The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) officers who were arrested following a joint investigation by the Military Police and the Gauteng branch of the Hawks National Priority Violent Crimes (NPVC) after eighteen R4 rifles and three pistols went missing from SA Army Engineer Formation, Tek Base in Lyttelton have been granted bail.
According to a joint statement released by the SANDF and the Hawks, two suspects – Lance Corporal Sidwel Babini Tyawana, 36 and Sapper Tumelo Christian Mangale, 28 – were granted bail by a Court of Senior Military Judge on Wednesday, 22 April 2020.
The pair were arrested separately earlier this year for allegedly stealing rifles from the base following a joint investigation. Tyawana was arrested in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, on 3 February and Mangale was arrested while on duty at SA Army Engineer Formation two days later on 5 February.
According to the SANDF, the joint investigation discovered that the stolen firearms were hidden, while others were sold to different individuals, particularly in the East Rand area.
Following leads, another suspect, Kgotso Mooketsi, 36, who is an employee of the department of education in Gauteng who was out on bail for an unrelated armed robbery case, was arrested in Springs in possession of an R4 rifle and three empty magazines.
Mooketsi, was charged and appeared at the Springs Magistrate Court in February and April respectively. He was remanded in custody pending his next court appearance on 04 May 2020.
“A relentless pursuit by the joint investigations team led them to Daveyton where a further thirteen R4 rifles and a 9mm pistol were recovered. Another firearm, a 9mm pistol, was recovered in a veld in Kwa-Thema. The recovered firearms were sent for ballistic testing in Pretoria.”
The two suspects, who are still under the employ of the SANDF, are expected back in court at Thaba-Tshwane on 17 June 2020.
The efforts of the joint investigation team were lauded by national head of the DPCI Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, who urged them not to rest until the remaining unaccounted firearms are recovered and asked that they make sure that everyone involved is brought to book.
SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke, also commended the swift action of the joint investigations team and reiterated that the military is not the place for criminals and that those found committing crime “will be dealt with through the full might of the law”.