SECOND MINISTERIAL CONSULTATIVE MEETING ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FIREARMS CONTROL LEGISLATION
South African Police Service College, Community Hall, Pretoria West
Tuesday, 17 January 2006, at 10h00
Jonathan Fouché, as Legislation Impact Officer, represented SAPSA at the meeting.
These notes do not reflect full minutes of the meeting, but are my notes of the most relevant and important issues that arose.
The Minister for Safety and Security, the Honourable Charles Nqakula, addressed the meeting after some opening remarks by Dir Trevor Bloem, of the SAPS Communication and Media Liaison.
· The Minister wants to be mandated through continued interaction to participate internationally in firearms control conferences, etc.
· The Minister felt that both sides were represented at this meeting, the users and the controllers.
· The Minister indicated that weaknesses in the FCA, perceived by both sides, were being addressed.
· The SAPS and the Minister’s Office received many proposals for amendments to the FCA. They have considered all and submitted these to a team of legal experts for drafting into the FCA Amendment Bill. The draft Bill is expected within a month (2-4 weeks), and will be followed by a 6-week period for public comments. Once these have been taken into account, the Bill will progress through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee where additional comments are still possible. Thereafter, it is expected that the Bill will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval in April 2006.
· The Minister offered to explain, in time, why certain / any of the proposed changes were not included in the Amendment Bill.
· The Minister clearly indicated that this would not be the last time the FCA is amended.
· The Minister also said that the SAPS are looking at the “guidelines”, and this is why the provincial DFOs were invited to this meeting.
o [JMF] It was not clear to me quite what he meant.
· The Minister offered hope for a continued firearms industry and said that reasonable rulings (on licenses, permits, etc.) would prevail.
o [JMF] These could just be hollow words designed to placate us – you decide.
· The Minister went on to say that the FCA is not designed to punish legal gun owners. Such a law would be a bad law. He maintained that the FCA is a good law that had already passed scrutiny by the Constitutional Court. He claimed that the main issues that the SAPS and his Ministry are concerned about are (1) proper safekeeping and (2) competent use of firearms.
o [JMF] An obvious political spin. The Media was there: Radio 702, Beeld newspaper, SABC Radio and TV, and others.
· The Minister concluded with some comments on their perceived success of the 2005 Firearms Amnesty, claiming that approximately “97 000 illegal firearms” were handed in during the six months of the amnesty and that 46 000 firearms were handed in for deactivation or destruction.
o [JMF] It was not clear if the latter referred to the same period or in total so far.
Judge Khumalo, Chairman of the Appeals Board, addressed the meeting next. After introducing the other members of the Board and extolling their virtues as experienced legal practitioners, he had little else to say. I noted the following:
· The Appeals Board have considered and dealt with 9 000 of the initial backlog of 15 000 appeals (mainly under the old Act).
· Judge Khumalo confirmed that the Board recognises (1) the right to life and self-defence, (2) commercial interests [and property rights] with specific reference to firearms collections, and (3) hunting. These all referred to their relevance to firearms ownership.
· Judge Khumalo also stated that the Board is guided in their decisions by (1) the Constitution, (2) The Just Administration Act, and (3) Common Law.
Mr Sibayi, the CEO of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) then had a turn to address the meeting.
[JMF] Quite frankly, I found his attitude quite worrying and not much different from the previous meeting where he indicated that ALL automatic and semi-automatic firearms should be deactivated. He again emphasised that he (SAHRA?) does not support “the many guns in the country” – or words to that effect. It was also clear to me that he (SAHRA?) does not consider deactivation to diminish the “cultural value” of firearms.
· SAHRA protects all places and objects of cultural significance – including firearms.
· Mr Sibayi wants all collections to be registered.
o [JMF] While he sort of indicated that there would be some benefit to this, it was not clear quite what this would be. In fact, given his attitude toward deactivating almost everything, I would not register my collection with SAHRA.
· Mr Sibayi advised that permits are required from SAHRA for all [relevant] imports and exports.
The last panel member to address the meeting was the CEO of SAS SETA, Ms Penxa. Her address contained nothing substantial other that a few points on improved service delivery (mainly applicable to the trainers) and she mainly bragged about her perceived success of SAS SETA’s countrywide Imbizos in 2005.
[JMF] I attended the Pretoria Imbizo on SAPSA’s behalf, and found it to be quite a pointless exercise. Many others experienced the same, notably SAGA and the Dealers’ Association, although the latter did get some good PR with the media.
After these addresses, it was time for some Q&A. I was unable to make comprehensive notes on all the issues, but here are some of them.
1. Theo Venter of the Hunters Forum suggested that the deadline for each renewal period be moved to end March, rather than end December. The motivation for this is to remove the deadline from the festive season, rather than just to achieve an extension.
a. The Minister accepted this suggestion, and will implement it.
2. On behalf of SAPSA, I asked that CFR provide suitable guidelines for our members, and all gun owners, to use when compiling “sufficient motivation”. I made the following points:
· SAPSA members use some of the more “controversial” firearms, semi-automatic handguns, semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic shotguns.
· SAPS CFR has refused to divulge what constitutes “sufficient motivation”, yet the main reason on license refusals is “insufficient motivation” often accompanied by “not convinced of need”.
· The Catch-22 is that the appeals process does not allow additional motivation to be submitted.
a. There was no meaningful response to this request, although Director Jaco Bothma, head of the CFR, made some reference to a letter he sent to the Black Gunowners’ Association (BGOASA) regarding motivation for self-defence. Martin Hood, representing SAGA, later pointed out to the meeting that this letter simply quoted the Act, and did not provide any further guidance.
b. Dir Bothma also invited SAPSA to meet with him to interact regarding motivations – specifically for sport.
o [JMF] I will set up an appointment soon.
3. Abios of BGOASA said that he was concerned about the number of illegal firearms in the country, and suggested a buy-back scheme for these. He indicated that he [and his members?] was prepared to pay more for a license in order to fund this process.
a. Commissioner Makhubela [sp?] rejected this idea outright, saying that there would be no buy-back and holders of illegal guns would be arrested.
4. Carvel Webb of NAAACSA responded to SAHRA’s comments by pointing out that investment is only a small part of the reason why collectors collect and enjoy their firearms.
a. There was no response.
5. Jean [Kotze?] of a Hunters’ Association read a prepared document on appeals, etc.
a. A review panel is being set up to consider all negative decisions before they are finalised.
6. Judy Bassingthwaite of GFSA made some comments about people destroying guns without permission, and then being prosecuted. She also added some B.S. about accidents.
a. The Minister also used the opening to sprout the usual political B.S. about illegal guns once being legal, problems with theft, accidents, family shootings, etc.
7. Craig Klintworth, a manufacturer, requested the deregulation of ALL airguns and ALL muzzle-loaders.
a. The Minister confirmed that this is under consideration, based on submissions already received.
8. André Pretorius, representing the Trainers, requested additional awareness campaigns or marketing of the re-licensing process in 2006. He acknowledged that the SAPS focus in 2005 had been the Amnesty.
a. There was agreement from Dir Bothma, who wants to work together with the other interested parties on this.
9. Martin Hood, of SAGA, raised three issues:
· He highlighted the lack of service delivery, emphasising that the other concerns already raised had been put “very tactfully and politely”.
· While acknowledging the value of the current Ministerial Consultative Meeting, he requested that the Minister starts a Ministerial Committee, a much smaller forum, to work on details toward improving the Act and the implementation thereof.
· He requested a SAPS service delivery charter.
a. The Minister confirmed that there are administrative problems with the FCA, and agreed to get together to discuss a service delivery charter.
b. The Minister indicated that he valued the broad representation of the current Ministerial Consultative Meeting, but agreed to consider implementing a suitable Ministerial Committee later.
10. Andrew Soutar, Chaiman of the Dealers’ Association, requested a schedule for the proposed Amendment Bill. He also stressed the lack of service delivery and requested the SAPS service delivery charter. He concluded by indicating that he is pleased to see that the SAPS has now acknowledged the right to compensation [for firearms handed in], but asked how values would be determined.
a. The schedule was advised, as described earlier in this report.
b. The service delivery answer is reported above.
c. Dir. Bothma advised that a communiqué is being compiled regarding the entire compensation issue.
11. There were some other questions and comments, including Ivan Monsieur from the Dealers and more from Martin Hood, but I did not note them.
The Minister closed the meeting by indicating that he expects to continue with these broad-based Ministerial Consultative Meetings, even if the smaller Ministerial Committee is established. He also wants to find answers to current questions, and define future strategies towards effective firearms control legislation.