The police have kept quiet for more than a year about the theft of 20,000 rounds of ammunition from a Pretoria police station.
There were deliberate delays to commencing the investigation in what seems to have been an attempt at a cover up of the November 3 2015 theft of R1 ammunition from the tactical response team’s armoury at Pretoria Central police station, reported The Times
The specialised unit deals with violent crimes such as cash-in-transit heists.
Institute for Security Studies policing expert Johan Burger said: “This is not just a round or two missing. The seriousness of this theft cannot be overstated.
“It’s the ammo cash-in-transit robbers use. These bullets go through walls and penetrate vehicles.
“That’s 20,000 people whose lives are in jeopardy because of police negligence.”
No arrests have been made and no disciplinary action has been taken against those implicated in an internal police investigation.
A police liability report written three weeks ago shows that a criminal case was not opened until 10 days after the theft was discovered. The internal investigation began only on December 9.
The Firearms Control Act says that any gun or ammunition loss must be reported immediately and a criminal case opened.
The police have failed to explain why the act was disregarded.
Parliament, say police portfolio committee members, was not told of the theft. And there was no mention of it in the police’s 2015-2016 annual report. Policing experts and MPs say that, given the amount of ammunition stolen, parliament should have been informed and the loss recorded in the annual report.
Last year it was reported that hundreds of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were being stored unprotected in dilapidated buildings at the national intervention unit’s Pretoria headquarters.
Gauteng police spokesman Colonel Lungelo Dlamini appealed for public assistance in recovering the ammunition stolen from the Pretoria Central armoury.
He said a departmental investigation had been finalised and “departmental proceedings” would follow – but no arrests had been made.
The police did not say why it had taken 16 months for disciplinary measures to be taken, or why it had taken 10 days for a criminal case to be opened, or why it took a month for a provincial team to inspect the armoury.
The police have not said if the ammunition has been recovered.
The police liability report shows that no records were kept of the unit’s members taking weapons or ammunition out of the armoury, and that there were serious breaches of police command-and-control protocols and of the Firearms Control Act.
Despite all this, the report recommends only disciplinary action against the unit’s commander, and “corrective counselling” for its 30 members.
There is no recommendation in the report of disciplinary action against the Pretoria Central police station commander, or any other member of police management.
Burger said a criminal case and internal investigation should have been launched immediately the theft was discovered.
“That an internal report is only now emerging is mind-boggling. What’s happened for the past 16 months? Why is it not in the annual report?”
DA MP Zak Mbele said the theft was not reported to parliament.
“We will demand answers and compare them to the police’s annual report. If they don’t correlate, we will want to know why.”
Martin Hood, head of the SA Gun Owners’ Association, said the theft would have had to be reported to the attorney-general, especially given the ammunition’s value.
“If it wasn’t reported to the AG, then someone is covering it up.”
Sean Tait, of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, said the Firearms Control Act laid down that all such losses had to be reported to the central firearms registry, which then had to report them to the police minister.
“Failure to do so would be seriously negligent.