Dangerous Weapons Bill: adoption

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12 March 2013
Chairperson: Ms A Van Wyk (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department presented the final wording of the Bill for the Committee’s approval and this was given. The Committee then requested to hear the implementation plan for the Bill and observed that there would be severe consequences for the tardiness of its submission. The Department issued an apology for the delays, saying that there had been a breakdown in communication but this was not accepted and the apology was requested to be reissued in writing. The implementation plan indicated that many of the costs associated with implementing the Bill would fall within the existing budgets for the various SAPS environments and that the additional costs would amount to approximately R1.8 million. A detailed breakdown of this figure was presented along with expected deadlines for completion.

The Committee asked how it had been ascertained that a yet to be decided budget was already being deemed sufficient for an implementation of unknown date and were told that the costs would be absorbed by the usual costs of the functions of the SAPS environments. The Committee asked why it would take R1.8 million to implement an amendment of an Act whereas previous, new legislation had only cost R1.7 million and it was agreed that this was probably due to the previous legislation being under-budgeted for. Explanations were given for the number of posters, pamphlets and Z-cards budgeted for as well as the number of training sessions expected to be held. The Committee was not completely satisfied that the predictions were realistic but agreed to adopt the Bill contingent on the adherence by SAPS to its own deadlines and targets. The Bill was adopted under those conditions.

Meeting report

Finalisation of the Bill
The Chairperson noted that the upcoming Friday 15 March was the International Day against Police Brutality. She said that this was apt timing, and also that it was a pressing issue which would feature on the Committee programme in the future.

Long Title and Preamble
Major General Philip Jacobs, of SAPS Legal Services, began with the long title of the Bill, saying that there were no longer any references to firearms. There were no changes made to the preamble.

Clause One
The definition of a dangerous weapon meant "any object, other than a firearm, capable of causing death or inflicting serious bodily harm, if it were used for an unlawful purpose".

The Committee was satisfied with this Clause.

Clause Two: Application of Act
The exceptions from the application of the Act remained "possession in pursuit of lawful employment, duty or activity as well as in the participation in a religious, cultural, sporting, and recreational or entertainment activity". Legitimate collections, displays or exhibitions were also exempt.

The Committee was satisfied with this clause.

Clause Three: Prohibition
This clause criminalised the possession of a dangerous weapon under circumstances which may raise a reasonable suspicion that the person intended to use it for an unlawful purpose. The offence carried a penalty in the form of a fine or imprisonment not exceeding three years. The factors to be used in forming a reasonable suspicion of intent were the place and time of possession, the behaviour of the possessor, the manner of possession, whether or not the possession was in the context of any criminal activity and any other relevant factors including any explanation given voluntarily and without duress.

The Committee was satisfied with this clause.

Clause Five: Amendment of Regulation of Gatherings Act, 1993
The above Act was amended so as to prohibit the possession at a gathering or demonstration of any airgun, firearm, imitation firearm or muzzle loading firearm, as well as any dangerous weapon according to the Bill. It was specified that to contravene this or to be the convenor or marshal at a gathering where it was contravened, would be an offence, and penalties were included to that effect.

The Committee was satisfied.

Clause Six: Amendment of Clause 120 of Firearms Control Act, 2000
This clause now included airguns, deactivated firearms and muzzle-loading firearms. The possession of these items, as well as firearms and imitation firearms, was prohibited in the exact same way that the possession of dangerous weapons was prohibited in Clause Three of the Bill. The same exemptions were made as in Clause Two of the Bill.

The Committee was satisfied.

Short Title
The Committee was satisfied with the short title and commencement.

Implementation Plan presentation
The Chairperson noted that the Committee would be unable to adopt the Bill until it was satisfied that it would be adequately implemented. The presenting of the implementation plan had been delayed on a number of occasions and was expected ultimately at the end of business on 5 March. The Chairperson had written to the Speaker of Parliament and the Acting Minister to complain about the flagrant disregard for the processes of Parliament. The 5th was chosen due to the seven-day rule, that is, it would have to be received on that date in order for the Bill to be adopted on the 12th. The plan was not received and the Chairperson wrote to the Department on the 6th. No explanation or apology was forthcoming. She requested the Divisional Commissioner’s presence at the meeting so as to explain the failure. The implementation plan and costing had only been received the day before the meeting. If the Bill had not been scheduled for debate in the National Assembly in the coming week, she would have refused to hear the Department’s presentation. The Department had made a habit of ignoring the seven-day rule and that they would never again be allowed an extension.

Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, began with an apology to the Chairperson and the Committee for the Department’s failure to deliver the plan punctually. He said that there had been a communication breakdown and that the implementation plan had been awaiting input from the provinces. He said that when the plan was ready for presentation, the National Commissioner had not yet reviewed it.

The Chairperson said that a communication breakdown did not excuse the behaviour of the Department in dealing with the committee.

Mr M George (COPE) said that he was very worried about the state of the Department. Communication breakdowns did not explain the failure to produce the implementation plan. The Department must have known that an implementation plan would be necessary and had still not produced it in time. He also demanded to know exactly what the nature of the communication breakdown was. What steps were being taken to ensure that the exact same breakdown did not occur again?

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) expressed her anger that the Committee had not received the implementation plan let alone any written warnings, explanations or apologies. The Committee had been treated with the utmost contempt and that it was absolutely unacceptable and that there would have to be very serious repercussions or else nothing would change.

Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked what specifically had broken down. A breakdown at national level did not bode well for SAPS at lower levels.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) said that an implementation plan was normal process and that it was unacceptable that a Bill they themselves had proposed had not been acted on comprehensively.

The Chairperson said that the National Commissioner had sent a letter to her but that it had been sent from her office to another office in SAPS at six in the evening on a Friday and that it had only been forwarded to the Committee at eleven at night so that it was only received on Monday morning. She said that the Committee’s oversight should not be disregarded. She said that the buck would need to stop and someone would need to be held accountable.

Lt-Gen Mothiba reiterated his apologies and promised that a breakdown of this nature would not happen again. He said that all the communications were coming from Legal Services but that they had not presented it to the National Commissioner by the time that it was ready for submission. She had been out of office at that stage and attending to other business.

Mr Ndlovu asked why Legal Services were expected to be responsible for an implementation plan. He asked if, when the Commissioner was out of office, SAPS was unable to function.

Lt-Gen Mothiba said that the whole management of SAPS had been out of office at the time for a two day workshop.

The Chairperson said that the management workshop had been held on the previous week Monday and Tuesday, long after the original deadline for the implementation plan. She said that it was not the responsibility of Legal Services to present an operational issue to the Commissioner. She demanded that he take responsibility for his role. She rejected the apology and took great exception to the attempt to blame another department for what was clearly an operational issue. She demanded a written apology and emphasised that there would be no more extensions granted to the Department.

Lt-Gen Mothiba began the presentation by saying that the plan provided for the drafting of SAPS training and communication content. A training programme would be put into operation in preparation for the implementation of the legislation and to ensure and sustain correct implementation. He then went according to activity explaining the responsible party and the costs involved. These included:
- Drafting of the circular to announce the implementation date and requirements for SAPS,
- Drafting of implementation guidelines and information for police on the implications of the legislation,
- Drafting of a communication plan and messages for target audiences, distribution of circular by National Commissioner to provincial and divisional commissioners,
- Distribution of implementation guidelines and publication of guidelines on the intranet would all be provided for in line with the function budget.
- Printing guidelines in the form of a Z-card or pamphlet would cost R200 000.
- Printing posters would cost R200 000.
- A double page spread in the SAPS journal and Journal Online would fall within the line function budget.
- Printing booklets on the legislation would cost R160 000 for 80 000 units.
- The production of an educational DVD would cost R21 000 for 1500 units.
- Briefings would be within the line function budget, as would the production of a special programme and weekly diary insert for “When Duty Calls” and the issuing of media statements.
- Production of public information materials would come to R400 000.
- Public notices and media statements, briefing to all stakeholders would be within the line function budget.
- Scheduled interviews with experts on radio and television would incur no cost.
- The implementation approach for Human Resource Development was that senior officials and Visible Policing (Vispol) Heads would be briefed as resource personnel so as to provide guidance to operational members and field trainers.
- A training module would be developed and incorporated into Learning Area 2 of the Basic Police Development Learning Programme as well as into all tactical related training interventions. This would be rolled out to all station members.
- The development of the training module would take two months and its reproduction would take seven weeks, with a total cost of R15 000.
- Presenting the training module to resource personnel would take six weeks and cost R500 000.
- Incorporation into Learning Area 2 would take six weeks and cost R160 000.
- Incorporation into tactical related interventions would cost R160 000. Rollout would cost R80 000.
- The total cost of the implementation plan over and above the line function budget would be R915 000.
- The Implementation Plan would be funded from the baseline allocations of the Divisions Visible Policing and Human Resource Development and a specific allocation for that purpose to the Corporate Communication Component.
- The final total came to R1 896 000.

Mr George said that the line function budget was originally allocated to something else so he asked precisely how much was being taken for the implementation plan and from where was it being taken? He asked what the channels of communication were for implementation.

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) asked for clarity on the dates of implementation as some appeared to occur up to a month prior to implementation.

Ms Molebatsi asked about internal and external communication where it was stated that the costs were included in the cost of pamphlets.

Ms Kohler-Barnard asked about the free-of-charge radio and television coverage, specifically why it was assumed that they would have these opportunities available, saying that they appeared to believe they controlled the media. She then said that the reference to the line budget was presumably the following year’s budget and asked if they assumed that these amounts would be included in that budget and if it had been discussed with all the provincial heads. She asked what the distribution costs for the pamphlets were and why there were fewer copies than there were stations. In terms of training, she said that the process of training only a few officers at a time was inadequate. She said that there was little substance to reassure her that the importance of the legislation was being appreciated and taken into account.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) asked about the training of members, saying that there was high risk for misuse. He asked how present members would be trained, and if the station lectures were at the correct level.

The Chairperson said that the very first point raised about the Bill was that its implementation ultimately came down to training. The Child Justice Act training cost R1.7 million and that that was for new legislation. This was not new legislation, but it cost R1.8 million. This was very suspicious and appeared to be a speculative amount rather than a substantial one. She also noted that when the Bill had originally been presented it was claimed that there would be no cost to the state. She shared the concern that the training of active officers was being disregarded. She also asked how many Z-cards and posters would be printed.

Lt-Gen Mothiba dealt with the questions in the order they were asked. He said that the Department was unaware of when the Act would be promulgated but that it was known that it would not be in the ongoing financial year. He said that the line function baseline budget meant that the relevant environment would not require additional budget allocation.

Mr George said that to say that the future budget would be sufficient without knowing what the budget would be was irrational.

Ms Kohler-Barnard said that budgets were delivered along with allocations, so to say that an amount would be found that was not specifically allocated for it, did not make sense.

Lt-Gen Mothiba said that it had been indicated that no additional funds would be requested for these purposes as the existing budget requests would be sufficient. The various environments would be able to absorb the costs.

Mr Ndlovu asked if the Committee could assume that the contents of the implementation plan were therefore speculative rather than factual.

Lt-Gen Mothiba said that the amounts were factual at the time of the drafting of the document but might not be at the time of actual implementation as the Department did not know when implementation would occur.

Maj-Gen Jacobs said that the amount given for communication with Legal Services was approximately double the amount given by his department based on their previous interactions in implementing similar legislation. The number of booklets was based on the aim of supplying each active member with a booklet. This intended distribution was wider than the description given in the presentation.

Lt-Gen Mothiba said that there had been extensive consultations and that the document presented reflected the outcomes of these presentations.

Ms Susan Pienaar, Head of Crime Prevention, said that there were specific operational environments that would need to be trained within their own structures. In each case there would be different stakeholders that would need to be involved. In terms of the Z-card, the costing was for 200 000 units and this was based on a recent order for a recent implementation. The notice boards would be in all police stations and a few extra for exhibitions, also based on a recent order. Some stations had more than one office and this was accounted for. There were no additional costs to adding content to the SAPS journal, and the costs of printing would not increase as a result. She said that the booklets were targeting trainees but would not be limited to them so the failure to include broader categories of recipients was an oversight. The production of “When Duty Calls” was subject to an annual budget that was not impacted by content. The production of public information materials was estimated according to recent figures and was possibly not completely accurate but it was as close as could reasonably be expected. Briefings to stakeholders in each division would be done as per usual, just with additional content and therefore would not incur costs above and beyond existing allocations. The interviews with experts were part of an existing arrangement with community radios and there was an annual cost involved which would not change.

The training plan had been developed by the Human Resource Department. The exact figures of trainers and trainees were the same as used in other training modules but were not available at the time. Legal Services had indicated R250 000 for a single training session with senior officers, but a further R50 000 per session for five session had been included so as to ensure broader briefing which included provincial and cluster Vispol heads. The costs of training accommodated travel costs and use of external facilities in the event that internal facilities were not available. The costs also were based on the number of trainers available to the Department, although that number was not known at the time of the presentation. The trainers themselves would also first need to be educated on the contents of the Act. The training supervisors and provincial field training officers would need to be orientated first, part of which was already budgeted for regardless of content. She said that it was difficult to give precise dates by which each stage of implementation would be done without knowing the date of promulgation.

Ms Kohler-Barnard said that using the implementation date as the benchmark around which other dates were set was not good. She said that the tardiness of implementation was well-known.

Ms Molebatsi asked why the number of trainers was not available.

Ms Pienaar said that the number of trainers was known -  just not to her at the time and she agreed that it should have been included. In terms of the financial year that this was based on, she said that the 2013/2014 year was being used but that there would be carry-through costs.

Mr George asked which parts of the Act would only be implemented in the following financial year, as the Committee was very concerned over the potential for misapplication by officers.

Ms Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane, Secretary of Police, commented that the Minister was eager to have the implementation plan established before the Act came into force.

Ms Pienaar said that many aspects of implementation would be begun as soon as the wording of the Act was finalised. Training sessions would happen in the new financial year. In terms of consultation in drafting the plan, there had been input from provincial commissioners and Vispol heads. Five provinces attended the session as it was convened at short notice. Many provincial legal heads provided feedback to Maj-Gen Jacobs.

The Chairperson asked for suggestions from the Committee on how to proceed.

Ms Kohler-Barnard said that she was not impressed with the implementation plan and added that many of the deadlines given appeared to be unrealistic. She suggested that the Committee demand oversight with progress in terms of time and money spent on implementation so that the Department could be held to the figures they had provided. Every single stage should be monitored so that they were met on time and within budget or so that a good reason could be provided for any failure.

Mr George said that under normal circumstances the plan would be rejected. However, with such a cluttered schedule and given the importance of the Act it was difficult to do so. He pleaded with the Department to improve their efficiency and to conduct themselves properly. He suggested accepting the plan despite not being completely satisfied.

Ms Molebatsi addressed SAPS, saying that they had a tarnished image to rebuild and that their efforts henceforth would need to be redoubled. The plan should be accepted as long as regular progress reports were given.

Ms Irish-Qhobosheane noted that the budget exceeded that spent on the implementation of a brand new Act and said that this was indicative of concerns that previous Acts had not been properly implemented.

The Chairperson agreed that it was possible that previous Acts had been under-budgeted for rather than the tabled Bill being over-budgetedr. She summarised, saying that a written apology was expected for the disregard shown to the Committee. She instructed the Department to give feedback on every aspect of the implementation plan. A roster would be drawn up to facilitate this. The number of people trained, the dates by which it was done and the costs incurred would be required. She did not give a deadline for the apology but said that she would not expect it later than the following day.

Mr Groenewald said that he had to leave for another portfolio committee and put it on the record that he supported the amendments.

Voting on Bill
The Chairperson put the wording of the Bill to the Committee clause by clause and each one was agreed to. She put to the Committee that the Bill be adopted, having considered its contents and implications.

Ms Molebatsi moved in favour.

Mr Ndlovu seconded the motion.

The Bill was adopted by the Committee and would go to the National Assembly for debate the following week.

The Chairperson thanked members for their patience and closed the meeting.

[At the beginning of the meeting, minutes from the 26 February meeting was adopted]


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