Taxi cops ‘lose’ guns

2010-06-25 00:00

THE Public Transport Enforcement Unit (PTEU) under the Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) is surrounded by controversy after the disappearance of firearms and the emergence of assassination plots against at least one senior staff member.

The unit’s task is to combat taxi violence. The Witness can reveal that more than 40 firearms have gone missing from the unit, with at least four of those being LM6 semi-automatic assault rifles.

Gun expert Koos Conradie said the LM6 has the same mechanism as the AK47. It is the shorter version of the R4 and R5.

A close source confirmed the weapons were missing, saying that no one has been held accountable.

According to the source, this has been happening since the early 1990s, with four LM6 rifles going missing in 2006.

“Certain individuals do as they wish in the department, and with regard to the firearms, no one has been charged or disciplined and you get targeted for having too many questions,” said the source.

During the investigation into the firearms issue, it has emerged that a hit list exists to “erase” certain officials from the department.

The source said this is in retaliation for investigations into allegations of fraud and corruption, including the missing weapons.

The investigations have been spearheaded by MEC Willies Mchunu since early last year after grievances were brought to him by the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

Heading the hit list is Mchunu’s spokesperson, Bheki Mncube, who is the link between the MEC and various units of the department.

Mncube has received death threats by SMS.

The Witness is in possession of a letter he wrote to police Deputy Commissioner Johan Booysen detailing the SMSes dating back to 2009.

In late February, Mncube received an SMS from someone he hardly knew, who warned him that two men attached to the RTI were assigned to follow him.

Contacted for comment, Mncube said he has reported the matter to the police.

“Firstly, dealing in stolen state material is equivalent to treason. Secondly, I was advised by the intelligence community to lay a charge of assassination plans on my life. However, I was not advised to discuss this matter with the media,” said Mncube and hung up.

Nehawu spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana said fear prevents people from speaking about the firearms theft and the assassination plots.

“We are fully aware of both issues. We are also aware that there are hitmen hired to remove certain individuals, but we will work hard to get to the bottom of this.

“When the right time comes, heads will roll,” added Nkwanyana.

Transport spokesperson Lungile Ndlovu said all firearms that have been lost — a total of 47 — were reported to the police.

“Records of these firearms are kept on the police firearms register. With regard to action against the transgressors, the duty to discipline an officer is the function of the supervisors and station commanders of the respective officers who have had firearms lost or stolen from their control,” said Ndlovu.

She denied that her directorate has control of ML6 rifles.

KZN social scientist and violence monitor Mary de Haas said: “One would suspect the involvement of department of Transport officials in taxi violence.

“If weapons go missing it’s either that officials in the department are grossly inefficient or are covering up something.

“Whichever way, something needs to be done quickly,” said De Haas.

Dr Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies said that in most cases when firearms disappear, senior officials are involved or there is negligence.

“The law is clear on firearms control and measures to be taken. There should be proper investigation and action taken against those found to have contravened policy on the handling of firearms. Also, access measures should be remedied,” said Burger.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said he is aware of death threats directed at Mncube, but could not comment.

He said he knows nothing about the missing firearms.

“But I don’t want to dispute it solely on the basis that I’ve never heard of it,” he added.

“The firearms register should be with the department as it is the control register recording who books a firearm in or out.”

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