The DA will write to the parliamentary portfolio committee on police to request an urgent summons of the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, as well as the National Police Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, regarding the 158 firearms that were stolen from the evidence store at the Norwood police station in Johannesburg. One of these stolen firearms was used to kill a police officer during a shoot-out with suspects.
While the DA welcomes the identification and charging of three senior South African Police Service (SAPS) officials regarding the case, the fact that these weapons were allowed to land in the hands of criminals shows the complete disarray of SAPS in general and the Central Firearm Register in particular.
The committee charged the Minister and Commissioner to develop an urgent turn-around strategy which is supposed to be at the implementation phase, and we now need to know the exact details and timeframe of the implementation. We also need to know the status of the investigation into the stolen firearms and the officers responsible for the theft.
The shocking state of the registry was revealed on an oversight visit last year. Stacks upon stacks of unprocessed administrative forms were piled high on every available surface and littered passageways. No wonder that only 4% (2 059 out of 50 962) of applications received during the 2019–2020 amnesty period had been finalized, or that a mere 0.92% (280 out of 30 356) of applications received during the 2020-2021 amnesty period had been processed.
This is not only an administrative headache, but puts the safety of the public in terrible danger. SAPS is supposed to protect the public and keep them from harm’s way. They are supposed to instil a sense of peace and security. But in this country, more often than not, SAPS instils fear and untrustworthiness. This can only be laid at the feet of Minister Cele, General Sitole, and officers like the those responsible for the theft at Norwood. Their incompetence, greed and disregard for the law put citizens and fellow police officers at risk and muddies the good name of officials trying to protect South Africans.