Weapons Theft From Military Bases: briefing By SANDF

Defence

02 June 1998
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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE; SAFETY & SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE; SAFETY & SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

3 June 1998

WEAPONS THEFT FROM MILITARY BASES: BRIEFING BY SANDF

Documents handed out:

Press release: Statement by the Minister for Safety & Security, Mr. FS Mufumadi, Bloemfontein, 3 May 1998 (included below as an appendix)

The Deputy Minister of the South African National Defence Force, Mr Ronnie Kasrils, spoke about the incident which took place on the 18 May 1998, when a large amount of weapons and ammunition were stolen. He explained how the incident occurred and detailed the new developments and plan of action for further investigation.

On the 15 and 16 June 1998 large numbers of people attended sports day at Tempe Army Base in Bloemfontein. This resulted in a shortage of guards to man the Tempe Military Base and guard it as most of the soldiers had participated in the sports events. On Sunday 17 May 1998, a guard realized that two gates leading to the Transport Department were broken. However, no vehicle had been stolen. He was therefore not suspicious and did not make any effort to further investigate the matter or even report the matter to his superiors in command. It was only on 18 May 1998, that it was realized that the armory had been broken into. It was discovered that large amounts of ammunition were missing. After this discovery was made, a white Brigadier in charge of the armory disappeared. It was noticed also that the bars of windows at the store had been sawed into.

On 1 June 1998 two soldiers were sent to Lady Brand from Bloemfontein. They were transporting large amounts of weaponry by truck. They were intercepted on the way to Lady Brand and never arrived as scheduled. Lady Brand informed Bloemfontein about the delay and suspicions were aroused. The Joint South African Police Services, Defence Force and Air Force instituted an immediate search for the vehicle. Intelligence commenced investigating the matter and soon discovered that the truck had been ambushed, with most of the weaponry and ammunition missing. The two drivers of the truck were missing. Divers discovered the body of one of the drivers soon after the incident. The other driver's body has not yet been recovered. Three white soldiers have since been arrested in connection with the incident. It was noted that the soldier who had accompanied the two drivers had also disappeared. As a matter of urgency the matter is still undergoing intense investigation as this matter threatens national security.

Three members of the army were arrested on Tuesday 2 June 1998. All of them belong to right-wing organisations. He believes that the incident is a right-wing attepmt to destabilize the country.

In conclusion he informed the committee present that a Board of Inquiry had been instituted specifically for this matter. Further arrests are expected. He also indicated that the Minister of Defence, Mr Joe Modise, had instructed the Defence Force to intensify the security of the ammunition and weaponry stores at the Tempe Army Base.

Appendix 1: PRESS RELEASE

STATEMENT BY THE MINISTER FOR SAFETY & SECURITY,

MR F.S. MUFAMADI, BLOEMFONTEIN, 3 MAY 1998

The South African Police Service in the Free State, in co-operation with the South

African National Defence Force, including the Air Force, and the National

Intelligence Agency have made a major breakthrough in the investigation into the

theft of weapons and ammunition from the SANDF in Bloemfontein.

In a joint operation during the early hours of this morning, police arrested two suspects and recovered a number of weapons which were stolen from the Tempe Army Base two weeks ago. This includes the ammunition that was stolen from an army truck, which was hijacked on Monday.

The weapons that were recovered are still being counted.

Police divers have also recovered the body of one of the two SANDF members who went missing when the truck was hi-jacked. We are not releasing the name of the deceased until his next-of-kin have been informed.

The Head of Detective Services, Assistant Commissioner Manie Schoeman, was directed to instruct the investigators to vigorously oppose bail in the interests of the security of the State and the safety of all our people.

Every effort will be made to ensure that the two suspects are well guarded and secured to prevent any at tempt at escaping.

Due to the sensitivity and nature of this ease, no further information can be made available. The investigation is continuing and more arrests are imminent.

I am releasing this statement in Bloemfontein, where I had the occasion to personally convey a word of gratitude on behalf of the Government to Provincial Commissioner Lieb de Wit and members of all the units that went beyond the call of duty to make this important breakthrough possible.

We also had to opportunity to be shown the body, the weapons, as well as the ammunition that was recovered.

This breakthrough must tell everybody in the country that our people have nothing to fear as there are men and women in our security establishment who are determined to take the war to the criminals and it is this men and women who give our Government and our people reason to be proud of being South Africans.

Tomorrow, I intend tomorrow to brief the Cabinet Committee on Security and Intelligence and to convey to the Ministry of Defence the preliminary impression from the units investigating the matter. This is intended to ensure that as the Ministry of Defence is looking at ways of tightening up on control around arms and ammunition depots, they take into account the insights which our investigators have into this matter.

This experience will also be conveyed to the relevant people in the SAPS so as to safeguard SAPS weapons and ammunition against similar criminal activities.

All the serious crime units of the SAPS , the crime intelligence section and the National Intelligence Agency, were working on this case.

This success is another indicator that good crime intelligence, hard-nosed investigation and tight co-ordination among our various units are the ingredients of success.

This success was also made possible by the support by which the police received by the SANDF and the Air Force.

Issued by Andre Martin, Media Liaison Officer, 082 373 2005

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