Mass suspensions and 'truth' about missing police guns covered up - sources

2017-09-21 11:04
Guns. (Supplied)

Guns. (Supplied)

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Cape Town – The truth about how 33 firearms went missing from two Cape Town police stations recently is allegedly being covered up to protect certain senior police officers in the Western Cape.

This is according to several sources with intimate knowledge of the matter.

News24 understands that since the 33 firearms went missing about a month ago, more than two dozen police officers, including at least one station commander, have been suspended.

COLUMN: South Africa's police gun smuggling shame

However, their bosses, including cluster commanders, remain in office and it is these top police officers that the sources say should have instead been suspended as they are the ones who were meant to be overseeing the firearms.

Some sources say the suspensions form part of a strategic move to sideline certain officers.

One said specific police officers were being targeted as management was looking for "fall guys".

On Thursday, ANC community activist Colin Arendse wrote to acting national police commissioner Lesetja Mothiba and asked about the suspensions.

Senior officers should be held responsible

"It has been brought to my attention that 14 members of the Police Service were suspended," he said.

This included a station commander, visible policing head, all relief commanders, and community service centre commanders.

News24 understands the police major-general who pushed ahead with the suspensions is the subject of a crimen injuria investigation and previously tried to get hold of the cellphone records, allegedly in an illegal manner, of senior Western Cape police officer Major-General Jeremy Vearey.

ALSO READ: SAPS could be liable for crimes committed with stolen police guns

Arendse wanted to know why those at station level had been suspended, as he felt those senior to them should be held responsible for the guns going missing.

Asked on Wednesday if officers had been suspended as a result of the missing firearms, police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut did not confirm or deny this.

"The suspension of a member is regarded an internal process between the employee and the employer and the detail thereof is not open for discussion," he said.

Traut said the investigation into the missing firearms had not yet wrapped up.

Gun smuggling investigation

An audit of firearms at all police stations in the Western Cape is set to go ahead following the guns going missing.

The fresh claims about missing police firearms are reminiscent of the June 2016 transfers of Vearey and Major-General Peter Jacobs, who at one stage headed up South Africa’s biggest ever gun smuggling investigation.

They had said their transfers, which they successfully appealed in the Cape Town Labour Court, but which national police are still fighting, had effectively stifled the probe which was uncovering, among other activities, corruption within the police.

ALSO READ: Guns 'go missing' from police station in Cape Town

This gun smuggling investigation has since been taken over by the Hawks, who are looking into several aspects of the country’s illicit firearms trade, including the import and export of illegal guns and how these weapons are being used in underworld violence.

On Tuesday, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula announced that former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza, whose appointment was previously found to be unlawful and invalid, would have to retire due to an order by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

"I remind our members that Major-General Ntlemeza is henceforth in the outside, I demand that our members must do their work professionally and disabuse the notion of being 'so-and-so people' or in rogue cabals," Mbalula said.

However, the missing police guns matter has again pointed out apparent divisions within the police.

'Forgot' the weapons

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

In a leaked recording, from a source with close ties to policing, it is claimed members of the police’s stability unit booked out 20 R5 rifles in Bellville.

The source says in the recording that unit members had moved around and at one point "forgot" the weapons, which had been in a container.

Firearms recently also went missing from the Mitchells Plain police station.

News24 understands that in both incidents, the guns had been stored for, and used by, stability unit members – officers who move around and focus on certain volatile areas to try and restore calm.

These specific firearms, according to sources, were kept locked in a container within a locked storeroom in the Bellville South station, as well in the Mitchells Plain police station.

While officers at station level had access to the storerooms, only certain officers linked to the stability unit had keys to the containers in which the firearms were kept.

Likely smuggled to gangsters

This information, several sources alleged, was being intentionally hushed so as to protect certain police officers.

Last week, Mbalula said in a statement that 33 firearms – 18 of which were handed in as exhibits and 15 which were state issued – were unaccounted for.

He said police officers had likely smuggled the firearms to gangsters.

WATCH: Gangsters shoot at police in Cape Town

During a police portfolio committee meeting in Parliament in August, deputy national commissioner of policing Lieutenant-General Sehlahle Masemola said mostly revolvers and pistols, not rifles, went missing in the Bellville South incident.

Masemola, in his address in Parliament, said pistols went missing from Mitchells Plain.

However, sources were adamant that rifles went missing in the Bellville South incident.

Bellville South is a stronghold of the Sexy Boys gang.

R5 rifle used in shooting

Alleged Sexy Boys gang leader Jerome "Donkie" Booysen was the target of a shooting in Bellville South on September 13.

His vehicle was shot at 21 times, according to sources.

News24 understands that an R5 automatic rifle cartridge was found at the scene and an R5 projectile was among items found in the vehicle and handed in to police. A rifle was therefore apparently used in the incident.

It was the second time Booysen was shot at in five months.

On Friday, a court case involving allegations of police guns being smuggled to gangsters, with the assistance of police officers, is set to proceed in the Western Cape High Court.

Rondebosch businessman Irshaad "Hunter" Laher and Vereeniging arms dealer Alan Raves are expected in the dock.

Ex-police colonel Chris Prinsloo, now serving a jail sentence, previously said he had sold at least 2 000 firearms, meant to be destroyed by police, to Laher, who then allegedly sold these to gangsters.

Read more on:    saps  |  cape town  |  gangs  |  gang violence  |  crime  |  guns

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