Tender blamed for unarmed officers

2014-05-21 00:00

A DODGY tender has left over 1 000 Durban police officers on the street with no firearms for nearly two years.

The shortage is linked to a tender gone wrong that a leading Durban advocate said was neither “fair” or “transparent” and that it was “designed for a specific company”.

But now a new emergency tender — known as a Section 36 — is to be issued calling for the supply of 500 nine millimetre Parabellum pistols, handgun holsters, handgun lanyards and accessories. An amount of R6,6 million has been budgeted for the purchase. However, the firearms are only likely to be purchased at the earliest in July.

The “specific company”, Ihawu Firearm Centre, which was initially awarded the tender last year, has disputed being favoured by the tender and has lodged a complaint with the eThekwini Ombudsman. This could further hamper the supplying of the guns to the city’s police.

The DA has called the delay “unacceptable” and has begrudgingly acceded to the emergency purchase — known as a Section 36 — for the “safety of our officers”.

Who exactly is at fault is expected to be the subject of an investigation announced by city manager Sbu Sithole earlier this year.

In documents presented before the executive council yesterday, it was stated that there “are a number of members who are unarmed” and this was blamed on the decommissioning of older guns and the servicing of others.

The delay dates back to 2012 when Selwels Sports was awarded a tender to provide firearms with the same specifications as a Glock. However, the company could not deliver and had the 12-month contract rescinded. In July 2013, the contract was then awarded to Ihawu but this was appealed by Johannesburg-based Bernhard Agencies. The appeal was upheld by Durban Advocate Bhekinkosi Buthelezi in October 2013.

In Buthelezi’s judgment, he said the tender “was designed for a particular company” and there was a lack of a paper trail. “Nothing in the processing of this tender can be said to have been fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective instead it suggests otherwise,” he said.

Ihawu owner Stuart Affleck said his company is disputing the allegation that the tender was “tailor-made”.

“The tender was not tailor-made for any company but the specifications were for a Glock. We are disappointed with how the matter has been handled as at no point were we officially informed that the tender would need to be re-advertised or that Bernhard Agencies appeal was upheld. Our price was competitive and that is why we were chosen,” said Affleck.

In an e-mail string included in the council documents, Metro Police Captain Don Govender, who works in the armoury department, said he was “extremely concerned”.

“There [is] a huge number of members who have been trained [and] are unarmed. [They have been] awaiting firearms for over a year. Not forgetting the nature of the duties performed and some of the environments that they are exposed to,” read the e-mail addressed to supply chain management and metro police leadership.

eThekwini DA caucus head Zwakhele Mncwango said the purchase of the firearms must be “expedited”.

“We cannot have a situation where our officers are shot and when asked why they didn’t have a firearm to defend themselves all we can say is ‘it is on tender’. This is not acceptable.”

A metro officer told The Witness that generally firearms are ordered before a new batch of students are recruited because the process can be time consuming.

“To have just an officer on the beat he or she is wearing about R40 000 in gear. A lot goes into training and equipping a single officer.”

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