In a reply to a DA parliamentary question received yesterday, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa admitted that 1 202 firearms have been be added to the 11 935 firearms lost by the South African Police Service (SAPS) since 2007, bringing the total to 13 137.
The reply revealed that a total of 1 202 firearms have been lost or stolen in the last 18 months. Of the total, 1 090 of these were handguns and 59 were rifles. However, only 170 of the weapons have been recovered.
Although there has been a decline in the number of firearms lost over the last two years, the SAPS is not showing improved success in recovering the lost weapons. Since April 2010, only 337 out 2 537 lost firearms have been recovered.
This means that the majority of these dangerous weapons are still out there on the street, most likely being used to commit crime. The reality is that the SAPS is fuelling the illegal firearms trade in this country.
Replies to parliamentary questions in 2010 showed that charges were only brought against 1% of SAPS employees who lost their firearms, which speaks to the fact that there is virtually no accountability when it comes to ‘losing’ firearms. No charges, no having to purchase a new firearm, nothing.
The Minister must ensure that lost firearms are recovered and that, where appropriate, those who have lost their firearms are disciplined.