In recent weeks, Capetonians have voiced their anger at the discovery of the illegal sale of firearms to gangs of the Cape Flats. The case laid to rest a three-year investigation that culminated in the conviction of ex-policeman Chris Prinsloo and the subsequent arrest of a 41-year-old Cape Town businessman, Irshaad Laher.
The 55-year-old ex-policeman was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the sale of firearms, which were meant to be destroyed, and subsequently ended a plea and sentence agreement with the state. In his agreement, Prinsloo confessed to allegedly selling weapons to a Cape Town businessman who supplied guns to gangsters in Cape Town. The State ordered Prinsloo to repay R1.2 million of the approximate R2 million that he raked in the sale of the weapons. Laher was granted bail on R100, 000 and his trail is scheduled to begin on July 22, 2016.
Speaking to VOC News, Western Cape deputy police commissioner, general Jeremy Vearey explains that in the three-year investigation, quite a substantial chain of firearms, which were supplied to gangs within the Cape Flats and other conflict areas within the country, was discovered.
The firearms in question include the voluntarily surrendered firearms from private citizens, law enforcement officials, and army officials.
“The bulk of the firearms were firearms that were handed in for replacement by the police, the army, Eskom and other parastatals.”
The illegal sale of guns included unlicensed firearms where the owner was known and unknown and homemade firearms.
He says that where ownership of the firearm was unknown the unit, with the assistance of ballistics, was able to identify which officers sold them.
“In all those processors, we are able to ballistically test forearms to ensure that it is not linked to crimes and then sending it out. But if before we are able to do this, the firearms are altered in a manner where its identity is entirely changed, as was the case with colonel Prinsloo. Without specialist, identifying the linkage is quite difficult,” Vearey continued.
He says that with the assistance of ballistics, the guns were traced to a location in Silverton and the particular officers involved in the illegal sale of guns over the past few years.
Since 2010, this case is considered the largest single source of illegal guns to sell to gangs and conflict areas.
“It was in the areas of Hanover Park, Manenberg, and Lavender Hill in this period that we had prolific gang violence. So, [the illegal sale of guns] fuelled the conflict.
In light of Prinsloo’s involvement, Vearey asserts that a thorough study of the possible mismanagement of the Gauteng police force needs to be investigated.
He says that the management failure, which gave rise to this level of corruption, needs to be investigated.
“Are we talking about corruption by opportunists like Prinsloo, or are we talking about something systemic – something by design, in terms of management failures that enable this type of corruption,” he added.
Vearey confirmed that while he is unable to comment on cases currently under investigation, this particular case does include weapons that extend to military weaponry.
Though this is considered the single largest source of an illegal sale of weaponry currently in existence, he says that other sources are under investigation.
Vearey says that apprehending individuals involved in organised crime will prevent gangs from perpetuating violence within communities.
“It’s useless picking up one gun here and another there, we need to track these things in order to expose the organized criminals involved, since they have the infrastructure to supply these things much more consistently and in a much more organised manner…This is by no means finished!”