Central Firearms Registry: progress report by SAPS

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20 August 2014
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Committee’s researcher on the work of the Central Firearm Registry (CFR) looking at key statistics; the legal framework of the Firearms Control Act; the South African Police Service (SAPS) firearm control and management delivery report for 2012/13. Observations were made on recurring key issues and questions for the Committee to consider.

The Committee was then briefed by SAPS on the CFR beginning with the regulatory framework, a breakdown of the personnel system, responsibilities of the CFR, and the current system and the turnaround of appointments. The briefing then turned to outstanding appeals, challenges, space facilities and policy issues before looking at processes, human capital, physical resources, equipment and recommendations.

The Committee raised an immense amount of questions including on the status of the commission of inquiry into arms dealers, filling of posts especially by women, particular criminal cases, the image of the CFR and cases of litigation against SAPS, outstanding appeals and the composition, effectiveness and challenges of the Appeals Board. Members were particularly keen to know more about the turnaround strategy in terms of budget, timeframes and backlogs. The Committee was particularly concerned about the status of the database and integrity of the data given that a hybrid system was still in place. Other questions were around training, processing of applications, reasons for refusing licences, recovered firearms, statistics, internal communication strategies and public awareness. Members were adamant there needed to be stricter control of firearms and greater repercussions especially for members who had claimed to lose firearms considering rumours of the renting out of firearms to supplement salaries.

Meeting report

Analysis of Work of Central Firearms Registry (CFR)
Mr Thembani Mbadlanyana, Committee Researcher, after providing a brief introduction, looked at some key statistics noting that there were six million guns in South Africa or, roughly 12 for every 100 people. The number of registered guns in South Africa was reported in 2011 at 2,900,000. The law allows an ordinary citizen to possess four guns. The defence force was estimated to have about 350,636 firearms and the police 261,272 firearms.

Turning to the legislative framework, the management and control of firearms in South Africa was governed by several pieces of legislation, including, the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act 60 of 2000), Firearm Control Regulations, 2004, Amendment Firearm Control Act 2006 (Act 28 of 2006) and the Amended Firearm Control Regulations, 2006.

The purpose of the Firearms Control Act was to establish a comprehensive and effective system of firearms control. The Act looked at prohibitions, special provisions in respect of certain devices, competency certificates and licences. More importantly, Chapter 17 of the Act deals with organizational matters for the regulation and management of firearms in the country. Chapter 17 establishes the Central Firearms Registry and stipulates the functions of the Registrar of Firearms (which is the National Police Commissioner), appointment and functions of Head of Office of the Central Firearms Register (CFR) and establishment of an Appeal Board. Thus the CFR derives its mandate from the Firearms Control Act and is under the leadership of the National Police Commissioner.

Organisationally, the CFR resided under the component, Firearm, Liquor and Second Hand Goods Control in the Division: Visible Policing of the SAPS. According to the Act, the CFR must contain the central firearms database, the central dealers database and the central manufacturers database. According to section 127, the Registrar (National Police Commissioner) must, with the approval of the Minister, designate a police official as Head of the Office of the CFR who must manage the Office of the Central Firearms Register and must perform the duties assigned and exercise such powers delegated by the Registrar. The CFR was staffed with 163 personnel in different levels. The challenges experienced by the CFR revolved around litigation cases against the CFR and Appeals Board, space facilities, policy issues, processes, human capital and physical resources.

Looking at the SAPS Firearm Control and Management Delivery Report for 2012/13 from 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, SAPS received a total number of 229 463 new firearm-related applications, of which 206 150 or 89.8% were finalised. An additional 86 142 applications that were received prior to 2012/13, were also finalised. This represented a total of 292 292 or 127.4% applications finalised during 2012/13. From the 292 292 applications finalised, 201 277 were approved, 8 732 were refused, 47 781 renewals were completed and 34 500 were cancelled. Worrisome was the fact that of the 49 046 licences liable for renewal, only 28 975 applications for renewal were received.

Central Firearms Registry presentation on Firearms Management
Lt. Gen. K Sithole, SAPS Deputy National Commissioner: Policing, noted the regulatory framework for the management of firearms: Firearms Control Act (2000), the Firearms Control Regulations (2004) and the Amendment of the Firearm Control Regulations (2006).

Looking at the personnel breakdown, the total number of administration clerks was 163 and 1.7 million firearms were being handled by these 163 personnel.

Turning to the responsibility of the Central Firearm Register (CFR), after all outstanding reports, documents and correspondence had been obtained, the application was prepared for consideration. If the application was approved, the licence would be printed at the CFR or the provincial office and then the licence would be forwarded to the relevant Designated Firearm Officer (DFO). The DFO must hand over the licence to the applicant against a signature of the applicant in the SAPS 86 Registers. If the application was refused, the refusal letter will be printed at the CFR, date stamped, signed and forwarded to the applicant and relevant DFO. All source documents were to be filed.

Lt. Gen. Sithole discussed the current status and turnaround of appointments noting there were critical posts to be filled however the posts on salary level 10 were not addressed as per the recent Fixed Establishment. Due to the workload and responsibility of finalising all new received applications within a period of 90 days, three Lieutenant Colonels appointed as Acting Section Commanders for the Gauteng North and Limpopo/Mpumalanga regions, are rotating to address the shortcoming and improve service delivery.

On facilities, the lack of office space and storage facilities resulted in insufficient storage space facilities and limited human resources capacities to manage the large volume of files that have to be created and filed properly. The current warehouse facilities were not suitable, the premises were not maintained regularly resulting in the accumulation of dust and grime, large volumes of paperwork were generated from firearm licence applications, so competency certificates, accreditations and permits were not filed properly, the Active Registry and Archives were on state premises not with the CFR, thus hampering an effective workflow and there were problems with the retrieval of old files and documents for the appeal process due to a backlog in filing.

Lt. Gen. Sithole highlighted processes noting provinces failed to conduct quality checks, DFOs failed to conduct section 102 investigations to assess whether people were fit to possess a firearm. Detectives failed to close dockets, detectives failed to ensure that lost/found firearms were circulated within a specified time, detectives failed to submit identity numbers for suspects/accused persons for the purpose of declaration of unfitness and did not file them properly, and ports of entry failed to submit monthly returns pertaining to import/export permits.

Lt. Gen. Sithole spoke about human capital, noting there was a lack of DFO training, inconsistent multi-tasking of DFOs, improper control of firearms handed in at police stations, shortage of human, physical and logistical resources. There was a shortage of personnel to conduct compliance inspections at dealers, gunsmiths and manufacturers and there was a lack of resources, specifically, computers, printers, fax machines, vehicles and stationery such as photocopying paper and toner.

Concluding with recommendations, it was noted that a building needed to be obtained where the registry and archive all had to operate under one roof. He emphasised the challenges were highlighted because the Department wanted to be honest and open to the Committee and bring it to the attention of Members that there was a turnaround strategy to improve the effectiveness of the section.

The Chairperson asked when the new strategy was implemented. What happened to the recommendations provided to the joint task team? What was the status of the commission of inquiry into arms dealers because this was quite pertinent? He applauded SAPS for taking criminal and departmental steps and requested this be provided to the Committee in written form.

Lt Gen Sithole said the filling of posts would be done by 1 September. The problem of firearms started two years back and this was accompanied by a backlog and exposed corruption. Immediately after this a turnaround strategy was introduced in July 2013. Implementation then began.

Maj Gen Phillip Jacobs, SAPS: Legal Services, said a task team was established very shortly after the Secretariat’s report under the chairmanship of the Deputy National Commissioner. The task team sat very frequently until the backlog was resolved. He believed the Commission of Inquiry on Firearms Dealers was finalising its report for submission.

Gen Shezi said the previous task team looked at the new system implemented for the entire firearm registry. It was recommended the old system be integrated into the new system but it was decided an expansion of the current, exiting system was preferable to migrating the old system given the different architectural set up. The work on this had not yet been completed but once it was, a conclusive answer could be provided.

Ms A Molebatsi (ANC) noted the action plan spoke about officers charged but what were their ranks? She also wanted to know if the reference to arrests were of police officers or civilians. When reference was made to clearing up backlogs, did this mean backlogs did not exist anymore? She asked if there was any improvement in the dented image of the CFR. Did all police stations have DFOs and if not, what happened? What was the status of integrating the two databases? What happened to SAPS officers who lost firearms?

Gen Sithole replied that in the ranks, two brigadiers, two colonels, three lieutenant colonels were charged and the rest were civilians. No police members had been arrested as yet. The backlog had been cleared since the turnaround strategy was implemented in July 2013. The National Commissioner introduced an integrity management section to look at protecting the image of the organisation. He confirmed that in the action plan, the question of image building was an integral part and was demonstrated in dealing with corruption and risk management. There were many other processes in place to deal with the image of SAPS. The way the organisation dealt with and responded to complaints, was also important to its image. All stations had DFOs but there was a promotion system in the organisation where all members could apply for posts and this included DFOs. If a DFO moved on to another post, the unfilled position must be filled within 30 days. This also included transfers. SAPS was monitoring that all stations had DFOs.

Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) was sceptical, after sitting on the Committee for a long time, about applications being dealt with in 90 days. She had heard this said many times before. Her own application was processed and she was told to fetch the firearm only two years later. On oversight visits, she had seen applications stuffed into boxes, never being delivered. She wanted confirmation that applications were indeed dealt with in 90 days. She still heard of women, after being abused, were told to go home after going to the police station instead of the facts being entered into the domestic violence registry. Was there something in the turnaround which dealt with a better liaison between the person who ran the DFO registry and CFOs? She questioned criminal charges and cases against SAPS members. When the Committee went on oversight visits to stations, it took hours to locate firearms in the SAPS 13 stores. There were rumours firearms in stores were being hired out to criminals – what was being done about this? Firearm control was very lax and this was seen in a previous Chairperson who carried an unprotected gun in her handbag and would slam it down on the table following a post-visit briefing.

Lt Gen Sithole said all firearms were state property and if a member lost a firearm, a criminal case was opened to begin a criminal investigation. A section 102 investigation commenced to check if the member was still fit to possess a firearm. If the outcome was that the member was deemed unfit, HR processes began and this could continue until the board came to a decision. There were clear instructions when a member was given a firearm and certain requirements to meet such as handling while driving, keeping it in a safe at home. Any violation would be followed up by the strict application of these processes. He was not going to take a defensive approach to such rumours about the hiring out of firearms but rather to appreciate and follow this up in terms of intelligence when such alerts were received. So far no such cases had been experienced. He could not deny that Members made many findings at police stations on oversight visits but SAPS acted on particular recommendations and directives. A combined quality assurance process was initiated by the National Commissioner to work with the inspectorate division and internal audit. According to this assurance, no stations went unvisited for longer than a year. This led to a lot of improvement. On domestic violence vis-a-vis firearm control, the National Commissioner took a decision to bring all operatives under one roof for an integrated approach and cross-cutting responsibilities of all sections of policing, to produce the same target and goals. Directives had already been issued to the sections dealing with domestic violence to work together with firearms control. It was part of the turnaround strategy to link domestic violence perpetrators to firearm ownership. More time was required to generate more information and provide a written response to the Committee on particular criminal cases. A distinction needed to be drawn between outstanding licences and clearing the backlog. People sometimes did not collect cards on time and this was part of outstanding licences. All current outstanding licences, though, did not amount to a backlog yet. Locating firearms was linked to the combined quality assurance process in which the firearm registry was included along with Visible Policing (Vispol) and supply chain. Improvement in this area was being worked on and if Members visited stations again, a shorter time would be taken to locate firearms.

Mr B Joseph (EFF) wanted to know the average timeframe for the processing of an application for the approval of firearm?

The Chairperson asked who led the task team from last year until now.

Lt Gen Sithole responded that the task team was led by Maj Gen Luke while he was the programme manager for the task team.

Mr D Twala (EFF) asked what happened to firearms after recovery – were they kept in storage and, if so, for how long? When was decision taken to destroy these firearms so they did not re-enter the market in other ways.

Lt Gen Sithole explained some firearms were linked to criminal cases after which ballistic processes would be undertaken. If there was prima facie evidence that some firearms were used in criminal offences, then the firearms could only be destroyed after the case was closed. Other firearms were taken to be secured in stores to await destruction after six months.

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) sought elaboration on what the turnaround strategy said to address the set of DFO related problems as this seemed to be where a lot of the bottlenecks were occurring.

Lt Gen Sithole said the turnaround strategy spoke of a deployment plan for the DFOs along with capacity building and refresher training. There were also performance assessments and constant monitoring processes.

Ms M Mmola (ANC) wanted to know if section managers were earning two salaries for overseeing two provinces. She also asked why there were two different CFR units in Gauteng.

Brig. H Matshene, SAPS: Acting Section Head: Central Firearms Register: Visible Policing, explained that in such cases where managers were required to oversee more than one region, these were areas which did not have many applications and these managers were only earning one salary at the level of a Colonel.

Mr J Maake (ANC) was interested to hear what happened with licences if security companies became dysfunctional. He wanted examples for some of the less obvious reasons for why licences were denied. He questioned the insufficient filling of certain posts.

Lt Gen Sithole said it remained a SAPS responsibility to always ensure that persons or companies dealing with firearms were still meeting the requirements of the Act. If a security company became dysfunctional, SAPS would review the licences to assess if the company could still keep the firearms. If for any reason the company was not fit to possess firearms, legal processes would begin.

Maj Gen Jacobs added that if there was a change of ownership or the business came to a standstill, there were processes to follow. Firearms could not just be transferred – there had to be a change in responsible persons.

Brig. Matshene explained reasons of refusal of application were immediately sent to the applicant. Each application was considered on its own merits according to the different categories outlined in the Act.

Lt Gen Sithole responded on the filling of certain posts and noted that sometimes shortages were not a lack of staff but a new requirement.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) said that when the Firearms Control Act was implemented, there were very strict limitations but lawful citizens and law-abiding gun owners of SA were often at a disadvantage. But when it came to SAPS and CFR, it should be stricter because the real control of firearms was vested in the CFR. The Committee heard of so many turnaround strategies every year but how was it possible that there was improper control of firearms handed in at police stations. It was not acceptable to say there was a turnaround strategy when there was still a lack of control. There was also a lack of DFO training with DFO officials saying people were incompetent to handle a firearm because they were too old. He asked how it was possible that licence renewals could not be located on the registration system because they had not been registered on approval. This was a simple act and this was linked to appeals – how many outstanding appeals were there? Usually SAPS shifted the blame to the Appeals Board but the presentation showed the registry could not provide documents to the Appeal Board. The presentation showed Lt Gen Sithole and the CFR admitted they did not have control of firearms and this was a shame to South Africans and for crime in SA. This was why firearms could be handed out because there was no control in the CFR. Clear answers were needed on this matter. He asked how many officials were criminally charged and found guilty.

Lt Gen Sithole agreed there needed to be stricter measures but there was a turnaround strategy to deal with challenges. He would need to provide the Committee with a written response into specific criminal charges as it required detailed numbers.

Ms Molebatsi asked what happened with the specific case of a trunk full of firearms stolen at a police station in Middleburg linked to various crimes. Was data still recorded manually at CFR? How much money was spent on the CFR IT system to date and what was this money spent on?

Lt Gen Sithole said that he would provide the Committee with progress on this particular case as he did not have the information with him currently.

Ms Kohler Barnard asked about the status of current litigation against the CFR and Appeals Board - how many cases were there, how long had they been around for, how many were lost and how many won? She read a great deal about SAPS members selling firearms handed into SAPS for destruction which made news headlines and damaged the image of SAPS – what was the current status of this matter? There was great jubilation in firearms being destroyed and crushed but at the scene of various crimes, firearms were found which had actually been handed in for destruction a number of year prior. She felt the fact that so many SAPS members did not have competency certificates would go against the organisation.

Maj Gen Jacobs explained with the status of litigation, legal services became involved and there were a number of court cases of importance to the Committee because of the CFR. Looking at specific cases, there was the one of the Justice Alliance of South Africa where SAPS won the case as the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the guidelines the Minister issued. There was also the case of the Transvaal Agricultural Union and Others to declare various sections of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional. These sections related to the number of firearms. The case was ongoing and a court date was awaited. Generally, over a period of three years, a 108 applications were brought against SAPS which included the Minister, CFR and the Appeals Board. In respect of those 108 applications, 13 were still pending and orders given to SAPS on the other 95 – this was a historic situation so a more current timeframe might show a different picture. On the legislation, the Committee approved the Firearms Control Amendment Act in 2006 which was not fully implemented yet. The parts of the Bill which were implemented related to hunters and collectors.

The Chairperson highlighted that any turnaround strategy required a budget but this was gap in the presentation. With the IT system and if in 2014 data was still being recorded manually, this was a big problem. He asked where the IT system was today after R400 million had been spent on it – was the outcome of the investigation still awaited or was the system still a hybrid one. The Committee could only assess the turnaround strategy this way.

Lt Gen Sithole said the IT system was still a hybrid one but there was an attempt to move away from manual input.

The Chairperson indicated that in effect the R400 million spent, given the time span, did not yield any value. The fact the system was still a hybrid one was a problem. When would the migration to an automated system then take place?

Maj Gen Shezi replied that the contract was awarded in 2004 and claimed to be completed in 2011 by the service provider and the value of the contract was about R412 million of which around R315 million had been paid toward the 80% completion. A gap analysis would be implemented to identify outstanding areas. With the registration system, it was found there was a problem with the passwords used as these were being shared and this created problem. The system was then changed to a biometric log-in. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) had not yet completed its investigation and this hampered action moving forward. An independent assessment from the CSIR was also sought in this regard. She thought a written response to this question could be provided which was comprehensively explained so as not to mislead the Committee.

Mr Groenewald felt he was being misled as Lt Gen Sithole answered his question with one sentence indicating “there was now control” yet the presentation showed otherwise. This was misleading the Committee and totally unacceptable. He emphasised the need for clear answers and explanations.

The Chairperson clarified there was no action plans to deal with the challenges and this was a problem because SAPS would have to come back on 3 September 2014 to give the Members the pertinent responses dealing with the challenges.

Lt Gen Sithole said the action plans would be provided to the Committee.

Mr Twala asked where the budget was located as this was central to the turnaround strategy.

Lt Gen Sithole indicated the budgetary planning process for the CFR flowed from Programme Two of the Vispol budget. The CFR was being implemented in stages in terms of the budget. In each financial year, upgraded functions were included. Currently, SAPS was in a position to preset the cost of deliverables and outline the total budget in terms of the action plan. Total implementation was not costed as the process was being rolled-out step by step.

Mr Mbhele wanted to know, for clarity, on password sharing – was this specifically around the system being tampered with which give rise to delays? A lot of the functions of the CFR was administrative and technocratic in a sense and short-term intervention could be made to get outside help - was this included in the turnaround strategy?

Maj Gen Shezi noted there was a track and trace to know who processed what application.

Lt Gen Sithole indicated the National Commissioner had liaised with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for consultants and their assistance in vetting positions. Furthermore, the action plan spoke to services to be used but they would only be used as and if necessary.

Gen Shezi added about the process model that there was no intention to outsource what the system could do. The whole basis of reforming the system was to make processes easier for people to log-in.

Ms Mmola wanted to know how many high-end posts were filled by women in SAPS given that it was Women’s Month.

Lt Gen Sithole explained that with the number of posts filled by females, SAPS was ahead of all other government departments in terms of the number of females employed at senior management level in relation to the 50% target according to a recent report from the National Commissioner. There was not necessarily a plan to fill posts with female employees in the month of August.

Mr Maake asked what happened if police officers resigned while internal processes were still in action – did these processes stop and the person was charged legally. In the 108 cases brought against SAPS, what was the reason for this? Had there been an amendment to the law or did it need to be amended?

Lt Gen Sithole explained that with the police who resigned during investigations, in the instance of criminal cases, these cases were continued but otherwise it was dependent on the nature of the misconduct. If damage or repair of damage was incurred by the state from such misconduct, the process continued. Misconduct did not stop at resignation by any SAPS member and if money was owed to the state, the official’s pension could be accessed.

Gen Jacobs outlined there were 108 cases of litigation and the majority of these cases dealt with orders over a lack of decision-making. There were no grounds or proper reasons to oppose these applications.

Ms Molebatsi questioned how it could be ensured licences were not given to people with a history of violence. She noted an SABC TV journalist brought a clearance certificate using a fake name and ID name from an accredited firearm training station for R1000 – what was the status of this matter?

Lt Gen Sithole said that part and parcel of the cases of violent behaviour was the involvement of corruption. Criminal and departmental measures were in place along with a strengthening of risk management and the internal control framework in this particular environment. With the SABC case, the response would be submitted in writing.

Ms Kohler Barnard noted that, since keeping records, over 13 000 SAPS firearms were taken or lost and there was an extremely low recovery rate. At the same time, SAPS went into a R16 million contract to buy 400 new pistols to replace the lost ones. The problem was that the members who lost their firearms did not seem to face the consequences of their actions. There was also a rumour that certain SAPS members regularly sold their firearms to supplement their salary – were these serial offenders doing this over an extended period? Were these members ever asked to cover the cost of their claimed lost firearms as it seemed as if it was left to the taxpayer each time and a terrible cycle was sustained. The problem was that the majority of firearms out on the street used to be on the hip of a SAPS official. What was being done to deal with this?

Lt Gen Sithole highlighted that with lost firearms, SAPS was rendering a service which required firearms so there was therefore an obligation to buy firearms. There was also the safety of members to consider. Yesterday two members were shot in front of the Francis Baard Court by criminals. This however did not set aside the action taken against lost firearms. This involved both criminal and departmental investigations. Project No 1448, driven by the National Commissioner and Minister, was to ensure SAPS did not have members with criminal records. The project also further ensured each and every departmental investigation went through a complete quality control process.

Mr Groenewald asked if there was statistics on how many violent crimes had been committed by legal firearm owners.

Lt Gen Sithole did not have the statistics on the individual cases of violent crimes using legal firearms but this could be provided to the Committee in writing. There were instances where people who committed crimes while in possession of their own legal firearms, were arrested. The particular stats would be provided as requested.

The Chairperson asked what measures were taken to ensure the integrity of data given that a hybrid system was in use. He wanted to know if there were separate databases or one database for the 1969 legislation and the FCR firearms.

Maj Gen Shezi explained a complete transition was envisaged as there was no expectation the two systems would be running parallel. It was critical to know what the 80% completion process meant and the remaining 20% must be concluded to ensure all intended purposes of the system were adhered to. There was a database within a database. It was supposed to be integrated but it was not so, in short, there were still two systems. With the crime stats, this was a different system from the existing CAS system into the Integrated Case Management System (ICDM). This ensured that anytime real stats were produced. This would also be used in the justice cluster to manage crime stats.

Ms Kohler Barnard followed up on the two detainees who were shot in a court house. These detainees were transported by SAPS who did not search them so this was one way firearms could get into the court from jail or someone could give it to the detainees in the court house or SAPS could have given it to the detainees. Were these cases under investigation? A judge or any civilian could have been killed in such a serious matter. Someone needed to account for these violent criminals having firearms in a court house.

Mr Maake questioned the litigation cases noting there was no evidence SAPS did anything wrong in the 95 cases. This gave him the impression that there was a lack of understanding of the law by those laying charges or there was thumb sucking or there was sheer victimisation. He found the matter difficult to understand.

Maj Gen Phillip said litigation outcomes were communicated within SAPS on a monthly basis. He was informed that of the finalised matters, orders were granted against the registrar or firearms appeal board, compelling the relevant entities to make decisions on applications. There were no grounds to oppose the cases. He had gone through some cases and one instance of refusing an application was because the residence was not enclosed by a fence but there was no such legal requirement. The requirement was for there to be a prescribed safe. These were the types of reasons for licences being refused in many instances. This could not be opposed because this was not a valid reason for refusal. This was indicative of problems experienced over a period of time and a lack of administrative skills and general shortcomings. There was talk of hosting a legal seminar but the issue was a broader one of administration skills and training rather than pure legal knowledge.

Mr Mbhele noted that the firearms control legislation was implemented in phases. Given that the Act was enacted some years ago, when was the timeframe for the date of the operational system to be configured to match the phased roll-out?

Maj Gen Sithole said the current, new development of capacity was the result of a continual and concurrent feasibility analysis of the legislation. It was intended for the Act to be fully implemented in terms of all aspects and resources by 31 March 2015.

The Chairperson asked if the database could immediately ascertain, for example, everyone who owned a gun of a certain age group within a certain locus. What were the current training protocols, for example, for auxiliary DFOs and unit staff. With the appeals board, what was the current composition of this board? Was it working effectively and what were the challenges? Were there specific internal communication strategies with staff within the unit? Very importantly, was there a concerted effort to inform the public from a management perspective of these current system challenges?

Brig Matshene explained the DFOs had been trained with the enhanced firearm registration system which was now interfacing and integrated with CAS. Within the regions and specific stations with a shortage of DFOs, this was being looked into and there was, in the interim, in-service training for the DFOs.

Lt Gen Sithole added there was a special training programme in the turnaround strategy to deal with a skills audit as a continuous programme and a specific training plan for the organisation. Mentorship programmes were started after training to provide practical application of the training.

Lt Gen Sithole said the composition of the appeals board was at the level of the Minister. He asked if the Chairperson would allow him not to talk to the composition. He assured them that serious challenges were not experienced with the appeals board.

Lt Gen Sithole indicated the communication strategy was one key deliverable in the turnaround strategy. This was linked to public and community information and education with community outreach being a top priority of the National Commissioner. Communities were educated about some of the critical priorities and it was felt the more communities were informed about firearm safety, the more SAPS could manage it effectively.

With the court shooting, Lt Gen Sithole said one SAPS member was shot in the head and was still in hospital while the other was still in a stable condition. This was a registered criminal issue currently under investigation. The identity of the members had been withheld as it was a traumatic event and they still needed to be interviewed. He also could not talk to the root cause of the particular matter as it was still under investigation.

Gen Sithole provided some closing comments on behalf of SAPS thanking the Chairperson for his leadership and for being welcoming of the Department. This appreciation was extended to Members. Through being accountable, SAPS was learning, picking up on shortcomings through the Committee’s great work, and improvement would be made from this.

The Chairperson provided some closing comments on the way forward noting firearm control was vital in a constitutional democracy – there must be stringent rules for applications and the management of this process and it was critical the integrity of the institution which dealt with this, should be beyond reproach. From the Committee’s perspective, it wanted to see the National Development Plan (NDP) implemented with a professional police force in line with the Constitution and therefore it was very important that firearm control management was sorted out. There could not be a system filled with questions and this was a priority area for the Committee. He had seen a letter last year from the Head of the Trauma Unit at the University of Cape Town, Professor Van As, which said since early 2011, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital had seen a marked increase in the number of children with firearm trauma injuries and this was nationwide. The Committee would support any measure from the accounting officer and CFO to ensure there were necessary funds to do the job. The lacuna of today’s briefing was for the Committee to provided with the action plan with timelines and budget allocations. He was shocked to hear about the current status of the database and that personnel from senior management level were being arrested. This showed the NDP must be implemented.

Committee Minutes: adoption
Members read through the minutes of the 30 July 2014 meeting. Ms Kohler Barnard thought the minutes were very short considering there was a presentation. Mr Irvin Kinnes, Committee Content Advisor, noted there was a report accompanying the Minutes. The Minutes were adopted with amendments.

Committee Business
The Chairperson indicated the Committee was due to visit the Nyanga police station next week at 09h00 Wednesday and there would a surprise visit to another station as well. The House was sitting at 15h00 so Members would have to be back by then. About 2 and half hours would be spent at Nyanga while about two and half hours would be spent at an unidentified station. The Committee would be making use of the station monitoring tool to evaluate the police stations. Responses had also been received from the four entities the Committee oversaw.

Today’s briefing came out of the budget briefings, media reports of problems at the Central Firearm Registry (CFR) and a report from the National Commissioner that an investigation was under way. The Committee felt firearm control was a very important matter and the Committee had to oversee the CFR. Due to the parliamentary programme and plenary sessions, the Committee could not visit the CFR in Pretoria and instead, SAPS had to brief the Committee. It was important for the Committee to ascertain the progress made with the CFR. It was vital this SAPS unit functioned optimally, there was good leadership and oversight. South Africans needed assurance there was good control over firearms and SAPS members were vetted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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