South African police said Monday that unidentified people broke into the security company premises in Polokwane and stole 18 firearms between Saturday night and early Sunday.
Police said the suspects violently opened the door with an unknown object and stole the firearms along with an unknown amount of ammunition and a computer with a keyboard.
“As we continue to fight violent gun crime, we cannot allow these firearms to fall into the wrong hands,” said Acting Limpopo Provincial Police Commissioner Jan Scheepers, adding that police had initiated the pursuit of suspects.
He noted that they would also investigate whether the firearms were safely insured under the law.
Scheepers appealed to the public to make available to the police any information that could lead to the arrest of the suspects.
In the past, firearms have been stolen and used to commit crimes such as armed robbery.
South Africa’s police force has lost more than 20,000 firearms since 2004, a parliamentary commission has heard.
Parliamentarians who questioned police officers about the losses urged the force to take urgent action against officers who lose their weapons.
They said they feared the guns were falling into the hands of criminals.
South Africa, which has a high rate of violent crime, has struggled over the years to control the number of unlicensed firearms in the country.
Police described the report as “troubling” and attributed the losses to a lack of discipline.
The officials questioned could not say how many policemen had been criminally prosecuted, punished or fired due to losses, as required by law.
Gary Kruser, chief of police procurement services, said 4,810 of those weapons had been recovered in the past seven years.
Committee members said the police were being careless with government-issued weapons.
“I am convinced that many murders are committed with police weapons,” said Diane Kohler Barnard, an opposition deputy for the Democratic Alliance.