15 July 2013
Two senior police officers have been suspended following a wide-ranging investigation into corruption in South Africa’s Central Firearm Registry, the police confirmed on Monday.
The suspensions follow recent media reports alleging corruption after an ex-employee at a gun shop said that he bribed officers at the registry in order to fast-track the issuing of gun licences.
South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesman Solomon Makgale said that Mathapelo Mangwane, a section head at the registry, and Hlamane Mahlabane, a section head for firearm compliance, had been suspended from duty as of Monday for their involvement in corrupt activities.
Another employee, an administration clerk, has been issued with a letter of intention to suspend her and had been given until Wednesday to make representation as to why she should not be suspended.
“This is extremely disappointing, as the people who have been suspended are the ones who were given the responsibility of cleaning up the Central Firearm Registry, with the clear objective of eliminating all corrupt activities,” Makgale said.
“Now they stand accused of the very same thing that they were employed to stamp out.”
Investigations are continuing and the possibility of disciplinary as well as criminal action against other employees could not be ruled out, Makgale said.
Applications for new and renewed firearm licences are made at police stations in South Africa, with renewals being finalised at provincial level while new licences and competency certificates are finalised at the Central Firearms Registry in Pretoria.
Over the past year, criminal cases involving corruption have been instituted against eight members of the SAPS’s Firearm, Liquor and Second Hand Goods unit, which is responsible for approving and issuing firearm licences.
To date, one employee has been convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment suspended for 10 years. He was dismissed from the SAPS. Court cases against the other seven accused employees, as well as two civilians, are pending. It is anticipated that more arrests will take place in the near future.
These investigations have prompted Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to set up a committee to probe the practices of certain allegedly unscrupulous firearms dealers.
This inquiry is under way and includes looking into those dealers who are not complying with the Firearms Control Act, as well as those possibly colluding with staff at the Central Firearm Registry.
Any person with information on these and other cases of fraud and corruption is urged to make a report using of the Corruption Hotline number 0800 701 701, or to make an anonymous tip-off via the Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or the Crime Line number 32211 for anonymous text messages.