAPS to find immediate solutions to what is clearly a manifestation of carelessness and neglect on its part,” said Kohler Barnard.

Adele Kirsten, director of Gun Free South Africa, said the law was clear that the weapon must be under the gun owner’s control at all times.

“In practice, the gun must be a in a holster on your body or placed in a safe which can be locked and the key to the safe should be in your possession. Those are examples police give you when you apply for your firearm licence. You cannot leave it in your car. It boils down to negligence, poor training and soft sanctions to those previously found guilty of this,” she said.

Daily News