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Penwell Dlamini

Penwell Dlamini

This year's "Operation Rachel" was one of the best ever because it intensified community involvement in disarming Mozambicans for a safer Southern Africa.

The 13-year-old operation held its 27th edition of weapons destruction in the little town of Bilene Macia on the Mozambican coast.

The initiative is coordinated by the SA Police Service and its Mozambican counterpart. It destroys weapons left in that country from a 20 years war.

It was named "Rachel" after a police personal assistant who was involved in the operation.

The weapons are collected by Mozambican police in their country. Residents identify the weapons and inform the police.

Some weapons are destroyed where they are found because they are too dangerous to transport.

"Operation Rachel" has destroyed 52000 guns since it started.

This year's operation was unique in that all the firearms collected were registered and a data system developed to verify if the guns had been used in crimes in South Africa.

It took three weeks to collect the arms after they had been placed at police stations. It had taken almost a year to collect the weapons.

The weapons included 1518 assault rifles, 1160 commercial rifles, 2302 shotguns, 913 pistols, 149 revolvers, 367 home-made guns, 386 air guns and three muzzle loaders. Guns totalled 6708. There were also 852 handgrenades, 739 mortar bombs, 17 mortar launchers, 206 detonators, seven million rounds of ammunition and 4040 different types of magazines.

It took 30 police officers more than an hour to load the weapons into 19 vans and a truck.

The weapons were put in a six-metre deep hole. It took eight hours for the weapons to be properly laid out together with 4000kg of explosives.

SAPS divisional commissioner in visible policing, Arno Lamoer, said: "We are happy that this year local communities were more involved than before. Destroying guns from Mozambique means a safer Southern Africa."