Navy in stormy wa­ters as weapons, equip­ment get stolen

CityPress - - News -

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

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