Who's stockpiling weapons stolen from naval base - and why?

28 July 2016 - 08:26 By GRAEME HOSKEN

Fears are mounting that weapons - including hand grenades, explosives and heavy- calibre machine guns - stolen from South Africa's biggest naval base - are being stockpiled.Hand grenades, machine guns, pistols and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were stolen when six storerooms at the Simon's Town Naval Base armoury were broken into at the weekend.The burglary was discovered on Monday.Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato said there had been two other burglaries at the base, between March and April.The police say they know nothing of the earlier burglaries.The base is a national key point.Other than a brief statement confirming the "loss of various types of military equipment", SANDF spokesman Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga failed to respond to detailed questions on the burglaries.Captain Lloyd Ramovha, Western Cape Hawks spokesman, said a housebreaking and theft case was being investigated.The military took flak this month when Rapport newspaper revealed that security contracts for five of the country's biggest munitions depots had lapsed because the military failed to pay the contractors.Soldiers guarding Bloemfontein's Tempe military base were attacked in August. Two sentries were robbed of their firearms and ammunition.A military inquiry found them negligent - it was discovered that they had been asleep on duty.Military sources told The Times that, among the weapons and munitions taken in the latest burglary were 77 hand grenades, and Uzi sub-machine guns and R1 rifles."An audit is being conducted. There's a lot missing, including possibly 12.75mm and 20mm machine guns, and explosives other than hand grenades."The area is in lockdown. Military intelligence is working with the Hawks."This is being investigated as a crime against the state," a source at the base said.Researchers and experts have warned of the possibility of weapons being stockpiled.Ben Coetzee, a small-arms researcher, said that, because of the size of some of the weapons reportedly taken, such as the 20mm machine guns, "it's unlikely that they will easily be moved out of the country. The only logical conclusion is that these weapons and munitions are being stockpiled for some purpose".He said that if heavy-calibre weapons such as 20mm machine guns had been taken they were unlikely to be used to commit crimes such as mall robberies."They're heavy and can't be carried by one person. They will possibly be mounted on vehicles and used against armoured cash-in-transit vehicles," Coetzee said.He said the theft was concerning on many levels."First, it is an indication that our security services are being targeted to obtain weapons and that people are successfully obtaining these weapons. It shows the lack of security in protecting these weapons."Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman called for a rigorous inquiry and stepped-up security.Kobus Marais, a DA MP, said the theft was a symptom of a bigger security problem facing the country in terms of protecting its sovereignty."It's not only this attack. Security contracts for the protection of military munitions depots, which are national key points, have lapsed. Weapons and ammunition, both obsolete and current, are lying unprotected because contractors were not paid."This and other burglaries at Simon's Town Naval Base point to a serious flaw in the security of military munitions."Plato said clarity was needed on how criminals not only gained access to the naval base but also to the "highly secure" armoury - and then were able to leave carrying the weapons and ammunition without being detected.Plato said he had received information that other burglaries had taken place at the naval base."The police deny knowledge of these burglaries but we continue to receive information about them and this is [said to be] the third security breach at the base."

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