Bomb – Shock : Our Weapons Are Unattended
The Northern Cape’s 175 bunkers forms the ‘red zone’ and is part of a larger military base. The perimeter fence around the depot is 14 km long and 3m high. Each of the bunkers is 60 meters long , 30 meters wide and 30 meters deep .
Three of the SA Army ‘s largest ammunition depots , including the biggest one of its kind in the Southern hemisphere, is largely unattended .
This could enable terrorists and other criminals to steal bombs and explosives with the same ease as a thief steals candy from a hypermarket a security specialist with 20 years experience in the monitoring of national key points, told Rapport last week.
The suspension of several Government contracts by the Department of Public Works (DOW) in the aftermath of the Hawks’ investigation into misappropriation at Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home, is probably one of the reasons that for 18 months, no contract exists for the three depots.
The largest depot is in the Northern Cape (Rapport withheld the exact location on legal advice) and the sub-depots are situated North of Kimberley, near Polokwane in Limpopo.
All three are just guarded by a few military guards and a new security contract, according to the Army, has yet to be negotiated. The largest depot in the North Cape is of most concern.
“The gates are open, the security cameras do not work and the boom at the main entrance was flattened by someone. Anyone can drive in and help themselves,” says Vossie Vosloo who was a Sergeant-Major for more than 20 years at that location.
For several years thereafter, he worked with a Security Company that was awarded the contract to guard the depot.
“That place is like a hypermarket for anyone who needs explosives for any terrorist attack. There is everything from aircraft to ships bombs,” he said.
“The electric fence has been turned off. I can go there now, cut a hole in the fence, drive into the bunkers and help myself to anything from bombs to sharp point ammunition. No one will even notice.”
At all three depots, the sophisticated biometrical security system of R8 million which was installed shortly before the contract was finally terminated in 2014, is now obsolete.
LS Turnkey who specializes in high-tech security measures was awarded the Government tender and since 1993 monitored the main depot. It was the company that did the modernization of safety aspects, just to be told shortly thereafter that their contract was terminated.
The contract was financed by the Army, but was managed by the DOW and only amounted to approximately R1-million a year. This, however, included five highly trained security officers, under which Vosloo, who guarded the ammunition day and night to ensure that nothing got stolen.
The depot was always a national key point, but about two years ago it was downgraded to a place of national importance.
However, there are still 175 partly underground magazines over an area the size of 29 football fields that are filled to the brim with ammunition.
Some of the unused magazines contain less dangerous, outdated ammunition and are sealed because the content cannot be used safely.
According to Rudolph de Beer, CEO of LS Turnkey, in Port Elizabeth, the Army’s contract’s money was shifted to ‘contracts with higher preference’.
“I wrote a letter to the DOW and General Solly Shoke, Chief of the Army, and informed them that I will be turning off all the electrified fences and security systems
“Special changes were made to the security legislation regarding this depot, which allowed us to electrify barbed wire because of the huge size of the area.”
“According to occupational safety legislation only qualified and specially trained people may , therefore, operate the system operates it could shock people to death,” says De Beer.
“I have legally complied with all regulations, by turning everything off and also informed the Army. Any further decisions now rest with the military authorities.”
According to Vosloo, who is now keeping himself occupied with drudgery since the contract was terminated, says that base personnel was given instructions to switch on the electrified fence.
“It is not just a questions of just switching it on. The grass near the fence has not been cut for months and the system operates with a set of very complicated codes. Furthermore, there are no generators that can provide constant electricity when there are power cuts.”
“People will die if they just turn it on.”
According to him, the boom at the main gate was flattened, so the few guards at the gate now also have to guard the depot.
Previously, the depot fell into the “red zone” where only a few approved staff were allowed.