04/07/2012. A member of the bomb squad looks at illumination grenades that were stolen from a back of a van. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

An ammunition manufacturer which produced the 70 illumination grenades which were stolen in the north of Pretoria on Wednesday has claimed the transportation of the ammunition is fully legal and satisfied all safety criteria.

The grenades, produced and delivered by the firm Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM), which were being delivered to the Walmansthal military base, were stolen while the drivers of the bakkie were sleeping at a filling station near the base.

The bakkie was transporting the ammunition from Cape Town to the base, but the drivers stopped and slept at a petrol station on the N1 north near Walmansthall.

This was apparently because they would only be allowed to make delivery at the base after 8am, but were already only a few kilometres away from the base at about 5am.

They awoke to find the padlock of a case containing boxes of illumination grenades broken, with four boxes of the ammunition missing.

The bakkie transporting the case was open, without a canopy or anything protecting the case from any external interference.

This raised questions about whether the van was suitable to transport such flammable materials, uncovered over a distance of about 1 500km.

The thieves made off with two boxes containing 35 devices each, while two other boxes were recovered by police under a bush behind the filling station.

It is also believed that they stole boxes of washing soap from a truck that had stopped at a filling station.

Trucks and bakkies which usually stop at the filling station are known to be vulnerable to thieves as the drivers are usually asleep when they strike.

RDM chief executive Norbert Schulz said on Wednesday that the ammunition was not conventional hand grenades, but illuminating grenades used more like fireworks by the military.

He said the vehicle transporting them was generally approved and accepted for this purpose.

“The requirement is that the case containing these must be chained or mounted on to the van, which was done with the case that was broken into during the incident,” said Schulz. However, the devices could injure persons who handled them incorrectly and he appealed to the public to alert the authorities should they know where the missing devices were.

“RDM is working with the SAPS and the military police who are investigating the incident and has also launched an internal investigation to determine the circumstances around the incident,” said Schulz.

Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini could not be reached to establish if police had made any arrests or whether any more devices had been recovered.

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Pretoria News