EXCLUSIVE: 'Plan' implemented to crack down on cops smuggling guns to criminals

2017-09-12 13:10
Confiscated guns. (Supplied)

Confiscated guns. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - Drastic action, including the possible tracking of each and every police firearm in South Africa, could be introduced to try and prevent cop guns from being smuggled to criminals.

A national audit of all firearms at police stations is also on the cards.

In the Western Cape, where gang violence is surging and where a total of 33 firearms recently went missing from two police stations, gun audits will be conducted. 

This is likely to involve all of the province’s 151 police stations.

Gun audits

“It is correct indeed that there are going to be firearm audits taking place in the Western Cape,” national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo told News24 on Tuesday.

“We will communicate duly should this take place in other parts of the country.”

Police minister Fikile Mbalula’s spokesman Vuyo Mhaga on Tuesday told News24 a national audit of police guns would be logical.

“We need to look at how we can preserve the law and trace our firearms,” he said.

Mhaga said ideas, including a tracking system whereby every single police gun could be pinpointed at any time, would be looked at.

The Hawks are investigating the guns, crime exhibits as well as state-issued, that recently went missing from two police stations in Cape Town. 

News24 understands this forms part of a massive investigation into the illicit firearms trade in South Africa.

For details on the national gun smuggling probe and how it fits into what has been happening in the underworld, see News24’s showcase Underworld Unmasked here.

It is understood this Hawks-headed probe includes investigating how some private security companies are illegally getting hold of firearms, how guns are being smuggled into and out the country, as well as trying to trace firearms which have been used in underworld violence said to be spreading from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

This Hawks probe now includes investigators from a previous gun smuggling investigation - which started breaking the back of a gun smuggling syndicate involving police helping to get firearms to gangsters - which disintegrated. 

That initial probe was allegedly affected by divisions within the police.

Mbalula on Monday admitted that the 33 guns that recently went missing from two Cape Town police stations have likely ended up in the hands of gangsters.

These were the very crimes the previous police probed focused on.

Leaked recording and video footage

At the end of August News24 reported that guns had gone missing from the storeroom of the Bellville South station.

Bellville South is a stronghold of the Sexy Boys gang, who are heavily involved in underworld activities.

In a leaked recording, from a source with close ties to policing and about what possibly happened to the firearms, it is claimed members of the police’s stabilisation unit booked out 20 R5 rifles in Bellville.

News24 has distorted the source's voice in the recording in order to protect the source's identity.

 

In the recording, the source says unit members had moved around and at one point “forgot” the weapons, which had been in a container and which were allegedly now on the streets.

Deputy national commissioner of policing Lieutenant General Sehlahle Masemola, during a police portfolio committee meeting in Parliament about two weeks ago, said there was video footage of the Bellville South incident.

This was being analysed.

Masemola said mostly revolvers and pistols, not rifles, were missing.

Also read: South Africa's police gun smuggling shame

Police pistols never returned

Guns recently also went missing from the Mitchells Plain police station - which is another area plagued by gang violence.

Maswemola, in his address in Parliament, said pistols had been booked out by members.

However, these pistols were now missing.

In his statement on Monday, Mbalula said 33 firearms – 18 of which were handed in as exhibits and 15 which were state issued - were unaccounted for.

“In the main, it is these guns that end up in the hands of gangsters, who daily torment our people, and destroy the lives of many young people.” he said.

“What cannot be tolerated is violence sponsored from within the police ranks.

“The people of South Africa, particular in Cape Town are already plagued by ugly scenes of gang violence and other serious crimes where innocent people including children get killed on a regular basis.”

In one of the most recent incidents, nine-year-old Aqeel Davids was caught in apparent gang crossfire in his Ocean View home on September 9. He was wounded and later died in hospital.

Project Impi

The previous national gun smuggling investigation, said to have been the biggest in South Africa, was named Project Impi.

It had established that at least 261 children were murdered or wounded, between 2010 and 2016, with guns which were smuggled from within the police to gangsters.

About 1 200 of these guns are believed to still be in circulation on the streets.

Project Impi was launched in December 2013 by Western Cape police officers Major General Jeremy Vearey and Major General Peter Jacobs.

Read more here

But they have said it disintegrated when they were suddenly transferred within the police in June 2016.

Their transfers are the focus of a Cape Town Labour Court matter. 

In August the court ruled that their transfers, which they felt were unfair and politically motivated, be set aside. However, police are still pushing ahead with their transfers.

Intricate details about Project Impi are contained in Vearey and Jacobs’s affidavits in the initial court matter.

News24 reported extensively on this. After several articles were published, the reporter received a death threat.

While Project Impi has since been absorbed into the national Hawks probe, News24 understands that during the time its future was uncertain, several suspects managed to flee, while others were killed.

 

Read more on:    saps  |  crime

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