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Calls for designated firearm destruction site before it falls into the laps of criminals

Illustration, file image of the destruction of firearms during 2004 in Kuilsriver

Illustration, file image of the destruction of firearms during 2004 in Kuilsriver

Published Apr 23, 2022

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Cape Town - A spike in Cape Town’s ongoing in gang violence has raised the alarm about a lack of dedicated illegal destruction sites for illegal firearms in the province.

Experts have called for newly appointed National Police Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, to step in and not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

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Gun Free SA said that since 2018, more than 800 firearms were still missing in the Western Cape - and this follows the conviction and sentencing of former Colonel Christiaan Prinsloo.

Prinsloo was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to 11 charges of money laundering to racketeering and smuggling of lethal weapons (firearms) worth R9 million. Prinsloo had supplied firearms meant for destruction to gangs in the Cape. He was a caretaker of the police storage room in Vereeniging.

Just last month, Durban-based businessman Anderson Padayachee made an appearance at the Western Cape High Court after being linked to the alleged sale, smuggling and trade of illegal firearms that end up in the hands of gangsters.

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Padayachee is allegedly a gun dealer who smuggled firearms to the Terrible Josters gang in Bonteheuwel. He faces 61 charges which include eight counts of murder, five attempted murder, money laundering, fraud, modifying firearms, selling or supplying firearms, failure to keep registers, failure to submit weekly returns and failure to produce firearm inspection. He is out on R60 000 bail.

This week, DA spokesperson for Community Safety Reagen Allen said they had briefed provincial police on their non-progress on identifying a site meant for the destruction of confiscated firearms.

In a statement national police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili said a total of 9 918 destroyed firearms were surrendered during 2019/2020 firearms amnesty period between December 2019 and May 2020.

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Last year 35 000 firearms were destroyed and in 2019, 60 000.

Allen said they called on a proposed site for destruction of firearms since there had been no update after a briefing in March with local police to help reduce gun-related crimes.

“The efficient and timeous destruction of firearms remains crucial to fighting crime and preventing confiscated guns from making their way back onto our streets. SAPS will be invited in the near future to the standing committee following their pledge to engage with the national government.

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“The provincial commissioner affirmed that only the national government has the power and discretion to authorise a site to be constructed for the destruction of firearms. Many reasons were given as to why it is highly unlikely that the national government would agree on such a decision.

“These include the need to follow due process of current legislation, as well as there not being sufficient budgeting and staffing for a provincial site. This reveals that the national government doesn’t prioritise spending and policy that will help keep our communities safe from endemic crime levels.”

He said they would continue to call for the province to have a dedicated destruction site.

Acting Minister of Community Safety Anroux Marais said the call would heed their target of reducing the murder rate by half by 2029 and that they had raised the matter with provincial police. Marais said they were in talks with police top brass.

“I will again raise this with the Provincial SAPS Commissioner, Lieutenant- General Patekile, to urgently discuss the matter with his national counterparts - as the official decision in this regard is made by the national government and should be implemented by the national police. I will formally request feedback on the status of the much-needed dedicated firearm destruction site in the province, as it will reduce illegal firearms on our streets and in turn reduce the murder rate in the Western Cape”.

Researcher at Gun Free South Africa Claire Taylor said firearms not being destroyed left the market open for it to be sold to criminals or stolen - and that the only solution was for destruction to take place.

She said thousands of firearms being stored in a facility was a ticking time bomb resulting in multiple casualties.

“The majority of guns used are illegal, but almost all were once legal before being lost or stolen,” she said. “Stockpiles of weapons are particularly vulnerable to loss or theft, as the case of corrupt cop Christiaan Prinsloo tragically illustrates. Prinsloo and his co-accused were able to sell guns stored by the police for destruction in Gauteng to gang leaders in the Western Cape, 888 of the 2 000 guns stolen by Prinsloo in Gauteng have been forensically linked to 1 066 murders in the Western Cape. As of 2018, over 800 of these guns were still missing.”

She said while police have undertaken various operations to recover illegal firearms, it was imperative that they learned from their past mistakes.

“Destroying recovered firearms is the only way to guarantee this. Masemola needs to prioritise a dedicated site for firearms destructions in the Western Cape.

“In the interim, we call on the SAPS to urgently destroy SAPS-held weapon stocks earmarked for destruction at an established site outside that province to limit the risk of leakage.

“Not only will this save lives, it will show that the SAPS is serious about managing firearms under its control, thereby helping build public trust in the police.”

National Police Colonel Athlenda Mathe did not respond by the time of going to print.

Weekend Argus

Related Topics:

SAPSCrime and courts

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