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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
30 October 2002
EXPLOSIVES BILL: DELIBERATIONS
Chairperson: Mr George (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Explosives Bill [B43-2002]
Explosives Bill (draft with amendments awaited)
Clause 15 amendment (see Appendix)
The Chair started the meeting by allowing each party to comment on the explosions, which had occurred in Soweto on the night of 24 October.
Most of the clauses in the Explosives Bill were agreed to without discussion because they had been discussed at previous meetings. The Minority Front had a problem with the wording in the amended Clause 15, but all the members agreed that the clause would not be changed. The ACDP raised the question of the constitutionality of Clause 23, but this was also cleared up. No other problems with the Bill were raised.
The Chair started the meeting saying that the Indian community of KwaZulu Natal had called him regarding Dihwali. They were very unhappy about the blanket prohibition on fireworks displays, other than organised fireworks displays. They did not feel that the power the Minister was given, to issue a permit for a fireworks display, was quite enough. The Chair said that he had discussed the matter with the ANC and other parties and they had decided to add a provision to Clause 15 to accommodate the concerns of the Indian community in Natal. He said that the purpose of this clause is to enable people to operate fireworks, on certain days only, without having to apply for a permit first.
The Chair said that this addition however did not appease Ms Kennedy of the Pyrotechnics Guild of South Africa. However the Bill has to be passed. The Bill could not be postponed because SA law needs to be in line with the UNO's standards. He said that those parties that maintain that there was no proper consultation are grasping at straws because every one of those parties was given the opportunity to make submissions to the portfolio committee and their issues were discussed.
Mr Swart(DP) said he would like to express his horror at the bombings in Johannesburg the previous night. The Chair said that these bombings gave a clear indication that explosives need to be controlled through legislation. He condemned these acts of the previous night. He gave the other parties an opportunity to comment on the events of the previous night.
Mr Swart added that the police need to be properly empowered to sort out the problem.
Mr Ferreira (IFP) said that his party also condemns the events of the night before. He said that it had been suggested that the bombs had been "homemade" and that this goes to show how easy it is to make explosives. He would not comment further without getting more information first because when something like this happens, it is too easy to make assumptions.
Ms Van Wyk (UDM) said that she would like to sympathise with the families of the injured. She said that these attacks show that SA is not exempt from terrorist attacks. The bombings served as a reminder as to why they are engaged in this Bill. They have to limit the loss of life, provide a safe environment and limit the damage to property through this legislation.
Rev Meshoe (ACDP) said that the police should leave no stone unturned to catch those responsible. There should be no tolerance of terrorism and that a strong message against these attacks should be sent. He conveyed his condolences to the family of the deceased.
Ms Rajbally (Minority Front) said that her party is disturbed by the previous night's events and they condemn those events. She noted that she would also like to give some input regarding the amended clause 15.
Mr Kwauge (ANC) said that the previous night's events served as an eye-opener. There should be no leeway for anybody to have access to explosives. The Committee should be honest with itself and bring a Bill which is enforceable and which will scare away people who express themselves by bombing others.
The Chair said that they should not be complacent about the safety of South Africa because the security of the country could be overturned in just one day. South Africans should not show panic because this may be giving the perpetrators what they want and this is potentially more dangerous for the country. He was not convinced that there was a political agenda behind the previous night's events.
Clauses 1 to 14 were agreed to without further discussion, as they had all been discussed previously.
Clause 15 Prohibition on use of explosives without permit
Mr Ferreira said that there has been a request that the amendment in clause 15(2)(a) should be further amended to read "shall" instead of "may". He said that this was not an amendment which he supported, just one that he was raising.
Ms Rajbally [not a committee member] said that this is what she has come to ask for too.
The Chair said that "shall" is very dangerous and it would effectively be limiting the Minister's power. It would also mean that the Minister "must" do something rather than giving the Minister a right to use his discretion.
Mr Swart agreed with the Chair. He said that "may" gives the Minister discretion, but - within the ambit of administrative justice - this means that the Minister would have to satisfy certain conditions if he denies the operation of fireworks in terms of clause 15(2)(a). In other words the Minister would have to have valid reasons if he denied the provision in clause 15(2)(a). These reasons could be tested in court if needs be.
Ms Van Wyk agreed and said that she wasn't comfortable with "shall" replacing "may".
Rev Meshoe said that he also was not comfortable with "shall".
The Chair said he was speaking on behalf of the ANC when he said that they have drafted a provision which the other parties support. The Indian community has the assurance that they will not be denied the operation of fireworks on their religious days unless the security of the country calls for such a denial.
Ms Rajbally said that the committee is tying cultural and religious days in with crime and if she was to 'nit pick' then she could argue that there are many other types of crimes being perpetrated.
The Chair said that "may" would not be changed to "shall". He had said this to the Indian ANC comrades and he is saying it to her, they are not discriminating against the Indian community. Other matters - such as the safety of the country - need to be taken into consideration. People are living in dangerous times - we are not living in heaven yet - that's why some go to church every Sunday and pray mornings and evenings so that they can go to heaven where they have no fireworks.
Clauses 16 to 22 were agreed to.
Clause 23 Presumption of possession of explosives under certain circumstances:
Rev Meshoe said that he doubts the constitutionality of 23(2)(a). There should be an assumption that you are innocent until proven guilty.
Mr Swart said that with presumptions it is not about proving your innocence, but rather about raising reasonable doubt and that is why it would be much easier to disentangle yourself from a presumption than getting yourself out of a situation where you have to prove your innocence.
Ms Van Wyk agreed and said that circumstances dictate that presumptions of this nature have to be included in the Act.
Clause 23 was agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 35 were agreed to. All the schedules were also agreed to.
Mr Swart then asked whether the committee was satisfied that "fire-lighting devices" are excluded from the definition for "fireworks".
Mr Soman said that the answer to that lies in the definition for "explosives".
That concluded the formal deliberations on the Explosives Bill. The committee confirmed that they would be voting on the Bill the next day, once they had received a mandate from their principals.
(2)(a) The Minister may by regulation exempt any person or any group of persons from obtaining a permit contemplated in subsection (1) if the exemption relates to the use of fireworks in celebration of a specified religious , cultural or traditional event.
(b) The Minister may limit the fireworks 'which may be used to any specified class and must specify the period for which the exemption is valid.
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