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A police officer attached to the Directorate for Priority Investigations (Hawks) in Polokwane has been charged with contravening the Firearms Control Act.
The 43-year-old was labelled as negligent following the death of his 13-year-old nephew, who allegedly shot himself with his uncle’s official firearm at Shayandima, in Thohoyandou, on Monday.
The police said the child reportedly found his uncle’s firearm, a 9mm Z88 service pistol, which he had reportedly left in the room, and shot himself in the head. He died instantly.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, SAPS Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the officer, who cannot be named until he appears in court, could lose his job and firearm if investigations prove he was negligent and contravened the Firearm Control Act.
Mojapelo said the officer “is believed to have left his gun unlocked in his bedroom while he went to buy something at the shops, which is negligence if proven to be true”.
He said investigations were still under way.
An internal SAPS disciplinary hearing would also be held.
The Firearm Control Act reads, in part: “When a firearm is not under the direct personal and physical control of a holder of a licence, authorisation or permit to possess the firearm, the firearm and its ammunition must be stored in a safe or a strongroom that conforms to the prescripts of the SABS standard 953-1 and 953-2, unless otherwise specifically …”
Mojalefa said it was not clear whether the shooting was an accident or if the boy had intended to kill himself.
“A case of inquest has also been opened and police investigations are continuing.”
Provincial SAPS commissioner Lieutenant-General Thembi Hadebe condemned police officers who did not adhere to the law on firearm safety.
“(A) firearm may not be kept anywhere except in a locked safe or carried in a holster that is worn by or attached to the person of the holder when it is not in use.
“The member will then be dealt with accordingly,” said Hadebe.
Last month, a 9-year-old girl was shot dead while she and two friends were playing with a police officer’s firearm in Mbekweni in Cape Town.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union provincial secretary Hangeani Mashau said: “This is an unfortunate incident that could happen to anyone, whether you are in law enforcement or you are a private citizen.”
To prevent such tragedies, he said, “all that has to happen is for people to adhere to safety measures all the time”.