Phiyega vows to clamp down on illegal gun trade

Over 9,000 guns were destroyed today with Phiyega and senior police leadership overseeing the process.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and a number of senior officers oversaw the destruction of over 4,000 guns on 16 January, 2015. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega says she is working with her counterparts from South Africa's neighbouring countries to stem the flow of illegal weapons into the country and says there is serious concern about the sale of illegal high-powered weapons.

Phiyega says well over 700 guns were reported by officers as stolen in the past year and has warned that she will not hesitate to act against those who sell their service pistols to criminals.

Over 9,000 guns were destroyed in Vereeniging today with Phiyega and senior police leadership overseeing the process.

"At some stage we were losing 40,00 firearms per year. Where we find that there is negligence or any form of criminality, I assure the nation we shall not hesitate to take action against officers."

Yesterday, the Ekurhuleni Metro Police were involved in a shootout with suspected illegal miners in Benoni who opened fire on the officers with AK-47s.

No one was arrested in the confrontation as the group fled back to an abandoned mine dump and went underground.

Phiyega said this raises questions about their access to such weapons.

She said police chiefs in the Southern African Development Community have agreed to basic terms of cooperation to clamp down on the illegal gun trade which she described as a developed market in South Africa.

"We as police chiefs have agreed to collaborate."

Meanwhile, National Union of Mineworkers General Secretary Frans Baleni says illegal miners don't have safety standards which poses a serious risk.

"Our biggest fear is a major disaster underground."

Gauteng Police Commissioner Lesetja Mothiba said there's also been an increase in the number of miners arming themselves due to turf wars over abandoned shafts.

Mothiba claims most of the people who go underground have weapons.

The commissioner says a widespread investigation conducted over the past five years will soon reveal who is behind the syndicates.

South Africa's high unemployment rate and the influx of illegal immigrants have been cited as some of the factors contributing to increased activities of illegal mining.