The journey of illegal firearms. SUPPLIED
The journey of illegal firearms. SUPPLIED

Corrupt police officers keeping illegal gun trade going

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published Jan 15, 2022

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Cape Town - How much would it take to take someone out? Well, if you have a few thousand rand, a gang boss can provide you with the firepower. A police-issued gun can be purchased for around R15 000.

The war against the availability of illegal firearms, which feeds violent crimes such as murder, gangsterism, cash-in-transit heists, will never end, according to experts and those monitoring firearms control and former criminals who traded in drugs and gangs.

The Weekend Argus team spoke to a former drug dealer who had been imprisoned and was affiliated with a gang leader and may not be identified due to safety reasons.

The ex-drug lord said the war against the sale of illegal firearms would never be won as long as corrupt police officials kept the market open and those producing and manufacturing home-made firearms and ammunition.

“Some of the police come and take away the guns here in Lavender Hill, but they never book it into the police station. They sell it to other gangs.

“My friend was a gang leader, and he owned two guns, and the police never took his firearms because it was all about the money. I know this because I was in the trade. What happens with the guns the police carry? It lands up here with the gangsters. Here, you mainly hear the shots going from 9mm pistols to automatic firearms.

“There was a man in Kirstenbosch who used to produce and manufacture the bullets. That is where everyone used to get their bullets from, especially the gangsters.”

Just a week ago, Western Cape Police confiscated 33 firearms, 578 rounds of ammunition and arrested 39 suspects during a period of eight days.

This number revealed that close to five firearms were confiscated by police each day.

According to The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, in just over two decades, nearly 27 000 police-issued firearms have either been stolen or lost or land in the hands of gang bosses who resell them for double the price.

Western Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile, applauded his police officers last week for their vigilance in pursuing the suspects and the confiscation of firearms.

But Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime said they had compiled a report on how to silence the guns and gun licences for sale in South Africa, which showcased the shocking reality.

They said the biggest challenge was the lack of reporting of firearms that had disappeared out of evidence or which were scheduled for destruction.

“While the South African Police do release some information on firearms lost or stolen each year, they do not release or do not have figures on firearms missing from police evidence stocks and of firearms earmarked for destruction,” said Irish-Qhobosheane in her report.

Another is that police have lost thousands of firearms and that few people were convicted or sentenced and saw only six seeing the long arm of the law between 2018 and 2019.

She further stated: “In South Africa, 26 277 police-issued firearms were lost or stolen between 2002/3 and 2018/19.

“The majority of these (18 538) were lost or stolen during the eight years from 2002/03, with a much lower 7 739 being lost or stolen in the subsequent nine years to 2018/19.67.

“What is clear is that few police officers have been charged or disciplined for the loss/theft of their police-issued firearms.

“The 2018/19 SAPS annual report says only six officers had faced disciplinary charges for contravening the Firearms Control Act over the period,72 despite the auditor-general reporting that the police had lost 689 firearms during the same year.

“The SAPS also reported that 607 firearms had been lost or stolen, a figure well below that of the auditor-general.”

In 2016, former Colonel Christiaan Prinsloo was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to 11 charges relating to money laundering to racketeering and smuggling of lethal weapons worth R9 million with gangsters in the Cape.

Last year, claims were that Prinsloo was granted parole, but authorities would not confirm it.

Irish-Qhobosheane said Prinsloo’s sale of firearms increased the bulk distribution of firearms to gang members and increased the resale of it.

“In the Western Cape, the pool of illegal firearms was increased by the bulk distribution of firearms by Prinsloo and his cohorts.”

The report revealed that the sale of firearms saw a double profit for gang leaders who would buy a new CZ 9 mm PARA 75 P07 between R10 000 and R12 000, and a second-hand version sells for between R5 000 and R6 500.

They said a gang boss could access a CZ 9 mm pistol on the black market for R6 000 and sell it to gang members or other parties for between R13 000 and R13 500.

Gang leaders are able to purchase a new Beretta 9 mm 92 pistol, used by police and will sell on the legal market for between R9 500 and R14 500, and a second-hand firearm in good condition would sell for between R6 500 and R7 500.

Adele Kirsten, director of Gun Free South Africa, said the key was to reduce the number of illegal guns on the streets and to strengthen the law.

“The key service of the South African police is to recover and remove illegal firearms and ammunition. This will help to reduce the availability of guns. Another way to reduce the availability is to strengthen South African gun law.”

She said it was impossible to conclude how many unlicensed firearms were in South Africa. “We do not know how many unlicensed guns are in SA.

“Most unlicensed guns were once legal before they leaked into the illegal pool. Leakage/diversion occurs through one of three ways: 1. Loss and theft is the most significant mechanism: Civilians – not the police – are the biggest source of illegal guns in SA, losing seven times more guns than the police. Cross-border trafficking: Contrary to common perceptions that guns are smuggled into SA from our neighbours, indications are that handguns, in particular, are trafficked from SA to neighbouring countries.

“Fraud, corruption and poor enforcement of the law: This means that people who do not meet the legal criteria of fit and proper” are illegally granted gun licences.

“AK47 assault rifles are seldom used to commit crimes. Instead, handguns (pistols and revolvers) are the weapon of choice.”

The case of the firearms stolen at two Cape Town police stations remains unsolved.

In 2019, 12 of the 33 firearms, which were stolen from Mitchells Plain and Bellville Police Station, were recovered.

The firearms disappeared in August 2017.

Weekend Argus

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