SAPS Firearms: safeguarding, losses and board of inquiry; Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist Activities Act proclamations

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07 March 2011
Chairperson: Ms L Chikunga (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted the unannounced visit on the Offices of the Public Protector by SAPS members. It was the responsibility of Parliament to protect all institutions of democracy such as the Office of the Public Protector. She was appalled that no one in police management had claimed responsibility for the act.

The eight proclamations before the Committee were as a result of the operation of Section 25 of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act of 2004. These proclamations contained the consolidated list of terrorist organisations published on 29 May 2006 by the Counter Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council. The proclamations also included any deletions, insertions or amendments to the list.

The Committee heard a briefing on the safeguarding of state firearms as many were being reported as lost or stolen. For example, in December 2010 the Committee had visited one police station where 87 firearms had been stolen. The briefing made it known that 20 000 firearms in the safeguarding of the police, had been stolen. A board of inquiry was being set up to investigate firearm losses to determine causes and implement corrective measures.

The Committee commented that there was a high rate of ill discipline among SAPS members and noted the inadequate training. Members felt strongly about the fact that SAPS Members lost firearms and were not punished. They commented that the number of stolen firearms contributed to the high rate of violent crime. They asked about allegations that policemen sold their firearms and then reported them stolen. They felt that the role of the board of inquiry was not clearly defined and the presentation itself had lot of inconsistencies.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson said the Committee was shocked by the unannounced visit by the South African Police Service to the Office of the Public Protector. It was reflective of ill discipline in the Police Service. She was appalled by the fact that no one in police management had claimed responsibility for that act. It was the responsibility of Parliament to protect all institutions of democracy such as the Office of the Public Protector. She applauded the good work done by the ordinary men and women in the police force.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) raised his concerns about the suspension of the two policemen who raided the Office of the Public Protector, because the two police officers had not done that act out of their own volition.

Deputy National Commissioner, Ms Magda Stander, apologised on behalf of the National Commissioner who could not be part of the meeting.

Proclamation by President under Section 25 of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy
Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act
Brigadier C Strydom said that South Africa enacted all its international and regional convention obligations pertaining to terrorist activities by enacting into law the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and related Activities Act, 2004. As background, he explained that the United Nations Charter of 1945 was formulated to maintain peace and security and ensure that wars do not happen. Chapter Vll of the UN Charter, specifically Articles 39, 41 and 48, proposed using measures that did not involve armed force to persuade rogue states and organisations to desist from aggression such as partial or complete interruption of economic trade, transport and diplomatic relations by Members of the United Nations. In 1999 the UN Security Council listed Al Qaeda and the Taliban as terrorist organisations. The Security Council issued Resolution 1267. Paragraph 4 of the Resolution instituted a travel ban on aircraft used by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They were prohibited from taking off or landing. Also all Taliban and Al Qaeda funds were frozen where held in UN member states. The purpose of the Security Council Counter Terrorism Committee was for collecting information with regard terrorist activities and deciding on appropriate measures to take. Paragraph 8 of the Charter allowed the Counter Terrorism Committee to bring proceedings against persons and entities within its jurisdiction that violate measures in Paragraph 4.

Brigadier Strydom said that the eight proclamations now being considered by the Committee contained the consolidated list of terrorist organisations published on 29 May 2006 by the Counter Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council. The proclamations also included any deletions, insertions or amendments to the list. These proclamations were issued in terms of Section 25 of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act. Implementation, compliance and monitoring was done by the Interdepartmental Counter Terrorism Working Group chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and all relevant departments plus the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Reserve Bank were represented.

Brigadier Strydom spoke about the latest developments regarding listing and de-listing procedures. She also spoke about the legal consequences of listing in terms of Sections 4 and 23 of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.
Ms A van Wyk (ANC) complained about the late submission of the presentation to Members.

The Chairperson replied that problem was with Parliament internal distribution systems, it was not the National Commissioner’s fault.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) said that the distribution system was too slow, and placed Members in a disadvantaged position.

Mr Groenewald mentioned that it took three days for documents to be delivered from 120 Plein Street to Marks Building within the parliamentary precinct.

The Chairperson said that documents should be delivered at least a week before the presentation.

The Chairperson commented there were a large number of unused firearms piling up in police stations across the country. She asked whether there was a way of controlling these firearms.

Deputy Commissioner Stander mentioned that that they had visited 74 police stations to have a look at the problem.

Safeguarding of the SAPS Firearms and SAPS 13 Firearm Stores
General Gary Kruser spoke about the control measures in place for firearms held by the state such as the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000 and the Standing Orders (Stores) 48 and 52(3)(c)(ii). A docket should be opened every time the loss of a firearm was reported. The mandate of the SAPS Inspectorate Services was to inspect and evaluate the functioning of SAPS with a view to ensuring adherence to policies, norms and standards. The Inspectorate had to visit police stations to conduct inspections, make findings, ensure immediate remedial action where necessary, compile reports with recommendations and follow up on outcomes of the report. The findings identified during inspections were that there were inadequate storage facilities to safeguard official firearms. Some were kept in boxes, plastic bags and unbolted trunks. Others were damaged by damp conditions, putting them at danger for corrosion which would render them useless. Police firearms were also found to have been stored together with seized firearms. Other stations would keep firearms unlabeled, untagged and unlocked in storage. The findings of the inspections noted the backlog in destruction of firearms due to outstanding Integrated Ballistic identification System (IBIS) testing which had a negative influence on the management of SAPS 13 Firearm Stores.


The General assured the Committee that all the findings were being attended to. The next inspection would determine how far the stations complied with their recommendations. In terms of management interventions, national management teams were tasked during station visits to focus on safekeeping of firearms. Regulations were also being put into place to assure adequate marking of firearms and bi annual inspection by the station commander of their own firearms. He felt sure that with this measure they would be able to detect losses of weapons within six months of it having occurred. Indeed the General said there had already been a spike in reports of lost firearms after the measure came into place. As for the marking, it had already commenced and all state issued guns would be extensively marked so that even if the markings were filled away they could be identified as illicit state firearms. All guns would also have individual IBIS marking, akin to fingerprint, enabling them to be identified and tracked. The IBIS testing would be done within the Supply Chain Management so as to not interfere with forensic investigations or overburden the forensics workload.   The General did admit that there was still the challenge of marking the guns already in the field.


The General said that they had not acquired any new firearms this financial year, except for new recruits. He stated there were simply too many firearms already. SAPS Supply Chain Management (SCM) strategy was to appoint a board of inquiry in March 2011 to investigate firearm losses and determine causes and implement corrective measures. This board could call any member in the service to appear in front of it. Another measure to curb illegal sale of police firearms was to withhold pensions for retired officers if they did not return their guns. On 13 SAPS Store firearms, the number of 2010 destroyed firearms were noted. The rest of the firearms from the second amnesty were to be destroyed in May 2011. The Management Interventions planned to further tackle the problem included strengthening Command and Control but most importantly enhancing of Centralized Firearms storage facilities to remove the weapons from local police station storage to secure central storage facilities.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) urged the police delegation to make sure that all amnesty firearms were removed from police stations. The firearms that were piled up at police stations ran the risk of falling into the hands of criminals. The numbers reflected in the presentation were not a true reflection because there were more amnesty firearms in the Western Cape. He asked about the progress with the roll out of the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS). He felt very strongly that SAPS Members should get the same sanctioning meted out to civilians who lose their firearms. SAPS personnel simply applied for a second firearm when they lost the first one without any criminal charges laid against them.

Ms Kohler-Barnard mentioned that there was a perception that members of the police force sold their firearms and reported them as stolen. She asked if those allegations were investigated. She enquired about steps that were taken to deal with people who reported their stolen firearms. She also would like them to give her an update on the firearms licensing debacle. 

General Rasegkatle said that on the licensing he hoped that the Committee understood that SAPS was dealing with the matter but that there was an extreme backlog in the system.

Mr M George (COPE) asked about the difference between stolen and recovered firearms, he asked if the members of the SAPS understood Standing Orders. He also wanted to know why they bought more firearms for recruits instead of simply taking from the stockpile, which was overflowing as it was anyway.

General Malekole Rasegkatle said that the police had been trained on Standing Orders. He did say that there had to be consequences when the police failed to do things that they were supposed to do.

Mr Groenewald mentioned that in the military a soldier was trained and taught to respect and guard his firearm like his wife. There was a discipline problem within the SAPS when it came to handling firearms. He asked about the number of lost R5 Rifles, a lot of those rifles were used by criminals in cash-in-transit robberies. He asked what was done to discipline policemen and women who had lost their firearms. He would also like to know how many had been charged with criminal negligence for losing their firearms. Finally he also asked how many SAPS officers had not yet fulfilled the required competency certificate.

Mr. Ramatlakane (COPE) felt strongly that the more than 15 000 firearms not recovered out of the 20 000 that were stolen, could be in criminal hands. He also wanted to know why there seemed to be a lack of charges against police losing their firearms.

The Chairperson said that the delegation was promising to improve things. How would they go about it at the police station level. In December 2010 the Committee had visited one police station where 87 firearms had been stolen. She said that the presentation was full of discrepancies and really had not helped them all that much. She was baffled by the fact that the SAPS members that had lost their firearms were not punished at all. The Section 13 stores where SAPS kept the discarded guns handed in by the public, were a mess. She asked when they would see the issue of firearms taken seriously by SAPS officials and officers. Provincial Commanders and Station Commanders should not continue with their jobs if they were unable to account for the firearms.

Deputy National Commissioner, Martha Stander, said that Station Commanders were required to submit a certificate stating safety measures for the safety of the stores. As for the stations that had been found to  greatly lack storage, the station commander had to submit a certificate to indicate what measures they had put in place to address the shortcomings. This mechanism was followed up by a visit by the provincial management to investigate whether this measure had indeed been put in place.
General Kruser explained the Board of Inquiry would look at improving work around the control of firearms and the management of the Section 13 Stores.

Mr. V Ndlovu (ANC) asked for the names of the people appointed to the Board of Inquiry by the National Commissioner and how many there would be.

General Kruser explained that the appointees were Chairperson of the Board, Brigadier Sutton, Colonel Manganyi from Visible Policing, Brigadier Gouws of Forensic Science, Brigadier Malapo of Detective Services, Brigadier Dube of Personnel Services and Brigadier Adilam of Human Resources. The composition of this board was put together in such a way that it could help to improve the overall efficiency of stations. The board would be able to call anyone to appear before them. They would be able to highlight cases under investigation and ask questions about, for example, why a case was taking so long to be resolved. There was also a system and database being developed, that once every gun had been marked and pinned, they would be able to access the database and track a firearm to its station and it user. But he reiterated this was under development. When it came to their number of firearms, more specifically handguns, they felt their stockpile was adequate. They would be testing the functionality of the stored weapons to see if they could still be used. As he had mentioned, the IBIS testing would be done separately by Supply Chain Management to take it out of the hands of the forensics sections to speed up the process.

Mr. G Schneenman said that poor training resulted in an ill disciplined police. He also wanted to know what had happened in the cases they had mentioned in the presentation of the inadequate storage of firearms. Who had been held accountable for this? Firearms were fatal especially when guns were moving from hand to hand without anyone accounting for them.

Deputy National Commissioner Stander said that she would forward written responses to Members’ questions at a later stage. She acknowledged that there was no proper control of the SAPS 13 stores.

General Rasegkatle replied that there was a serious problem in the control of firearms at police stations. The upgrading of records was another problem. They were rolling out a system of complete registration of SAPS weapons. It had already been implemented in a handful of stations and would hopefully be fully functioning in three years time. The system would allow instantaneous access from say the head office to check individual stations weapon statuses nationwide. He did regret that he did not have more detailed information on the system at this time as IT was not his branch of expertise.

Ms Van Wyk said that she could not understand why the amnesty firearms had not been destroyed.

The brigadier replied that the destruction of the amnesty firearms would commence in May and it would start in Gauteng.

The Chairperson reminded the delegation to forward the documents about the role of the Board of Inquiry and the other information on time. People who came to present to the Committee ill prepared “smacked of ill discipline”. She said that the Committee expected the SAPS to submit their Strategic Plan on 9 March 2011.

The meeting was adjourned.

Appendix 1 Minister’s Reply to MP’s Question

Date reply submitted: 15 December 2010
3403.    Mr M M Swathe (DA) to ask the Minister of Police:
Mr M M Swathe (DA) to ask the Minister of Police:
(1) If records are available of the number of (a) R4 and (b) AK47 rifles that were reported as (i) missing or (ii) stolen from the SA Police Service (SAPS) during the latest period of 12 months for which information is available; if not, why not; if so, how many (aa) R4 and (bb) AK47 rifles that were reported (aaa) missing or (bbb) stolen from the SAPS;
(2) If any investigations into the theft of R4 and AK47 rifles from the SAPS have been conducted; if not, why not; if so, what was the outcome in each case?

(1) This information is not available on a central electronic database. In order to provide the requested information every police station will have to manually check its SAPS 13 stores registers. This information will also have to be verified for correctness and completeness. This process represents a significant administrative burden that may impact on SAPS service delivery.
(2) When firearms have been reported as lost or stolen from the SAPS 13 stores, a criminal case is opened and investigated. However, the information captured on the Crime Administration System (CAS) will only reflect ‘theft of firearm”. A physical docket analysis needs to be conducted for each case in order to obtain detailed information with regard to whether the particular firearm was reported as lost/stolen from a SAPS 13 Store.
There is no specific crime code on the CAS that indicates theft from the SAPS 13 Stores


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