Significant number of police members may be “incompetent” to handle firearms – AfriForum demands answers

The civil rights organisation AfriForum has obtained information that indicates that a significant number of South African Police Service (SAPS) members may currently, under the Firearms Act’s regulations, be “incompetent” to handle firearms. Regulation 79 of this act was adjusted and relaxed three years ago. Since then, police members only need to be tested for firearms competence once every five years, instead of once every twelve months as previously prescribed. However, it appears that the police cannot even comply with this adjusted regulation.

AfriForum has therefore today sent an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to the SAPS in which detailed information is requested on the current firearms competency of police members as well as the expiry of members’ competence certificates.

According to information in AfriForum’s possession, several police members’ appeals to police management regarding compliance with the established competence requirements fell on deaf ears. The requests were ignored, and a shortage of ammunition was cited as an excuse. Ironically enough, the same reason was also put forward in 2020 in the request for the amendment of the Firearms Act’s regulations when the prescribed renewal of competence was adjusted. At the time, police officers failing the competency test were also cited as a reason for the extension of the renewal period.

The alleged financial constraints and clear elements of maladministration within the SAPS, particularly in relation to the procurement of ammunition, raise serious questions about the effectiveness of this law enforcement agency and the ability of SAPS officers to carry out their duties safely and competently.

“It boils down to police management forcing some officers to carry and handle firearms illegally. It is extremely ironic – on the one hand, you have a Minister of Police who constantly blames legal firearms owners for gun violence in the country, but his own officers are guilty of illegal behaviour,” says Jacques Broodryk, AfriForum’s spokesperson for Community Safety.

“This is just one of the many examples where the police’s top structures are once again failing the honest and dedicated SAPS members at grassroots level, who are still trying to do their job efficiently and according to the book,” concludes Broodryk.

The SAPS now has 30 days to comply with AfriForum’s request.

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