Cape Town – For a few years after the death of her teenage son, Melanie Kiel would shake and burst into tears at the sound of gunshots.
Kiel's son, Dudley Richards, was shot in Karoopoort Street in Tafelsig on December 2, 2013.
“He went to visit his friend that night and he was on his way back home,” she recalled.
“His friend was shot first and he died instantly.
“Then the gunman shot my son.
“When I arrived at the scene his body was still warm.
“I kissed him on the cheek and he died a few minutes later.
“It felt like life was ripped out of my body.”
Kiel and eight other families want to hold Minister of Police Bheki Cele liable for damages associated with deaths and injuries caused by guns stolen and distributed to criminals on the Cape Flats.
Working with the families, Gun Free South Africa lodged papers with the Western Cape High Court to apply for certification of a class action against the police to claim for damages resulting from the theft and supply of guns from police stores to criminals.
In September 2013 the police began recovering a large number of guns that had been “professionally cleaned” of identifying marks.
A SAPS investigation, codenamed Project Impi, linked the guns to a senior police member, Colonel Christiaan Prinsloo, who was later arrested in 2015.
Prinsloo confessed to his role in supplying gangs with guns that were confiscated by or surrendered to the police for destruction.
He entered into a plea bargain with the State in return for a lesser sentence and was granted parole in 2020.
He also confessed to working with Colonel David Naidoo, an operational officer in the Confiscated Firearms Store at Silverton under the Head Office: Confiscated Firearms Store.
More than 2 000 guns were sold and of these, 261 were forensically linked to 1 066 murders in the Cape from 2010 to 2016.
At least 187 children were shot with guns stolen by Prinsloo from 2010 to 2015. The youngest victim was just a year old, the oldest was 17. Of those shot, 67 died.
The victims whose families joined the class action included Dillan Cornelius, who was murdered in Manenberg in August 2013 and many others.
One of these is Leana van Wyk, 6, who was shot in the head in Hanover Park in 2012 and sustained brain damage. The gun used was linked to Prinsloo who sold to gangs.
Prinsloo was charged with Leana’s shooting but entered into a plea agreement and was not convicted.
Gun Free SA said more than 1 000 of the guns stolen by Prinsloo were still missing and believed to be in circulation.
Gun Free SA director Adèle Kirsten said: “SAPS failed in its duty to establish and maintain an accurate and comprehensive record-keeping system to enable the authorities to manage stockpiles and crack illicit firearms.”
Earlier this year, Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety Reagen Allen said from October 2022 to December 2022, firearms accounted for 573 murders in the province.
National crime statistics showed during the same period, of the 272 gang-related murders recorded in the country, 84% or 229 were committed in the Western Cape.
Allen said at the time efforts were being made to find a suitable location for the destruction of confiscated weapons.
The DA in the Western Cape also said SAPS "failed" to send a single illegal firearm for destruction last quarter, despite confiscating 699 illegal firearms.
Gun Free SA Researcher Claire Taylor said it was not clear how many illegal guns were in circulation, one gun could be used in multiple crimes.
National Police did not respond to queries about the destruction site.