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SAPS IN CRISIS

Cop arrest and transfer after repeat ‘missing’ guns scandal at Cape Town gang hotspot police station

Cop arrest and transfer after repeat ‘missing’ guns scandal at Cape Town gang hotspot police station
Guns on display at a press conference. (Photo: EPA / Andrew Gombert)

A Cape Town police station head faces accusations of failing to ensure the proper control of firearms after 15 of them could not be accounted for. Worryingly, it is not the first time that a problem involving guns, suspected cop failings and the same police station have cropped up.

Another scandal involving “missing” firearms and the Mitchells Plain police station in Cape Town is developing – and cops are in the firing line again.

The station is in a suburb where gang violence is prevalent.

In the latest saga it has emerged that 15 firearms linked to it effectively went missing, presumably in November 2023.

A South African Police Service (SAPS) officer has been arrested in connection with the case, and Brigadier Jan Alexander, who was the head of police in Mitchells Plain, has been temporarily transferred to lead another station in Cape Town.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police are still arming criminals, despite ‘plans’ to stop the scourge

According to the SAPS, Alexander’s move is part of a broader plan that is in the interest of service delivery.

Alexander declined to comment to Daily Maverick on Monday, 18 March 2024.

Past cover-up concerns

About seven years ago, 15 handguns went missing from the Mitchells Plain police station’s community service centre, and a group of SAPS officers faced extreme action including suspensions and dismissals, but they were all later cleared.

It has been suggested that those officers were being framed and were “fall guys” as part of a cover-up to protect other cops.

What makes the new scandal particularly messy, aside from the same police station being linked to apparent underhanded gun issues, is that the SAPS does not appear to have proactively alerted the public to the fact that firearms could not be accounted for – and these could have been used in crimes.

This is especially concerning since the Western Cape is South Africa’s gangsterism capital and parts of Mitchells Plain are gang hotspots.

Last week, News24 reported that one person had been killed and nine others were wounded there in two shootings that occurred hours apart.

This month police also announced that officers targeting unlicensed firearms and ammunition “came under attack” in Mitchells Plain.

Fifteen guns and an arrested cop 

News about the latest 15 firearms linked to Mitchells Plain started surfacing via the media in January 2024.

In February the DA’s Ockert Terblanche submitted parliamentary questions to Police Minister Bheki Cele about the firearms that “were allegedly used during the commitment of serious crimes”.

At the end of February, in response, Cele said a police officer “took 15 firearms and eight imitation firearms to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) Plattekloof for analysis; however the firearms were not booked in at the FSL and the acknowledgment receipt from the FSL was not returned to the Mitchells Plain Police station.”

This suggests the firearms were exhibits removed from the Mitchells Plain station and were meant to have been taken to the forensic science laboratory for testing but that they may not have arrived there.

Cele said a criminal case had been registered, and a police officer (he did not specify from where or which station) had been arrested and charged.

The Cape Argus named the officer as Detective Constable Lubabalo Malongwe, who was stationed in Mitchells Plain.

That officer made a first court appearance at the end of November 2023.

“Both criminal and internal investigations are pending,” Cele said in his response to Terblanche.

“The details of the investigation and court proceedings cannot be divulged as it may compromise the integrity of the outcome.”

Controls under scrutiny

Meanwhile, Daily Maverick has established that Alexander, who headed the Mitchells Plain police station since December 2022, has been accused of failing to secure the firearms, as well as submitting false inspection certificates relating to the storage of firearms.

@ricardomackenzie Today I welcome @SAPoliceService Brigadier Jan Alexander to Mitchell’s Plain Station. He brings a wealth of Crime fighting experience.   We will work with him in combating  crime in this area.  Our @SAPoliceService needs all the help they can get in combatting crime. #visitmitchellsplain ♬ Not Afraid – Eminem

In January 2024, the Plainsman community newspaper referenced the missing firearms issue, and quoted Alexander as saying: “The guns have not yet been recovered. The anti-corruption unit is investigating the case and it is premature for me to say anything further.”

He had also said the firearms had not been stolen from the police station.

In January it was also reported that Mitchells Plain residents held a protest about the firearms and called for those meant to have been in control of the guns to be held to account.

According to an official SAPS report relating to alleged misconduct, dated 21 February 2024 and which Daily Maverick has seen, it was alleged that for a period between 2022 and 2023, Alexander may have contravened a regulation.

It boiled down to him allegedly failing in his duty “by not ensuring the sufficient control over firearm exhibits that resulted in firearms [and] ammunition that could not be accounted for”.

An alternative to that charge was that he effectively failed to prevent exhibit firearms and ammunition “from being stolen between Mitchells Plain exhibit store and the Forensic Science Laboratory”.

The document said media reports about the scandal had a negative impact on the SAPS.

‘Temporary transfer’

Daily Maverick has seen another SAPS communication, dated 12 March 2024, which states that the Western Cape police commissioner decided to temporarily transfer Alexander pending the finalisation of a disciplinary hearing.

It said he allegedly committed misconduct “by submitting false” inspection certificates.

Alexander, the document said, was to be temporarily placed at Cape Town’s Bellville police station as acting station commander.

Daily Maverick understands that this has caused concern among some individuals linked to law enforcement who are worried about what the public will think of a policeman, under scrutiny for a matter that feeds into broader gun problems affecting the SAPS, heading a police station.

Asked about what had happened to Alexander, Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa responded to Daily Maverick on Friday without naming him.

Management changes

“In the interest of service delivery and out of consideration for the ever-changing sphere of policing, the management of the SAPS in the Western Cape has recently effected changes to the leadership of several police stations in the province,” she said.

“The movement of personnel which is in the process of being presented to the affected communities and stakeholders was part of a management monitoring and evaluation process of police stations that are at the core of servicing communities.

“It is hoped that the movement of personnel will be embraced in main, for the longer-term benefits (including crime reduction) it is envisaged to bring about to several policing precincts.”

Potelwa added: “It is also worth mentioning that the replacement of the station commander of Mitchells Plain falls within this process referred to above.”

She did not refer to the firearms matter linked to that police station.

Repeat scandal

It is not the first time the Mitchells Plain police station has been the focus of firearms issues.

Daily Maverick previously reported on how 15 handguns went missing from the station’s community service centre between April and August 2017.

Five police officers were dismissed over that, while Brigadier Cass Goolam, who was once the station’s commander, was suspended.

The five, as well as Goolam, were subsequently cleared of wrongdoing. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Charl Kinnear assassination crops up in Cape Town police missing guns scandal

A Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council arbitration award relating to the five officers had stated: “It has become a norm that there are allegations that senior officers are… involved in underworld activities… 

“It is a worrying factor that senior police officers are involved in these shenanigans instead of protecting, combating and preventing crimes, as required by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.”

Hitlist

The arbitration award document also said the September 2020 murder of detective Charl Kinnear outside his Cape Town home may have been linked to the Mitchells Plain missing firearms saga.

Kinnear was previously stationed at the Mitchells Plain police station.

At the time of his murder he was part of the Western Cape Anti-Gang Unit and had been investigating fellow officers in Gauteng in relation to firearm matters.

As for Goolam, he retired in October 2022.

The arbitration finding against the five other officers had also referenced him. It said Goolam had been on a hitlist – as had Kinnear – because he was disrupting firearm smuggling chains. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Random Comment says:

    The cops scare me almost as much as the criminals.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    And these are the people in charge of managing civilian access to firearms.

  • T Mac says:

    “Brigadier Jan Alexander, who was the head of police in Mitchells Plain, has been temporarily transferred to lead another station in Cape Town.” – There’s your problem right there. Not held accountable.

    “About seven years ago, 15 handguns went missing from the Mitchells Plain police station’s community service centre, and a group of SAPS officers faced extreme action including suspensions and dismissals, but they were all later cleared.” – And again.

    Only when the repercussions for crime are worse than the crime itself, will criminals be deterred.
    Only when criminals believe they have a good chance of being caught, will they be deterred.
    FAT CHANCE with the current cadres!
    The police used to be respected – even feared – because they were so effective.
    These days they are a joke, and we have to rely on private companies.
    Cry the beloved country indeed!

  • John Smythe says:

    Again. I give up. How does one fight criminal incompetence?

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Logistics are easy(booked out,booked back) Daily inspection ,how do you not pick it up?

  • Ilse L says:

    “It has become a norm that there are allegations that senior officers are… involved in underworld activities… ”

    Hmmmmm… I wonder who tried to expose this 10 plus years ago, but was instead set up and kicked out of SAPS and charged with a bogus corruption charge that even the judge admitted she only did because she was under pressure….

    Oh well…. It is what it is I suppose🤔

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