More than 5 300 firearms have been lost or stolen from police stations and offices around the country over the past two years.
According to a written reply by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to a parliamentary question, just over a tenth of these have been recovered.
The minister said he had asked the Civilian Secretariat for Police to investigate the losses.
A table included in the reply shows 2 603 firearms were lost or stolen in the past financial year (2009/10), and 2 759 the year before.
A total of 457 of the firearms that disappeared over the two-year period went missing from police head office in Pretoria.
238% increase in KZN
A breakdown of the missing firearms by province shows the number of firearms lost or stolen in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga soared over the past year.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the figure leapt from 353 in 2008/09, to 840 last year (2009/10), an increase of about 238%. In Mpumalanga, police last year managed to lose or have stolen more than three times the number of firearms than the year before (364 compared to 120).
The Eastern Cape showed an improvement. Police in the province lost or had stolen 1 095 firearms in 2008/09. Last year, a total of 613 went missing.
Mthethwa said in his reply that 290 firearms were recovered during 2008/09, and a further 275 last year (2009/10).
Action had been taken against 56 police officers, of whom 33 had been found guilty in disciplinary inquiries.
“As minister of police, I have repeatedly stated that we are serious about ensuring that the Saps takes greater responsibility for the loss of firearms by [its] members.
“To this end, I have asked the Civilian Secretariat for Police to look into the matter.
“The department will be putting in place a number of processes to ensure police officers are held responsible for such loss of weapons,” he said.
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