Durban — KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas has alleged that her warning two years ago about guns and ammunition allegedly stolen from a police station in Durban being used to commit crime was ignored by police management and Parliament.
She was reacting to recent reports that hundreds of state-owned firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition had been stolen from police stations, military bases and correctional centres around the country in the past couple of years.
The number of state weapons disappearing into thin air was revealed in a response to parliamentary questions by Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald addressed to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise, Police Minister Bheki Cele and their Justice and Correctional Services counterpart, Ronald Lamola.
De Haas said her questions and warning to the eThekwini SAPS cluster commander and provincial and national commissioners about the theft of firearms from Umlazi’s Bhekithemba police station in 2021 had received no response.
She alleged the break-in at Bhekithemba led to weapons being stolen in July 2021.
“Bhekithemba police station was closed for weeks after the robbery. Weeks after the trashing of Bhekithemba, there was a gang massacre in that area and I heard that guns that were used had been taken from Bhekithemba.
“In July 2021, they (criminals) trashed the station Bhekithemba, but police would not admit it although the station was closed down for a while,” she said.
To back her claim, De Haas shared with the Sunday Tribune letters she wrote to police management, Parliament and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) in September and November 2021.
The robbers, according to her, took advantage of the widespread looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng linked to protests against the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma.
Responding to Groenewald, Cele revealed that 357 firearms stored as evidence in the police’s 13 storerooms countrywide had been stolen since the 2020/21 financial year.
De Haas said police neither confirmed nor denied the robbery at Bhekithemba.
The KwaZulu-Natal police communication unit has not responded to a request for comment on De Haas’s allegation on the Bhekithemba robbery.
De Haas said she got the information about the robbery from community members who allegedly witnessed the incident.
“It seems that they (criminals) suddenly had access to guns and ammunition after the looting and serious damage to what was presumably Bhekithemba police station after the arrest of former president Zuma in July which was part of the widespread devastation in Umlazi and elsewhere,” read a letter De Haas wrote to eThekwini Inner South Cluster police Commander Maj-General Robert Chirwa and provincial and national commissioners on September 8, 2021.
Ipid spokesperson Robbie Raburabu said the directorate did not have the mandate to investigate firearms stolen from the police station.
“We don’t investigate cases of theft of anything from police stations. Those kinds of cases can only be investigated once the minister says they should be investigated by the Ipid.
“Unless she was talking about the conduct of the police with regard to circumstances surrounding the theft or robbery, I am not sure on what basis she says the Ipid should investigate,” she said.
Correctional Services told Groenewald that it had lost eight firearms and 295 rounds of ammunition between 2021 and last year. It also said 19 officials had been found guilty for this. But in KwaZulu-Natal “no officials have faced disciplinary charges as the cases are still under internal investigation”.
The police and SANDF have not yet responded to Sunday Tribune questions.