It is with disappointment that the civil rights organisation AfriForum takes note of the 500 service pistols that were lost over the past three financial years by SAPS officials who were allowed to take their firearms home. An additional 10 765 rounds of ammunition were also lost by officials while they were off duty. This information was confirmed by Police Minister Bheki Cele in response to written parliamentary questions.
What aggravates the situation is the fact that the Portfolio Committee on Police recently approved an amnesty arrangement for private firearm owners. If Parliament approves this arrangement, between 450 000 and 1 million firearms will have to be handed in at police stations in a short period of time. The majority of these weapons will come from legal firearm owners who have neglected to renew their firearms licenses within the 90-day period stipulated in the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act 60 of 2000). The arrangement has been a topic of hot debate inside and outside of South African courts for quite a while.
The reason for the argument was to determine whether or not the legal terms and conditions for the renewal of firearm licenses had been applied correctly. It now appears that Cele will not allow citizens to obtain clarity through the courts, but that he decided to rather take a shortcut by means of this amnesty. The irony is that Section 139 of the Firearms Control Act in fact allows the Minister of Police to declare an amnesty period, although this must be approved by Parliament. However, the sole purpose of the Section is to discourage illegal ownership of firearms and to take illegal firearms out of circulation. The fact that the SAPS apparently cannot even manage its own firearms is proof that they would most likely be unable to manage the nearly one million illegal firearms that would be handed in during such an amnesty period. Moreover, these firearms will most probably end up in criminal hands.
“This – whether in addition to or as part of the 9,5 million rounds of ammunition and 4 357 firearms otherwise lost by SAPS over the past six financial years – is a clear indication that the police is incapable of looking after the firearms already in its care. As a result, they should not and cannot be trusted with an additional 500 000 firearms if the amnesty is implemented. It would be like using a wolf to guard your sheep,” says Marnus Kamfer, Legal and Risk Manager at AfriForum.
AfriForum will continue to monitor the progress of the amnesty and will consider opposing it if needed.