In the response to a written parliamentary question that Dr Groenewald directed at the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, it came to light that in 2016 there were a total of 417 incidences of robbery (272) and burglary (145) at the respective military bases.
Thus far, only fourteen of the cases were successfully prosecuted, of these three were cases of burglary and eleven were cases of theft. Not even one person has been successfully prosecuted for the theft of weapons.
A wide variety of items were stolen, but what is especially worrying is the great incidence of the theft of weapons and ammunition during this time. A follow-up question regarding the quantity and types of weapons that were stolen will be submitted to the Minister.
The theft of computer equipment is also prevalent, but the thieves literally plunder everything that they can get their hands on; from food, batteries, petrol, alcohol, cash, bicycles, gardening tools to camping equipment, clothes, car parts, uniforms and even documents.
According to Dr Groenewald, these figures clearly indicate that the SANDF management is failing. He says that it is a direct consequence of Affirmative Action (AA), which has lead to poor training and a lack of discipline.
“What is ironic is that computer equipment, weapons and cash were stolen from the military police, while they are the ones that are supposed to protect the SANDF’s property.
“If the SANDF is not even able to protect its own military bases against theft and plundering, one can rightly question whether it will be able to protect the country and its inhabitants against possible threats,” says Dr Groenewald.
In April this year, rifles were stolen when soldiers were held up during a robbery at a military base in Cape Town.
News24 reported that five armed suspects stormed the 9 South African Infantry Battalion Base, overpowering guards at the gate and stealing their R4 rifles and ammunition.
The attackers overpowered the guards as well as five more soldiers in the armoury guard room and forced them to open a safe.
SA National Defence Force spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi confirmed the robbery but would not give details.
In August last year military equipment, assault rifles and hand grenades were stolen from the Simon’s Town Naval Base.
The Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport reported that four Uzi submachineguns, four R1 assault rifles, an M1 machinegun, 16 ship’s cannon munitions, 72 hand grenades and a pair of mine detonators were found on a smallholding outside Eersterivier, a mixed race suburb, during the investigation.
The special investigation South African police unit, the Hawks, said they made a breakthrough in the case thanks to crime intelligence. Eyewitness News reported Hawks’ spokesperson Lloyd Ramovha saying: “We can confirm that an overnight blitz by the Hawks and crime intelligence has resulted in the arrest of two suspects aged 18 and 26 for their suspected involvement in the naval base burglary over the weekend.” Hawks Head Berning Ntlemeza said hand grenades, firearms and ammunition were recovered. Reports suggested that not all of the equipment had been recovered.
Western Cape provincial community safety MEC Dan Plato told the Daily Voice that he believed law enforcement could not have recovered the stolen items in such a short period of time. “I don’t believe it,” Plato said.
“How can they say they recovered that massive load of equipment so quickly? I hope they are not dangling a carrot in front of people’s noses. It is my understanding that some of those guns are already in gangsters’ hands.”
Plato noted that it had been the third such incident at Naval Base Simon’s Town, which is fleet headquarters, this year. A burglary on March 30 apparently also saw firearms stolen. Media enquiries at that time were not responded to by either the Navy or the SANDF.
The base is a National Key Point, and home to the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT).
The thefts have been ongoing. The SA National Defence Force “lost” 33 000 rounds of ammunition in the financial years 2013/14 and 2014/15. Dozens of firearms went missing in the same period.
Most of the 33 000 missing rounds were allegedly stolen from the Lenz military base south of Johannesburg in April 2013. The Minister’s reply indicates five Indian suspects were arrested and their trial is ongoing in the Lenasia Magistrate’s Court.
Ten 9 mm pistols, a pair of .303 hunting rifles and six R4 assault rifles are included in the list of weapons. Groenewald noted that the weapons and ammunition were “in particular” being used in cash-in-transit heists, shopping mall hold-ups and in farm attacks.