Johannesburg - Two police brigadiers were suspended on Sunday for their alleged involvement in a gun scandal in which allegations of bribery, dealing in stolen military ammunition and forging export permits have emerged.
Brigadier Mathapelo Merriam Mangwane, section head of the Central Firearms Registry (CFR), and Brigadier Hlamane Elias Mahlabane, section head of firearm compliance, were suspended from duty without pay “for their involvement in corrupt activities”.
Police confirmed Mangwane and Mahlabane’s suspension.
Last week, two employees of a prominent Joburg gun dealer, Dave Sheer Guns, were arrested by the military police at OR Tambo International Airport.
The arrests and suspensions come a week after The Star revealed that forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan and the Hawks had been investigating Dave Sheer Guns, the biggest trader in firearms and ammunition in Africa.
An ex-employee at the gun shop revealed to both The Star and the police that she personally bribed police officers allegedly at the request of her employer to fast- track gun licences.
The state witness said in affidavits that she paid the head of the firearms registry, Mangwane, cash amounts of R5 000 and R10 000 twice a month.
The witness said she met the brigadier, who she nicknamed “Mama”, at shopping centres and petrol stations and that she gave her cash in white envelopes.
Dave Sheer Guns denied any wrongdoing and said the witness was a disgruntled ex-employee who had been fired and was involved in a corporate espionage smear campaign against them.
Another CFR employee, an administration clerk, has been issued with a letter of intention to suspend her. She has been given until Wednesday to make representation as to why she should not be suspended, police head of communication Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said.
“This is extremely disappointing, as the people who have been suspended are the ones who were given the responsibility of cleaning up the Central Firearms Registry, with the clear objective of eliminating all corrupt activities.
“Now they stand accused of the very same thing that they were employed to stamp out,” said Makgale.
Investigations were continuing and the possibility of disciplinary, as well as criminal action, against other employees could not be ruled out.
Last week, after weeks of being tight-lipped, the SAPS confirmed that it was involved in a criminal investigation of the Central Firearms Registry, various police stations and provincial offices.
Makgale said the ongoing investigation was at an advanced stage and covered the entire gun licence issuance value chain.
Over the past year, criminal cases in connection with corruption were instituted against eight employees attached to the firearm, liquor and second-hand goods component of the police at station, provincial and national levels, he said.
That unit is responsible, among other duties, for the approval and issuing of firearm licences. One employee has been convicted and sentenced to five years, suspended for 10 years. The police officer was dismissed.
In a separate investigation by the military police, two employees at Dave Sheer Guns were arrested on Thursday night.
The arrests relate to a case in which more than 200 000 rounds of military ammunition were allegedly stolen from a military base and then reportedly sold to Dave Sheer Guns.
The ammunition is estimated to be worth R1 million.
One employee, a director at Dave Sheer Guns, was arrested as he tried to leave the country on a flight to New York.
A colleague came to the airport when he heard about the arrests and was also apprehended.
They are to appear in the Lenasia Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Two soldiers and a civilian were also arrested in connection with the same case.