Navy in stormy waters as weapons, equipment get stolen
Charged with defending the country’s coastline, the SA navy appears powerless to thieves that are carrying away weapons, ammunition and vital equipment needed to communicate with naval vessels.
In the latest incident, two soldiers from the navy’s rapid reaction unit are in hot water after allegedly getting drunk on duty, which led to their R5 assault rifles being taken from them.
This follows an incident in January, reported on by City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, during which antennae and copper cables at the defence force’s joint tactical headquarters at Silvermine in Cape Town were carried away by thieves without the guards noticing.
The theft was only discovered when communication with the frigate SAS Amatola was temporarily lost.
The navy’s communication centre is located at Silvermine and handles all communication and emergency broadcasts from navy ships and air force aircraft in southern parts of the country.
The naval base at Simon’s Town is responsible for guarding Silvermine, and the reaction unit is also stationed at this base.
Last year, the navy’s ammunition depot at Simon’s Town was broken into and various weapons, ammunition and hand grenades were stolen.
This incident, as well as the theft of the two R5 rifles, took place over weekends.
Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, defence force spokesperson, said the two soldiers who had their R5 rifles taken appeared in a military court in Cape Town this week. The defence force has also established its own board of inquiry into the incident.
The Hawks in the Western Cape are now investigating what has become of the weapons and an unknown amount of ammunition.
Captain Lloyd Ramovha, spokesperson for the Hawks in the Western Cape, confirmed they were involved in the investigation, amid fears that the weapons may find their way to Western Cape gangs.
“This investigation is separate to any previous probe we’ve conducted into thefts and break-ins at the navy. We’re investigating to see where the weapons fit into the bigger picture of illegal firearms in the underworld,” he said. According to Ramovha, nobody has yet been taken into custody in connection with the incident.
Last year, Duncan Gouvias (22), Dilian Sewkumar (18) and Karabo Ramokgopa (19) were apprehended in connection with the theft at the ammunition depot after they tried to sell the weaponry on social media.
Mgobozi confirmed that military police were still investigating the theft of targets in a separate incident at the army gymnasium in Heidelberg.
The frames of 15 of its 20 targets were stolen over the past two weeks, ostensibly to be sold as scrap metal.
Mgobozi said the theft had not had an effect on the training of recruits.
– Erika Gibson