06/12/2012. Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa addresses the media with the National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega at the Shareton Hotel, Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Cape Town - More than 4.3 million rounds of discontinued ammunition remained in circulation in the SAPS, despite a September 2006 instruction to dispose of non-standard, obsolete and unserviceable ammunition, according to a parliamentary reply by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Most recently, the use of discontinued ammunition, including SSG 12-gauge shotgun pellets, arose over the deaths of four people in Mothutlung, North West, in January during a protest over lack of water.

The question whether discontinued ammunition might have been used when police killed 34 striking Lonmin miners in August 2012 was subsequently raised at the Farlam commission of inquiry into the killings, and the deaths of 10 others in the preceding week, but was disallowed owing to lack of evidence.

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard, who asked the question, said on Sunday she would ask national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega to investigate this issue.

“It must must probe why the instruction in 2006 was not fully implemented, who is responsible for this failure to act, and what can be done to get this ammunition out of the SAPS as a matter of urgency,” she said.

According to Mthethwa’s response, 4 345 526 rounds of discontinued ammunition were still in use.

At provincial level, most of this discontinued ammunition was in the Eastern Cape (538 937), followed by KZN (523 978) and the Free State (410 981), while just over 2 million rounds of the ammunition was at head office divisions.

“This ammunition may only be used for training,” said Mthethwa, adding that “recently” another instruction to withdraw all discontinued, non-standard and unserviceable ammunition had been issued to provincial and divisional commissioners.

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