Friday, 08 September 2017 08:11

Parliament Feedback - September 2017

On 1 September the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police met to receive a presentation by senior management of SAPS regarding the progress of and improvement on service delivery at the Central Firearms Registry (CFR). SAGA was, amongst others, also invited to make a presentation. John Welch, Bruce Shaw and Damian Enslin represented SAGA and John Welch gave the presentation, which will soon be accessible on the SAGA website.

The SAPS presentation tried to portrait a rosy image of the CFR’s achievements over the last two years, however, neither the politicians nor the representatives of the firearms community accepted that without reservation. In fact, the perception of the firearms community of the performance of the CFR is rather dismal.

Francois Beukman (ANC), the chairman of the Portfolio Committee, was rather upset, if not annoyed, by the apparent lack of control by SAPS over their own firearms. He specifically referred to the theft of firearms from the police’s logistical stores in Silverton which were allegedly sold to gangsters in the Western Cape (the case where former Col. Chris Prinsloo has been convicted and sentenced and where two other accused are still to be tried), and also the theft of firearms from various police stations. He further stated that because of corruption, members dealing with firearm-related matters ought to be vetted and he was rather perturbed when the numbers of those who were vetted and those who still have not been, could not be provided. SAGA has previously pointed out that the anti-gun lobby found it convenient to attribute theft from and losses by licensed owners as the main source to the illicit pool of firearms, whereas those stolen from the SAPS, SANDF and other state departments, possibly contribute much more to this pool. 

John Welch reiterated that, despite the importance of stakeholder meetings (to discuss and resolve matters), the police have since 2015 not convened any such meetings (with the exception of meeting with NAACCSA). Had these meetings taken place the litigation between various stakeholders and SAPS could possibly have been avoided. Further, no efforts have been made by SAPS to find a solution for licensees’ failure to timeously renew their licenses, excepting to say that they must apply in time (not less than 90 days before the expiry of the license) and if they do not, they will be arrested and charged and their firearms confiscated. Since police officials from different provinces and police stations seem to interpret some provisions of the law differently, these various interpretations could also have been discussed with a view to ensuring universal interpretation and application.

Emphasis was also put on the SAPS’ failure to have implemented the on-line e-filing system for dealers and other applicants, even though it was promised before the Firearms Control Act had come into operation. In fact, at the time it was said that the on-line system would ensure expeditious processing of applications and a serious reduction in paper-work. The stacks of files in the offices and corridors of the CFR building in Pretoria contributed to the dismay of the members of the Portfolio Committee.

Since SAGA was first to propose the licensing of the person and the mere registration of firearms (way back in 1985 already), John Welch used the opportunity to raise it again, and since it found favour with all the stakeholders, the Chairman asked the Civilian Secretariat of Police whether they had considered including it in the Amendment Bill. According to the Secretary they had, however, it remains to be seen whether the Secretariat’s understanding of the matter is the same as SAGA’s.  

SAGA specifically pointed out that the amendments to the Firearms Control Act (which were discussed in Parliament in March 2015 and promised to be ready before the end of that year) are still not ready and seem to be cloaked in secrecy. Important, but less controversial issues, such as the provision of a period of grace (albeit with the payment of an administrative penalty) following the expiry of a license, or if the application for the renewal of the license is not made more than 90 days before the expiry of the license, could easily have been made in the legislation. Since SAGA regards matters pertaining to the micro-dotting and ballistic testing of private firearms as unacceptable, unsafe, unreasonable and not financially viable, these could have stood over for future discussions.

The representative of a stakeholder proposed that firearm licensing ought perhaps to be divorced from the police and placed with the Secretariat (or another independent body) with civilian oversight. Although SAGA does not believe that the Secretariat is the correct location, it will consider all reasonable proposals in this regard and in conjunction with all stakeholders try and find the best solution in the interest of all licensed firearm owners.

In the meantime we remind all firearm owners of their responsibility to apply for the renewal of licenses not less than 90 days before the expiry of such licenses. 

Free, responsible and lawful firearm owners contribute to a safe society.

Issued by SAGA Office: Tuesday 5 September 2017