Metro Police Officers yesterday were humiliated when their motor cycles were taken from them after their firearm licences expired and also taken back. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane
Metro Police Officers yesterday were humiliated when their motor cycles were taken from them after their firearm licences expired and also taken back. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane

Gun crisis hits Tshwane cops

By Karabo Seanego And Graeme Hosken Time of article published Jan 13, 2011

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A crisis with the potential to threaten the lives of tens of thousands of Tshwane residents and the city’s metro police officers is fast developing following revelations that scores of law enforcers are illegally in possession of their weapons.

The revelations come after four Tshwane Metro Police Department motorcycle unit members had their firearms taken from them yesterday because their firearm permits had expired.

The confiscation of the guns, say TMPD members on the ground, is part of an ongoing problem around firearm training within the TMPD, which is endangering not only their lives, but hampering law enforcement service delivery.

The problem is believed to be linked to a similar saga which developed two years ago when 540 TMPD members had their guns taken away from them because their firearm permits had expired.

A TMPD firearm permit is only valid for a year and must, according to TMPD sources, be renewed annually.

For a permit to be extended a member has to write an annual theory exam and take part in a practical shooting exercise.

The exam tests the police member’s knowledge of the Criminal Procedures Act, which among other things includes their understanding of Section 49, which governs when police may use lethal force to apprehend a suspect.

Yesterday’s confiscation was coupled with the four officers having their motorcycles removed from their possession after they refused to obey the instructions of city community safety department head, Brigadier Mahlomola Manganye, to go on patrol.

Their reason, claim sources, is that they felt that they were unable to protect themselves or the public without their firearms.

The saga began last week when the TMPD’s internal compliance unit discovered that a number of city law enforcers’ firearm licences had expired or were due to expire.

A senior TMPD source said the firearm licences of the four had expired on December 31.

“These are not the only members. We believe there are scores of TMPD members in ‘illegal possession’ of their guns because their firearm permits have expired.”

The policeman said the problem stemmed from the TMPD’s firearm training institute, which for a long time did not have enough ammunition to allow all its members to train annually so that they could renew their gun permits.

“The TMPD didn’t have the budget for enough ammunition for its members to do their shooting practice, which is part of the process to renew one’s licence.

“Because of this and because the firearms training for new recruits has been prioritised, a backlog in the renewal of permits has been created.

“The backlog is compounded because of the limited number of firearms instructors to assist with the renewal training,” he said.

TMPD spokesman, Director Mel Vosloo, said the permits were not supposed to have expired. “It is the responsibility of the officers to ensure that the licences don’t expire.”

Vosloo said the motorcycles were confiscated because the officers were instructed to go back to work but had refused to do so. “They were asked to hand in their motorcycles so that they could be allocated to people who are prepared to work. When you (work for) the council, you have an obligation to perform your duty. These guys decided they were not going to carry out their duties because of the firearms issues. A decision was taken to confiscate the bikes because they are meant for patrolling.”

Vosloo said Manganye had repeatedly expressed his willingness to assist in ensuring that members’ firearm permits were renewed. “This action borders on insubordination and we will not be held to ransom,” he said. - Pretoria News

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