A farm worker found a stockpile of ammunition in an open veld in North West while looking for prickly pears on New Year’s Day.
According to a police official, the ammunition, which includes 44 R5 rounds, 58 R1 rounds, three 9mm rounds, two R5 magazines and 28 weapon-mounted launchers, appears to be of military origin, although ballistic tests are still to be conducted.
This comes just two weeks after 19 R4 rifles vanished from an SA National Defence Force base in Centurion.
City Press’ sister publication Rapport last week reported that the head of military intelligence had instructed all army units throughout the country to conduct urgent audits of their arsenals.
It was shortly after 5pm when I saw the ammunition by a small pile of rocks. I saw magazines that were sticking out of the ground.
The audits were supposed to be finalised by Monday, but defence force spokesperson Mafi Ngobozi said this had not been possible because the audits had to be conducted by hand, not computers.
The find in North West, on a farm near Valleifontein, close to Mahikeng, appears to have been buried for some time before being discovered by 39-year-old Shimane Moremede on Wednesday.
“It was shortly after 5pm when I saw the ammunition by a small pile of rocks. I saw magazines that were sticking out of the ground. That’s when I phoned the police using a friend’s cellphone. The police came to fetch it the next day.”
Adele Myburgh, North West police spokesperson, said the ammunition was wrapped in three ammunition bags that were already torn as a result of being underground for a while, possibly up to 10 years. The police had to dig the ammo out of the ground.
Meanwhile, there is still no sign of the R4 rifles that went missing from Centurion.
The 10 military personnel who were on duty at the time were immediately arrested when the rifles were discovered to be missing on December 23. Another two men were later arrested.
The defence force has asked the police and the Hawks to assist with the search.
On Friday morning, while the military court was sitting at Air Force Base Swartkop, the Hawks conducted a search at the house of one of the accused in Hammanskraal.
Earlier reports that the weapons had been found were false.
Military prosecutor Lieutenant-Colonel Motale Mogale, on Friday admitted that investigators did not know when the weapons had disappeared.
“It is possible that the weapons were stolen before December 23,” he said.
The theft was discovered during a routine inspection at Lyttleton Tek base.
The accused were released on bail and will appear in court again on March 10.