Summit on Firearms Control in South Africa: day 2, with input from Minister and Deputy Minister

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25 March 2015
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee, together with the Civilian Secretariat on Police (CSP), and representatives of the South African Police Service (SAPS) gathered for the second and final day of the Firearms Control Summit with many interested parties, organisations, bodies, the media and members of civil society present. The summit was a national dialogue and platform to discuss issues in relation to firearms, with the present agenda focusing on high-level input from the Minister and Deputy Minister of SAPS, the National Commissioner as well as the Executive Director of the Private Security Industry Regulating Authority (PSIRA).

The National Commissioner of SAPS outlined the implementation of the Firearms Control Act (FCA) and gave a brief background to the passage of the Act, resources allocated to its implementation after coming into effect in 2004, implementing the concept of Designated Firearm Officers (DFOs) and implementing ministerial intervention following the lapse in registrations, in order to address the backlogs, which was completed in 2010. The presentation also discussed amnesty declarations and their successes, the number of firearm applications from 1 July 2004 to date, numbers of active legal firearms and inactive firearms (both legal and illicit), the communication preparatory phase, addressing associated corruption, current plans and proposals for the Central Firearm Registry's (CFR) turnaround strategy, to improve service delivery, combat corruption and ensure quality assurance. The main challenges included inadequate storage facilities for files, insufficient accommodation for personnel, and considerable distance between the present building and archives. The system was currently unable to deal with e-applications. There were legislative gaps, including lack of congruity between the lifespan of the license to possess a firearm and the competency certificate, with no directive or certainty how to test the "fit and proper" requirements to possess a firearm.

Spirited discussion ensued, from both Members of the Committee and representatives of other bodies, who questioned the lack of training and competency of the DFOs to assess the mental and physical state of applicants, whose responsibility it was to ensure firearms recovered in an amnesty were kept safe, what mechanisms would ensure that firearms of SAPS members were immediately confiscated if they were involved in domestic violence personally, and the effectiveness of firearm searches conducted at schools. The eagerness and commitment from various organised groups and associations of firearm owners came out during this discussion session, in terms of stakeholder participation, engagement and using the collective expertise and knowledge of the subject-matter to make specific suggestions, indicate where proposals would not work, and proffer their services in education. Other issues raised related to court cases where the court had ruled that licenses must be granted, but they had not been, effectively bringing the National Commissioner and Minister in contempt of court. Members discussed how and whether there might be discussions with the applicants, since there were practical difficulties in issuing licences now in terms of repealed legislation.

The Minister of Police, Honourable Nkosinathi Nhleko, then delivered the keynote address of the summit focusing on implementing the National Development Plan (NDP), in particular Chapter 12, through firearm reduction strategies. The Minister noted that the key issues to address in the larger debate of strategies included stakeholder partnerships, problem-orientated policing and community involvement. The Minister then briefly spoke to the Firearms Control Bill and what it intended to achieve. Engagement after the keynote address then questioned the SAPS employee assistance programme, the numbers of people declared unfit to possess a firearm and the role of the community and community policing forums in assisting to determine the fitness of someone to possess a firearm which could then contribute to reducing the use of firearms. Others asked when then the report of the committee of inquiry established by the previous Minister into fraud and corruption in firearms control management system would be made public, highlighted the uncertainty of ballistic fingerprinting and microdot testing that had been suggested as alternatives, and the need for a specific unit to deal with investigations into firearms. There was also discussion around the need for proposals to close the leak from the legal pool of firearms to the illegal pool, the need to take ownership and the timeframe to fix the CFR in terms of the turnaround strategy.

The Deputy Minister of Police, Honourable Maggie Sotyu, focused on her recent oversight visit to the CFR and her findings and recommendations, noting that several points had already been taken up and spoken of in this summit by the National Commissioner. She noted that there were two aspects of the Firearms Control Act which were effective enablers of implementation, namely, multisectoral initiatives and an appropriate budget. In relation to her visit to the CFR, she highlighted her recommendations that there should be a benchmark study on whether the CFR should be a division on its own, suggestions around whether the CFR should be moved to the offices of the CSP, the introduction of short-term contracts and internship programmes to assist in the acute backlog in all types of licensing, consideration of reducing the age of gun ownership from 21 to 18 years of age, linking to the CFR to the crime administration system and the enhancement of health and wellness of police officers. Discussion after this address noted the importance of taking collective ownership of the problem, the need for access to correct and reliable information, which was critical when developing plans and strategies, and how decisions taken by the CFR unknowingly affected the industry. The point was raised again about the importance of stakeholder engagement, while others cautioned against the impression created of gun-free zones as crime-free zones. Some members of the industry asked the Deputy Minister to declare that there was no political agenda to disarm law-abiding South Africans from using guns for sport, and to commit to protecting legitimate firearm ownerships.

The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) then focused on how the Authority carried out its responsibility of firearm control and reporting in the private security industry. The presentation started with a general discussion on firearm control in the industry before moving onto results of an audit conducted, and discussed the existing regulatory framework and the PSIRA/CFR interaction. The presentation then highlighted the limitations in firearm control, gave an overview of the proposed legislation to improve firearm control, and concluded with recommendations on how to strengthen the CFR and interaction in the process of licensing. Members and people from the floor felt it was important to determine the flow of firearms from the private security industry to the illegal pool of firearms and asked about disciplinary steps taken by companies in this regard, and questioned PSIRA’s proposals for better control in this environment. Others questioned whether the DFOs were possibly overburdened, raised their capacity to monitor security companies and firearm distribution, and how it was intended to deal with questions of fitness to hold firearms. An interesting question was raised about the behaviour of individuals in the private security industry, in terms of perpetuating domestic violence and other types of violence especially through the access to firearms and if measures were taken against those implicated and how the private security industry could, in this space play a role in reducing the various types of violence in relation to firearms.

The Facilitator opened the floor to allow individuals to provide very brief summaries of what they saw as the most important points raised over the two days, and to make recommendations. Most commented on the value of the summit in bringing together people to realise their commonalities and to highlight issues that would need to be addressed. Whilst there was agreement that many of these issues were not new, and had in fact been raised since the mid-1980s, the approach could be new as a multi-disciplinary solution was now recognised. The facilitator noted that many of the points should be raised when the new Bill was brought to Parliament, probably in June, and the Chairperson said that relevant bodies would be asked also to give input on the budget of the SAPS in relation to Programme 1, which covered the CFR, in April and reiterated that their input on the Bill would be welcomed also.

Meeting report

National Firearms Summit: Day 2 hearings
Implementing the Firearms Control Act:South African Police Services (SAPS) submission

Ms Riah Phiyega, National Commissioner, South African Police Service, began the briefing by giving an introduction to the Firearms Control Act (FCA), stating that in 1996, the Minister for Safety and Security had appointed a Special Task Team to investigate the legislation regulating firearms, the administration of the Central Firearms Register (CFR) and the policy on issuing of firearm licences. The Firearms Control Bill was drafted to replace the Arms and Ammunition Act, 1969 (Act 75 of 1969). In 2000, Parliament passed the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act 60 of 2000). The firearms control Regulations were drafted and promulgated on 1 July 2004 to give effect to the new Act. Subsequent developments were as follows:

  • Firearms Control Amendment Act, 2003 (Act 43 of 2003)
  • Firearms Control Regulations, 2004
  • Firearms Control Amendment Act, 2006 (Act 28 of 2006)
  • Firearms Control Amendment Regulations, 2007
  • Firearms Control Amendment Regulations, 2010

Additional to the call by the then-Minister, the African Union member states, in terms of the Bamako Declaration, shared a common position on the measures to control the circulation, transfer and use of small arms and light weapons (SALW). A draft AU Strategy was adopted to support implementation by member states. Member states undertook to identify, seize and destroy illicit weapons, hence the recognition of a common firearm destruction day. In order to address the need for legislation in this environment, the FCA was developed with the following objectives:

  • To reduce firearm related crimes in South Africa (SA)
  • To effectively control all legally possessed firearms in SA
  • To prevent the proliferation of illegally possessed firearms.
  • To maintain a reliable firearms control and management system.

Licenses issued in terms of the previous Act (arms and ammunition) remained valid for a period of five years from the date on which the FCA came into operation. Firearms that exceeded limitation in terms of the FCA had to be disposed of. Internal processes and procedures were put in place to facilitate the replacement of old licenses and the disposal of excess individual firearms. Legal possession of firearms in SA was centered around the following entities:

  • Private Owners (individuals)
  • Institutions (parastatals, security companies and others) such as in-house security, game ranchers, training providers, associations
  • Commercial Agents (dealers, gunsmiths and manufacturers)
  • Government Departments (National and Provincial)

Nat. Comm. Phiyega then looked at the resources allocated for implementation in 2004, which included a once-off budget to implement the FCA, rather than a dedicated or ring-fenced budget. She described the inventories, equipment and professional and specialised services to the value of R39 908 000, comprising:

  • 458 Vehicles
  • Computer Equipment (figures after roll-out of final procurement):
  • Desktops – 1 153
  • Scanners – 728
  • Printers – 573
  • Fax Machines – 367
  • Included Network Connectivity and e-mailing
  • License Printers X 14 (R2 100 000.00)

The total value of computer equipment was then R23 291 956.00. The total allocation for initial rollout was R63 199 956.00. No dedicated Maintenance Plan was in place.

The concept of Designated Firearms Officer (DFO) was also introduced, as part of the implementation of the Firearms Control Act, and two DFO implementation models were also introduced, to run parallel. The first - the Firearm Registration Centre (FRC) model was implemented in Gauteng province, as a pilot project (now defunct). The second, the Enable Police Station (EPS) model was implemented in all other provinces and Gauteng was now using the same model.

Designated Firearm Officer Training was introduced, based on the Training Guideline for:

  • Firearms Control Legislation
  • Practical Approach
  • Enhanced Firearms Register System
  • Evidence Management
  • IBIS Testing.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega discussed the implementation relapse which led to intervention by the Minister, when it was noted that the first audit identified a total of 1 048 341 outstanding applications in February 2010. A second follow-up audit found an additional 32 355 outstanding applications in various provinces. Dedicated teams of officers from various provinces were assembled to deal with the applications. These teams worked extended hours, and additional funds were secured for overtime purposes for the officers considering the applications. All outstanding categories of applications were finalised during August 2011, when 1 080 696 were completed. The huge flow of applications, insufficient administrative capacity and late submission of applications contributed to the implementation relapse.

Firearm amnesty was declared by the Minister of Safety and Security in 2005 and again in 2010 by the Minister of Police. In 2005, 33 246 firearms were handed-in. A far smaller yield was seen in 2010 when 11  712 firearms were handed-in. The overall yield for firearms for both amnesties were 44 958.

In respect of firearm applications numbers, she noted that from 1 July 2004 to date, total applications received were 3 189 861 and 3 106 438 applications were finalised in this time period. She then gave the breakdown of active legal firearms in South Africa:
- Most firearms were owned by individual owners; for there were 1 749 034 owning 3 081 173 guns
- 425 official institutions owned 1 270 405 firearms
- 8 937 non-official institutions owned 136 259 firearms.

In terms of inactive firearms, both legal and illicit, 126 849 firearms were voluntarily surrendered, 143 160 firearms were confiscated and 676 599 firearms were destroyed. In terms of section 2, which covered those declared unfit to possess a firearm, there were 8 605 individuals who fell within this section, accounting for 10 611 firearms.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega then outlined the development of a SAPS corporate identity for firearms involving elements of generic firearms control, licence fees, safe-keeping, and educational campaigns that would be conducted through development, design and printing of various posters, and specific education on children and safety, and other educational programmes aimed directly at the youth, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Firearms control legislation would be available on the inter- and intra-net of SAPS, and the government website.

The following steps have been implemented to deal with issues relating to corruption:

  • Access to the system user codes have been changed
  • Quarterly anti -corruption work sessions were conducted
  • There was limited access on certain user functions
  • Restrictions were placed on member user groups, to narrow access
  • Vetting of regional commanders, Management Information Centre officials and secretaries by crime intelligence
  • Constant job rotation of members within regions to prevent familiarity
  • Quality assurance by commanders

Nat. Comm. Phiyega explained the current plans and proposals for the CFR turnaround strategy, as presented previously to the Committee. These included:

  • Acquisition of a building for CFR personnel
  • Reviewing processes and procedures for firearm applications for efficiency
  • The upgrading of the enhanced firearm registration system
  • The streamlining of the firearm registration system
  • Revision of the CFR, provincial and station structures
  • Revision of the application forms for the possession of firearms
  • Review of policies regulating estate firearms
  • Upgrading the current printing machines and print in-house at the provincial level

Challenges included inadequate storage facilities for files and insufficient accommodation for personnel which negatively affected the turnaround time to finalise applications. The distance between the Veritas Building situated in the Pretoria CBD and archives situated at Silverton was also affecting the turnaround time to finalise the applications. The incomplete implementation of the Firearms Control System was a challenge. In addition, this must be seen with inability of the FCS to deal with e-applications. There were legislative gaps, including a lack of congruity between the lifespan of the license to possess a firearm and a competency certificate. Furthermore, there was no clear directive on the “fit and proper” attribute of the applicant, and no competency on the part of the DFOs to assess the mental and physical state of the applicant.

In conclusion, the CFR Turnaround Strategy and Action Plan had been developed and were being implemented to improve service delivery, combat corruption and ensure quality assurance. SAPS management and personnel were committed and dedicated to ensure effective and efficient implementation of the Act.


Ms A Molebatsi (ANC) noted that in August 2014, the Committee had been told about the lack of training of DFOs, and today people were being told of the lack of competency of the DFOs to assess the mental and physical states of the applicants. This was almost the same thing, and she enquired when would the DFOs be trained once and for all?

Nat. Comm. Phiyega did not believe the DFOs, or even ordinary police members, would ever have this capacity, which was why she said engagement was needed in this area. Some sort of medical expert was needed to do the assessment for mental and physical fitness. She pointed out that if this sort of requirement was laid down for a job application, the applicant would normally be referred to a doctor for testing.

Ms P Mmola (ANC) asked who must ensure all firearms submitted in an amnesty process were kept safe.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega replied that if the firearms were submitted to SAPS, they had the responsibility to keep them safe. If there were leakages and breaches in this area, this was something for SAPS to manage.

Mr Tebogo Kwape, representing the Sports Shooters Forum, noted that on the previous day, there had been lengthy discussions on licensing the person and registering the gun, which would make it easier to deal with registrations and contribute toward efficiency. He appreciated the promotion of a gun-friendly society, and his group had made it known that it would participate in any stakeholder training to remove the fear of guns from society, including perhaps going to schools or departments to assist. He asked how his Forum could be of practical assistance.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega said licensing the individual and registering the gun was a little bit of paradox, because the firearm was a crucial instrument which could cause great damage, so it needed an identity to track from beginning to end. This needed to harmonised and blended with the licensing of an individual. She suggested that maybe there needed to be more dialogue whether the case was either / or, although she believed both were needed. She thought that such a contribution from the Forum would be helpful and she would take Mr Kwape up on its offer and engage on what could be done to work together to make SA a better place and a gun-friendly society.

Mr AM Shaik Emam (NFP) asked what process or mechanism was in place to ensure that the moment that domestic violence was reported, either against a SAPS member or a member of the public, his/her firearm was immediately taken away.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega responded that from a SAPS point of view, internally, if a commander noticed behaviour that was untoward by another SAPS member - which could include mood changes, being snappy, or his wife's reports - it was then the duty of the commander and station commander to report that and to remove the firearm from the SAPS member, because having the firearm would not contribute to a healthy state of affairs. In addition, such member should be referred to employee health and well-being. There were practitioners in this space like pastors, social workers and psychologists, but she wanted to emphasise the importance of removing the gun, until such time as the commander and station commander were satisfied that other intervention had been successfully taken. There might be weaknesses in implementing these processes, but it was important to be sharply aware of the behaviour of SAPS colleagues. Femicides and homicides were tracked because it was important to check if progress was being made, or not being made, in managing SAPS' personnel use of firearms for illicit activities.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) highlighted a case in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in October 2014, where seven applicants requested the issue of their firearm licences. The court ruled that the licences should be issued within 10 days. He had been contacted on the previous day and told that some of the applicants still had not received their licences despite the Court's ruling, and this put the National Commissioner in contempt of court. Such situations explained why the public complained there was no service delivery. Going to court cost money for the applicants, and despite the court order their licences were still not received. He said that this was unacceptable.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega requested more details around this matter, saying that the legal division and Visible Policing should look into it urgently. SAPS officials were law abiding citizens with an intention to comply with the laws of the country.

A question from the floor enquired about the status of the online dealers reporting system and, if possible, an indication how much was spent on the system thus far.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega was not aware there was an online reporting system. In the presentation she spoke to a system of re-capacitation to be able to factor in modern management qualities such as e-applications and online reporting, and had said that at present the system did not have that capacity. It was hoped that, once it was reviewed and feedback was received from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), SAPS would be able to build on existing capacity to allow it do more than it did currently.

Mr Hood, an attorney representing the Security Industry Alliance, was aware of a court case against the National Commissioner and Minister where they were found to be in contempt of court for not issuing licences. He was concerned that the applicant in question was both a foreign-listed investor and a registered security service provider. Negative messages were thus being sent overseas arising from administrative issues. He was concerned that the governance structure for SAPS for firearm management excluded the Security Industry Alliance, which was a representative of the security industry employers, and this might be one of the reasons for administrative problems if the Alliance was not even regarded as a stakeholder.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega said she would appreciate more details on this case, to be able to give a more specific response about remedies and delays. It was a concern if the rights of citizens were infringed upon and even more so if those citizens were investing in the country. This was taken seriously.

Mr Fred Camphor, Representative, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association, noted that in 2009, the Minister and SAPS were taken to court for the inability to implement the then-new Firearms Control Act. A court order was obtained that declared all the old licences to be deemed invalid until the main application was heard and judged. This had not happened. As a result, all the old licences, which were stuck into ID books, were still deemed to be valid today in all practical terms. He wondered, from a comparison of the old database and the new system, if there was an indication of how many old licences were still valid? In the turnaround strategy set out, he had not seen any reference to settling the court order, either by going back to court or by negotiation with the applicants and wondered if, without doing so, there was any possibility that the Firearms Control Act would be completely implemented?

Nat. Comm. Phiyega indicated that this matter was on the radar of SAPS, even though it was not discussed in the presentation. SAPS was deciding whether it should be settled in court or whether to engage with stakeholders. When a decision was made, suggestions would be brought to the Minister.

Maj. Gen. Philip Jacobs, SAPS Legal Services, added that one possible solution was addressed in the draft Bill. Ideally, before the Bill came to Parliament, there could be discussion between SAPS and the applicant for a solution. He pointed out that the application was not brought by SAPS and after the interim order was obtained, the applicant did not take further steps to take the matter forward. It was a problem for SAPS to issue licences under an Act which had already been repealed, while implementing the present Act. This was a key issue to address going forward, with full and proper implementation of the Act.

Mr Andre Pretorius, Representative, Professional Firearms Trainers Council, said that in 2002, he was part of an advisory council that, among other things, looked into the issue of fit and proper and mental stability of an applicant. This council concluded that there was no definitive measurement to measure a person’s mental stability for the use of a firearm - it could only happen in the reverse. If such a measurement was devised, it would first impact SAPS, the military and security industry and would also have massive implications for the country. The background checks and interview process were there to try to ascertain whether there was any evidence that would suggest that the applicant was not mentally stable. He suggested that it would not be useful to revisit a suggestion to train DFOs as psychologists.

Nat. Comm. Phiyega responded that background checks remained crucial and SAPS had been advised not to "reinvent the wheel" but to look at what others were doing, and review the body of existing knowledge.

Ms Valdi Van Reenen – Le Roux, Director: Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture, said that gang-related shootings in the Western Cape and confiscation of firearms and artillery in Mitchells Plain could not be separated from what learners were currently going through in schools. She knew SAPS had a protocol with the Department of Basic Education, and was aware that searches were conducted at schools. She asked about the impact and success and effectiveness of such searches. She noted the aim to make South Africa "gun-friendly" and asked how this would be conveyed to learners, especially with regard to illegal firearms?

Nat. Comm. Phiyega said the SAPS/Department of Basic Education schools project was fundamental for multiple issues, one of which was a focus on the relationship between children and firearms, to provide children with knowledge of the value and use of firearms. In some schools there were gun-related deaths and children bringing guns to school, so it was clearly important to start with this education from a young age. The same was being done with drugs, and other general issues around crime. Children needed to be crime-savvy, so that they would also grow up as crime and safety aware as adults. The searches conducted were crucial, and made children aware that it was wrong to carry a weapon and sanctions would be imposed if they did. At any given time SAPS may come in to conduct searches, in partnership with the Department of Education, as a form of extended parenting, to keep the school a homely and safe environment. In the Western Cape, incidents reported from schools had significantly reduced from a few years ago.

Lt. Gen. Khehla Sithole, Deputy National Commissioner: Policing, SAPS, closed this session by noting there was a community outreach framework as a tool to engage, at a partnership level, with the community policing framework and the national crime prevention framework being developed with all nine provinces. It was important for everyone to get involved in a multi-disciplinary collaboration.

Keynote Address by the Minister of Police, Honourable Nkosinathi Nhleko

Implementing the National Development Plan (NDP) Through Firearm Reduction Strategies

The Chairperson introduced Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko, Minister of Police, to the panel. He was originally from KwaZulu Natal (KZN), and had been, amongst others, a Chairperson of Portfolio Committees as well as serving as House Chairperson in the National Assembly, providing a good legislative background. Furthermore, Minister Nhleko served as Director-General and Provincial Commissioner in the Department of Correctional Services, which gave him a good grasp of the day-to-day issues of the functioning of departments. He had served as Minister of Police since last year.

Minister Nhleko apologised for not being able to attend the previous day's session, due to other pressing matters. He welcomed the summit as providing for great interaction and it was very important to hear various viewpoints on the issue of gun control and management; he was the poorer for not managing to attend on the previous day but would interact with the written material.

He said that Chapter 12 of the National Development Plan (NDP) focused on building safer communities. By 2030, people living in SA should feel safe and have no fear of crime. Women, children and vulnerable groups should feel protected, should have confidence in the criminal justice system to effectively apprehend and prosecute criminals who violated individuals and community safety. The question was how to build a feeling of safety and a secure environment, and whether this was achievable through gun ownership or proliferation of guns in society. Another question went to whether gun ownership or proliferation of guns was symptomatic of other societal ills. He ventured to express the view that today, it was indicative of a socio-economic problem, in that society embraced violence, harboured a belief that all social ills could be settled through violence, or that the barrel of gun bestowed power. Society was also fragmented along the lines of class, race and social standings, all in contestation with each other. This pattern was not limited to class but was evident in social relations from one individual to the next, as well as one gender to the next. The critical question was how to foster conditions of peace and harmony in society. It was not going to be attained through gun ownership or proliferation of illegal guns. There was a direct correlation between patterns of violence in society and the extent to which people wanted to own guns, either legally or illegally. It was important to regulate gun control and have effective measures, but equally for there to be intensified efforts at a societal level to deal with the occurrence of social ills. No amount of adequate policing would, on its own, necessarily resolve social ills, and it was a sad reality that in SA society, there was an accentuated level of gun ownership accompanied by an issue of illegal guns. This made today's summit all the more relevant and he applauded the initiative.

Minister Nhleko highlighted that there were a few focal area which required attention, to address the questions raised. Firstly, he believed there was a need for Stakeholder Partnership: stakeholders needed to be mobilised from the criminal justice system, various communities, faith-based organisations and the media to create buy-in for new initiatives for implementation. Secondly, there was a need for problem-orientated policing: engraining in policing of hotspots through an examination of local crime incidents, including an analysis of calls for service and investigations through intelligence and arrests reports. Trends and patterns could then be identified to proactively target hotspots with resources and policing efforts. Related types of criminal activity typically associated with gun violence - such as drug sales - should be included in such analysis. The results from analyses should be communicated to police in real-time in the field and incorporated into patrol and tactical investigative operations. A third very important area was community involvement, which included overarching goals of enhancing community safety, where police would have to design better ways to engage communities in gun violence reduction and crime prevention strategies. Good public policy and advocacy efforts were critical components of a comprehensive gun violence reduction programme. For this to be successful, an emphasis had to be placed on the need for communities to work together with law enforcement agencies.

The Firearms Control Amendment Bill had been taken through Cabinet processes and the Bill, in brief, sought to improve licensing, accountability and had a strategy to improve the CFR, among others. The Bill was a critical piece of legislation which created a platform for all South Africans to effectively deal with this problem. It was recognised that there were anomalies in the current context of gun ownership in SA, such as an instance where one individual owned 436 licensed firearms three years ago in the Free State; or the recent case of an accused at the North Gauteng High Court who had licenses for over 50 guns. The Bill should be in a position, amongst other things, to address some of these anomalies. Furthermore the Bill raised three critical questions around firearm licenses, to systemically improve licensing processes to increase DFOs in priority police stations. The Bill also sought to standardise the competency period within a five-year time-frame and increase the capacity of the Firearms Appeals Board, through a provision for the Minister to assess and evaluate the demand for firearm applications. The last issue was around better accountability especially around ballistic sampling, for if a firearm was used in the commission of crime, it should be easier to trace. The microdot system would assist in identifying a firearm even if the serial number was filed off. This would be phased into state entities, security companies and individuals. In relation to the strategy to improve the CFR, this would be developed to promote responsible gun use, minimise loss and theft. The Bill sought to introduce prescribed minimum sentences of at least five years in the case of serious abuse of firearms.

The Minister suggested that all stakeholders needed to "put a shoulder to the wheel" to confront weaknesses in society. This meant changing the overall societal outlook. The Ministry of Police had committed itself to initiating a process of a national dialogue and making efforts to reduce violence in society. The dialogue was currently proposed for April 2015 and it was hoped such an initiative was another step in contributing to a less violent society.


An observer, who represented the Royal House of the Khoi-San, and who was an ex-police officer at the Manenberg police station, informed the Minister that 43 firearms went missing from that station in 2005, and she had been the whistleblower in this case. As a result she was victimised, intimidated, and challenged SAPS in court for brutal sexual harassment. This explained why so many police officers committed suicide. She urged the Minister to look into the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Many people had testified against her but the testimonies were all fabricated. She begged the Minister to remove the Nyanga Cluster and proceeded to provide the names of the individuals in question. If a war started now, Manenberg would win that war.

She was stopped short by Mr E de Klerk, Facilitator, who said the member had already asked questions to the Minister. Any other information could be provided at a later stage.

Minister Nhleko noted that he was a relatively new Minister, only 10 months in this position, but he would love to get more detail about what transpired. These were serious allegations which impacted the overall outlook of the character of the institution.

Adv. Norman Arendse, representing the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the Senzo Meyiwa Gun Committee, noted that the National Commissioner's presentation had mentioned 8 605 individuals accounting for 10 611 firearms, who were found unfit to possess firearms. This high number was disconcerting. He wanted to know to what extent civil society could become more involved in assisting in determining the fitness of individuals to bear firearms. He thought of the Community Policing Forums (CPFs) and local communities being better placed to give input into the fitness of compatriots in the various communities and clusters and whether they should be given firearm licences. This would contribute substantially towards reduction of the use of both legal and illegal firearms.

Minister Nhleko thought the issue of community involvement was crucial, even when it came to declarations of fitness. The people with whom an individual lived with would know them best at a community-level and would be able to relay patterns of behaviour. He agreed with the idea of engaging community involvement as a deliberate rather than incidental step. There was not one community in SA that did not have some form of community organisation, such as Community Policing Forums (CPFs). One weakness, however, was that some of the gun used by gangs on the Cape Flats could be traced back to the CFR. The point was that systemic problems were noted and there was further work to be done.

A SAPS official added that 1 604 individuals were declared by the courts as unfit to possess firearms since the inception of the Firearms Control Act.

Ms Claire Taylor, Gun Free SA, understood that the Minister had the report of a committee of inquiry that was established by the previous Minister into fraud and corruption in the firearms control management system. She asked if this report, or at least parts, would be made public. She asked if the Minister could share some of the findings and recommendations from the report in this forum?

A representative from the Firearms Appeal Board asked if it would be proper to re-introduce the specific unit which dealt with the investigation of firearms, which could give statistics and terms of illegal firearms and missing/stolen firearms. The unit would deal solely with firearms, and would be able to give the correct data to assist others and the Department itself.

Minister Nhleko thought this formed part of a bigger debate, where various people had repeatedly called for the re-introduction of various special units, and it would be necessary to consider the points and consider whether the Bill should consider such a unit. He could not say whether having such a unit would improve things, because it required a lot of thinking, evaluation, processing and analysis.

Mr Paul Oxley, Representative, Sports Shooters Forum, told that Minister that his organisation was eager to assist however it could. Many of the individuals were subject-matter experts on firearms so could bring this knowledge and expertise to the table. Being of assistance also meant sometimes pointing out potential pitfalls or red herrings, so as to avoid wasting resources and time by travelling down the wrong road. He was concerned to hear the Minister speak of ballistic fingerprinting and microdots. He, along with other colleagues, met with the micro-dotting association, and there was no way that micro-dotting could be made to work; the technology simply could not produce what the Bill required. The national standard discussed in the Bill suited motor vehicles and not firearms; on a firearm only a few dots could be used but they would still be visible and easy to remove with a wire brush. On ballistic fingerprinting, it would be fine if a cartridge were to be picked up at a crime scene, tested, tracked to the firearm, and thence to its owner, but this was more the subject of Hollywood fiction than reality. Ballistic fingerprint experiments were tried in the US, but the State Senate Hearing in the US state of Maryland recently revealed that the ballistic fingerprinting identification machine was sold five years ago because it was proven to be of no value. The experiment was expensive to test and produced no results, because there were so many factors which would change on a casing on a bullet. It was important to save time and effort rather than go down a path which led nowhere.

A representative from the SA Defensive Pistol Association asked if SAPS had the capacity and resources to actually deal with microdots and implementing ballistic testing. If these were to be introduced, how would SAPS implement the two systems?

Mr Guy Lamb, Director: SA Violence Initiative, University of Cape Town, appealed to the Minister to partner with universities and research institutes to understand the effectiveness of the orientated policing approach as society could learn a lot. He commended the Minister for emphasising this approach because studies conducted proved it was particularly effective in reducing levels of firearm crime and the proliferation of firearms.

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) thought the approach the Minister presented needed all support, especially in terms of stakeholder and community participation/involvement in dealing with challenges and the proliferation of guns. This approach presupposed that everyone knew what needed to be done but most challenges related to empowering officers at the station-level to understand the approach and protect those who came forward with information in order to root out the problem. A national order could help police management to understand, particularly with communities who could not protect themselves. Despite so many people being present and there being a big collective voice, he still heard no proposals on how, in the Amendment Bill, to close the leak in both the public and private sector in terms of the proliferation of guns. He heard no ownership of this particular problem but was hearing more of what could not be done or what the problem was. There was less talk on the collective solution and this did not help the Committee who would be dealing with the particular Bill at a later stage. The common purpose should be to close the leak and he appealed for this to be firmly considered.

Ms Nadine Prior, SA Dealers Association, noted that the CFR’s database of firearms was hopelessly incorrect and was, at best, in shambles. She asked what was being done to fix this, what timeframe was set, and what was the timeframe for the turnaround strategy?

Minister Nhleko noted that there was quite a lot of work being undertaken with CFR and dealing with those specific issues. A public announcement would be made in due course, which would include details of the turnaround strategy and timelines. as ready to be made this would be done as well as with the turnaround strategy and timelines. He noted that many of the discussions raised today zoomed into the Firearms Control Amendment Bill and suggested to the Chairperson that the Committee would need to lead a structured process in processing public engagement, views and comments. Many of the points raised could be turned into specific inputs to assist in formulating the objectives and ultimate wording of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill. Partnerships were very important, and would need to be wide-ranging in nature, and he would encourage inputs on policy approaches from research institutions, whose input would be important for the strengthening of the Bill and to assist SAPS to administer the question of firearms in society properly.

Deputy Minister of Police: Presentation of findings and recommendations from the Oversight Visit to the Central Firearm Registry (CFR)

The Chairperson introduced the Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Maggie Sotyu, noting that she hailed from the Free State and had been involved in politics for a very long time. She was a member of the ANC's PEC in the Free State. Not only had she been a former Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police for ten years, she was now in her second term of serving as the Deputy Minister of Police, so this added up to more than 15 years experience in the policing environment. This was great collective knowledge and she knew a lot about the individual policing institutions.

Deputy Minister Sotyu opened her presentation by noting that if she was ill, she would visit the doctor, tell that person of the problem and be told of the right diagnosis. Ten days ago, she had visited the CFR, and the plans that the National Commissioner had presented responded to the findings of the Deputy Minister during that visit.

She pointed out that owning a gun did not guarantee an individual's safety. She aligned herself with Gun Free SA when it said, as far back as 1999, that guns were not an effective deterrent. Having gun control legislation would not prevent future armed robberies, murders, violence at schools and massacres. However, having initiatives like this summit continued to give hope to the leadership of the Department of Police. Allowing stakeholders to advise SAPS on how best to formulate and implement legislation on gun control was comforting, to say the least.

She heard the concerns about the micro-dotting. She reminded the summit that a few weeks ago the amended legislation went to Cabinet, which had raised their own concerns and SAPS was given a mandate to come back with more clarity on those issues. She had also raised questions around the capacity of SAPS to deal with the issue of microdots and so she was happy to hear the matter being discussed here. The Committee would be embarking on public hearings where members of the public and interested groups could assist the Committee in dealing with matters such as these.

She said that all issues for discussion in the summit were critical. However, she was particularly drawn to the discussions on implementation of the Firearms Control Act of 2002. Two aspects of the Act were enablers for effective implementation.

Firstly, it must be noted that multi-sectoral issues were vital. Gun control was not a single issue campaign. The campaign was to be embedded in other key socio-economic matters experienced by the majority of the country. These were unemployment, poverty, social inequality, moral regeneration, substance abuse and gangsterism. She urged the delegates to look at the issue of social cohesion and moral regeneration. Firearm-free zones should be revived and emphasised, just like there were non-smoking areas in homes, schools, shebeens and all public places including parks and resorts.

The second point was to find an appropriate budget, which was the single, most important ingredient of public service delivery and the most important tool for translating government plans, strategies and priorities into real public service. She was sad to say that, despite the billions of rands that SAPS had received from government since 1994, it was still faced with the same problem of a CFR which was not functional and in constant decay. Some of the findings which she came across as early as 2008, when she still presided over the Committee, were still not up to standard. Cabinet was also concerned with the state of readiness of the CFR to implement the proposed amendments in the new Act.

Deputy Minister Sotyu reiterated that during her visit to the CFR in March 2015, it was patently obvious that the CFR had not been a priority for a long time. The infrastructure was falling apart, the IT system was outdated and there was a high vacancy rate. A lot of personnel were fired due to corruption, which was a good thing, but the problem was that they had never been replaced. The Firearms Appeals Board was located in the same CFR building, which produced a blurring of mandates or perhaps even rubber-stamping. The state of readiness of the CFR for the implementation of some of the proposed amended legislation was thus zero. After the visit she made several recommendations to the CFR – some short-term and some long-term. The report would be made available to the CSP once she had discussed it with the Minister. She was always awaiting SAPS's report on how they intended to deal with her recommendations. She did see that some of the matters in the presentation by the National Commissioner this morning had directly responded to her findings.

Some of the critical recommendations she made to SAPS, after her visit and inspection of the CFR, included:

  • Researchers of Parliament should conduct a bench-marking study to find out if the CFR should be a division on its own. This might, in the long-term, address issues of infrastructure, human capacity and management
  • The Firearms Appeal Board needed to be moved to the office of the Civilian Secretariat on Police, to ensure impartiality.
  • Short-term contracts and internship programmes should be introduced to address the acute backlog in all types of licensing. Gauteng alone, per day, received more than 10 000 applications, followed by the Western Cape, then KZN. Most of the work was being done manually so a short term intervention of maybe 24 months through interns could assist, if they were trained. Under the current conditions, the target to process applications in 90 days was not realistic, unless there was more human capacity to assist
  • A possible reconsideration of the age-limit for gun ownership, because those that worked with the system said it was not implementable
  • Establishing a link between the Crime Administration System (CAS) and the CFR to immediately detect individuals who applied for a gun-licence but were unfit to do so. This would make matters much easier, especially for renewal of licences, to ensure that all prior information could just be displayed
  • Enhancement of health and wellness of police officers, because it was critical for these members to be in a good state of mind to carry firearms

She urged all delegates present to forge real partnerships to achieve the goals to efficiently control the acquisition, dealings and usage of guns in SA.


Adv Hood thanked Mr Ramatlakane for his statement on the need to take ownership of the problem – this was probably the most positive statement to come out of the summit. However, to take ownership of the problem, there was a need to identify what the problem was. It was important to remember the problem of crime and violence in SA was not only limited to the control and possession of firearms. Access to information was critical when developing plans and strategies. He highlighted the report into the CFR which needed to be made public. He urged the Deputy Minister to make the report available because the start of diagnosing the sickness would come from this report.

Mr Andre Pretorius Professional Firearms Trainers Council, emphasised the importance of stakeholder participation, especially because of the unintended consequences which arose because of a lack of stakeholder participation. Sometimes decisions made by the CFR were made unaware of how these affected the industry, because there had not been adequate stakeholder participation before, during and after the implementation of new ideas. In respect of gun-free zones, the impression created was that the area was some sort of safe haven. However, just as having a firearm did not guarantee safety, a gun free zone did not guarantee that a person would be safe from crime. If this was the aim, the area should be called a crime-free zone. Gun-free zones actually attracted crime, and in the US, a decision had been made to put armed guards in gun-free zones because of the amount of crime being committed there.

Deputy Minister Sotyu felt it important to debate the gun-free zones issue, so that there was agreement before it was put in the legislation; she fully understood the point being made.

Mr Johan Schoeman, Gun Owners SA said he had come up with some figures, using the calculations from the figures highlighted this morning of firearm owners subjected to the section 102 inquiries and declared unfit to possess a firearm and those declared unfit by the courts under section 103 inquiries, measured against the number of licensed firearm owners in SA. This indicated that problems were experienced with just 1.58% of firearm owners, which was statistically insignificant. He advocated for a system of licensing the individual but registering the firearm, albeit that it meant there was a duplication of efforts.

Minister Sotyu said the matter of licensing the individual and registering the firearm needed to be debated before a decision was taken, because there were reasons why there was previously a decision taken to license the firearm. Any change needed to be debated in order for there to be agreement.

A representative of the Hunters Forum said he represented the 28-odd accredited hunting associations in SA. He agreed with Mr Ramatlakane that through all the talk over the past two days, no one had made a suggestion on how to stop the leak of legal firearms to the illegal pool of firearms. He thought this was a political issue. From a hunting background, there were huge political challenges, but about two years ago, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, held a two-day indaba to unpack the issues. She got a better understanding of the various players in hunting and the greater wildlife area, of what the problems and aspirations were and the transformation goals. At the end of the indaba, the Minister made a positive statement that hunting was fundamentally good if it was properly regulated, concluding that it was here to stay and government’s role was to enable the practice. Barriers broke down and there was now positive engagement nationally and provincially and great strides were made in regulating the practice of hunting better, with compliance, and sharing of information. All the resources spent on defending the hunting position against government were now turned to something positive. It would be tremendously good if the Ministry of Police could declare there was no political agenda to disarm law abiding citizens of SA, and to protect legitimate firearm ownership. The industry could then become part of government’s 2030 strategy.

Deputy Minister Sotyu said there was no political agenda to disarm law abiding citizens.

A person from the floor, representing Victims of Crime in SA, did not see how ballistic testing or microdot testing would stop crimes from happening. He also questioned the use of such tests when a firearm was brandished during a crime, but no shots were fired.

Deputy Minister Sotyu highlighted that many of the issues raised would assist with the amending of the legislation. She noted all points raised, and also recognised that not all crime was being committed by using firearms.

Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) submission

Mr Manabela Chauke, Director, PSIRA, began by looking at firearms control within the private security industry. He noted that all 8 365 security businesses were registered and active in the private security industry, representing all categories or classes of security service providers. 462  465 registered and active security officers were employed or deployed by security businesses. The following were the categories or classes of security service providers where the users of firearms were more prevalent:

  • general guarding sector
  • assets in transit services (cash and others)
  • reaction services
  • close protection and
  • anti-poaching sector

The types of firearms generally used in the industry included:

  • handguns
  • shotguns
  • restricted firearms such a semi-automatic firearms (LM range and other) and
  • bolt action rifles (in the anti-poaching sector)

A firearm audit was conducted on the licensed institution database of the CFR in 2012/2013. The aim of the audit was to:  

  • Identify the number of security businesses licensed for firearms from the total institution database;
  • Identify the number of firearms licensed to security businesses;
  • Compliance verification against PSIRA’s SSP database (registration status, number of security officers employed versus number of firearms etc.); and
  • Verify the status of licensed security businesses against CIPC

With the provincial breakdown of the audit outcomes, the total number of security businesses licensed were 3 340, with 101 612 firearms. The highest number was in Gauteng followed by Limpopo, KZN and the Western Cape.

Mr Chauke then discussed the existing regulatory framework and the PSIRA/CFR interaction. PSIRA noted that the framework provided compliance information to the CFR on all security service providers applying for firearm licenses. Inspections were conducted to verify the:  

  • Number of firearms licensed to the businesses;
  • Number of security officers employed;
  • Firearm and ammunition stock register;
  • Details of responsible person;
  • Confirmation of competency certificate; and
  • Verification of authorisation / permit.

Inspection findings were then submitted to the CFR and there were also inspections and operations between PSIRA and the DFOs.

In terms of the limitation in firearms control, there was no direct access to the CFR’s database, there was no differentiation on the CFR’s institution database between the different types of businesses that were licensed, PSIRA did not have access to the information relating to the types / caliber of firearms. There was a breakdown in communication between PSIRA and the CFR after the licenses had been granted, and where the registration status or information originally given by the applicant business had changed.

Looking specifically at the proposed legislations to firearms control, he noted that in terms of the PSIRA Amendment Bill, the PSIRA Council must submit a report to the Minister on the activities of the Authority including the numbers of firearms:

  • Registered to security businesses
  • Lost by security businesses
  • Stolen from security businesses
  • Destroyed in terms of the Firearms Control Act, 2000
  • The instances in which firearms were discharged by a security officer in the performance of his/her duties causing death or injury

In terms of clause 35(1A)(m) the Minister must make regulations relating to the issuing, possession and use of firearms and other weapons by security service providers.

In terms of clause 33(b)(3), PSIRA must inform the Registrar of Firearms at the time of any -

  • New registration;
  • Suspension;
  • Sale;
  • Transfer;
  • Liquidation;
  • Merger;
  • Lapsing or termination of the registration;
  • Lapsing or termination of ownership; and
  • Any other material change or reason that would necessitate the licensing, relicensing or disposal of firearms in the possession of such a security service provider

In terms of clause 33(b)(4) the Registrar of Firearms must, at the written request of the Director of PSIRA, submit a list of all firearms registered to a particular service provider, to PSIRA within 30 days. Under clause 33(b)(5), PSIRA must report to Parliament, by way of the Annual Report, information provided by PSIRA to the Registrar of Firearms.

Ballistic Sampling of Firearms was dealt with under Clause 23B (1)(b) of the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill, 2015 and stated that the owner of every firearm, including any firearm licensed for business purposes related to the private security industry in terms of the PSIRA Act of 2001, must comply with a programme published by the Minister, by Notice in the Gazette, to have the firearms in their possession ballistically sampled. It would be important for PSIRA to be part of this programme and to keep the records of the ballistically sampled firearms. Clause 23 (B)(1)(2) of the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill (2015) stated that whenever any firearms license referred to in subsection (1) was renewed or when there was a change of ownership, the original owner must ensure that the firearm was submitted to the designated firearms officer for ballistic sampling of the firearm, before the renewal or before the ownership of the firearm was transferred to any other person. PSIRA must ensure compliance insofar as the firearms within the private security industry are concerned and also engage in awareness campaigns to ensure compliance with this provision.

Mr Chauke concluded with recommendations. He noted that PSIRA must effectively monitor firearms in the possession of the private security providers through the following:

  • The development of a PSIRA Firearms database of all security businesses licensed by SAPS for firearms
  • The development of a system for PSIRA’s access to the CFR’s database
  • Reconciling the number of security businesses licensed by SAPS for firearms with the registered businesses with PSIRA
  • The effective collaboration between PSIRA and the CFR
  • The creation of a functional Firearms Inspectorate within PSIRA
  • The training of PSIRA inspectors on Firearms Handling and Inspections


The Chairperson asked if there was any database to determine the flow from the private security industry to the illegal pool, and the disciplinary steps taken by companies in this regard. He also asked if there were any proposals from PSIRA to ensure there was better control of this environment.

Mr Chauke was not aware of any data looking at the movement of firearms from the private security industry to the illegal pool of firearms. However, PSIRA was working with the CFR, using particular units, and there was very strict compliance in the industry when it came to issues of competency, record-keeping, permits, safe storage of firearms and other matters.

Another representative from PSIRA added that the biggest challenge was non-compliant companies. This issue tarnished the image of the industry.

Adv Hood said there were no statistics. There were two aspects to focus on in order to better regulate private security service providers, One would be to capacitate PSIRA and the second was enforcement, which was not limited to the private security industry. SAPS needed to ensure the requirements of the Firearms Control Act were enforced – this was not spoken about and it needed to be addressed.

A SAPS official recommended the CFR should meet with PSIRA - perhaps on a monthly basis - to address any challenges immediately.

Mr Chauke appreciated this recommendation, noting there were current engagements but these were perhaps not at a high enough level.

Ms Molebatsi asked if the DFOs were not being overburdened with all the tasks they had to perform.

A SAPS official said that this depended on the capacity of each police station; at small stations the designated police officers were used to perform multiple tasks including licensing. However, at bigger stations where there was enough capacity, the officers would perform specific tasks like a designated liquor officer, a DFO and so forth. One of the proposed amendments in the Bill related to the challenges, especially at small stations, and how the new system could capacitate all environments.

Mr Shaik Emam was concerned if there was enough capacity to monitor the security companies giving their security officials firearms and whether their officials were competent enough to have these firearms in their possession and be able to utilise them.

Mr Chauke thought the main concern was with businesses which had been dissolved and inspections were done with the CFR to determine where the firearms were in such cases, as well as those persons responsible for the firearms. There were challenges with capacity as the inspectorate of PSIRA was not that big, which explained why working with the CFR was important.

The person who had been an ex-police officer at Manenberg asked when the existing regulatory framework would be implemented, as it was preventing her from fetching her firearm.

Mr Chauke noted that he was referring to the framework for security companies, and not personal applications; the latter was the work of SAPS.

Mr Lamb noted that studies had been done into who were the most vulnerable or high risk men likely to perpetrate domestic violence. One study conducted by the Medical Research Council suggested it was men from the security industry, and so he wondered if the PSIRA had given any special consideration to behaviour of individuals in the security industry and measures taken against those implicated in domestic violence. The industry could play a big role in reducing various types of violence because some individuals in the industry had access to firearms.

Mr Chauke said the question touched on the issue of fit and proper persons to possess a firearm and what happened if a person was found not fit. The current PSIRA legislation covered this through a code of conduct which dealt with obligations for security service providers – both the company and individual security officers. One of the principles was to respect the dignity of people and respect constitutional rights. Security officers were prosecuted for violating the code of conduct, and steps had been taken where security officers were in violation of the Firearms Control Act; these officers would either be suspended or registrations would be withdrawn, which also placed obligations on the employers.

Mr Hood added that in terms of Regulation 21, security officers were the most strictly regulated persons allowed to carry a firearm, more so than SAPS currently. There was a comprehensive list of requirements a security officer must comply with, one of which was effectively a daily assessment by the employer to assess whether a person was allowed to take a firearm on duty. There were mechanisms to ensure a security officer given access to a firearm was fit and proper to do so. The question, once again, came down to proper policing of this.

A person from the floor noted that the Private Security Industry Regulation Bill had not yet been signed into law, and urged that this should be done, as a matter of urgency, even though many private security companies threatened to challenge it. The private security industry was sometimes viewed as a law unto itself, with many allegations of illegal weapons in the industry. He urged that the Bill be finalised.

Mr de Klerk noted this piece of legislation was not being discussed per se but it did point to the fact that perceptions were often more powerful than any datasets – this needed to be acknowledged. There were perceptions around the private security industry, gun owners and non-gun owners, poor people and the conditions under which they lived and whether any of these situations gave rise to crime, yet few of these perceptions could be substantiated. The cry for quality data and thorough analysis based on evidence seemed to be missing. No one was trying to rid legal owners from their guns, but the issue needed to be regulated fairly, appropriately and justly, by a responsible government. Energies needed to be collectively focused on saying what could be done to stop leakages and regulate access to firearms, storage of firearms, test competency, and intervention if the firearm was misused since all shared a common interest. Any custodian of rights also needed to be responsible, and this needed to be demonstrated collectively.

Summary of outcomes

Mr Gerhard Doctor, Regional Director: International Practical Shooting Confederation and Chairman of the SA Practical Shooting Association, also with a mandate to represent the SA Shooting Sports Confederation wanted to appeal for section 16 of the Firearms Control Act not to be amended. In its present form, it worked well for the shooting sports, who would like to see that section remain as was. With the governance structure noted by SAPS, sport shooters were totally absent from the structure and this glaring omission needed to be corrected.

Mr Oxley, on behalf of the Sports Shooting Forum, noted that it was apparent that a societal problem was being dealt with yet sports shooting was one of the most positive elements of society as it reinforced good behaviour, taught people teamwork and to be good citizens and members of society. It was critical that sports shooters play a role in this Bill, as they had the ability to extend out into the community through outreach programmes which no one else had. There were sports shooting associations everywhere, in every little town, and these resources should be utilised and harnessed to embark on training, familiarisation and firearm safety. Firearms were everywhere in society with some not always documented or under the control of licensed firearm owners. It was important to train people what to do when they came across a firearm, and the Sports Shooters Forum had the ability, will and capacity to do that. In partnership with SAPS, it believed that it could accomplish a lot towards creating a better environment and better future for everyone.

Mr de Klerk agreed that everyone needed to share common responsibility in addressing the concern and responsible citizenship was a fundamental especially around firearms and firearm safety. In this, everyone could play a role with knowledge, access and insight.

A representative of the Legal Resources Centre noted that the Centre was invited to the summit because it had an interest in the current situation of policing. As an observer, she learnt a lot.

A person representing the CSP felt the two-day summit was informative, particularly from a partnerships perspective – as it was stressed that guns could not be about policing alone but also involved communities in which we lived and people interacting, whether as government officials, SAPS or CPFs. Guns were always around, so the safety of children and communities was important and this was where partnerships were important.

Another individual found it interesting that a problem was being diagnosed yet there was no data to enable a basis for the discussion. There was a need to look into the matter to make the data available. For such a gathering, it was important to answer the question, what next ? and to find an outcome that improved the lives of people affected, regardless of individual interest. He appealed for this question to be answered so that it was one thing to take home.

Mr Joseph Manuel, representing the SA Policing Union, thought the address by Deputy Minister Sotyu really stood out for him. She admitted there were problems in the system and highlighted the need to work together to address the problem. Only by working together could a collective difference be made.

An individual representing Business Against Crime, noted that this organisation promoted responsible ownership of firearms. The issue to address was thus how to control illegal firearms because this was where the problem lay; he doubted that robberies and heists were committed using legal firearms. Most crimes were committed using illegal firearms. He was pleased to see there was a collective approach to address this crime in SA. He would have liked to see more representation from Community- Based Organisations (CBOs) from the Cape Flats, to hear their take on the issue of illegal ownership of firearms.

Mr Sean Bolhuis, Tshwane Metro Police, speaking from a personal point of view, thought in SA people had become confident speakers on topics, but he was not impressed by how they spoke and what they said, and, as a government official, would prefer to see people actually working to put their words into action. He would be impressed if what came out of the summit was put into practical action; talk was not sufficient. He cautioned against over-regulating the firearm industry. He said that societal issues needed to be addressed and not necessarily just the gun issue, as people committed various crimes.

A representative of the SA Hunters Association thought the use and licensing of firearms needed to be thought of also from an economic point of view. From a research study conducted by the North West University in 2013, the total economic contribution to SA’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by hunting was R6.3 billion. This amount was spent by an estimated 2 000 people who went hunting to consume the meat in this particular year. In the same year, R1.1 billion was made by trophy hunting so this was R7.4 billion spent in SA by both consuming and trophy hunters. The bulk of the amount was spent on rural farms where people were poor, there were limited working opportunities and where the opportunity to create income was not very great. If firearms were to be limited to the extent that people could not hunt any more, this would be a huge economic loss. The SA Hunters Association alone went to a lot of trouble to teach people to shoot. The value of the ammunition in any one year, in this Association alone, was estimated at R12 million. There were over 35 hunting associations and many sports shooting associations so somewhere between R75 and R100 million per annum was spent on ammunition. This was done legally and with legally licensed firearms. He argued strongly that the process of managing firearms ownership in SA could not be unreasonable. He did not object to legislation regulating firearm ownership as such.

Another person from the floor was concerned, looking at the proposed amendments and listening to some of the figures bandied around, at the financial cost of ballistic and microdot testing. He heard figures ranging from R4 to R8 billion. Everyone present recognised the FCA was in a shambles – and so he questioned if it would not be better to spend that money on fixing those wrongs in the FCA, rather than spending more money and creating more wrongs elsewhere.

Mr de Klerk noted the Firearms Control Amendment Bill was to be discussed through public submissions to be arranged by the Committee. The stakeholders and interested organisations would engage the Committee on the process, with very particular, strongly enunciated and articulated views on proposed amendments. The focus now was on accepting responsibility for what there was currently. He posed the question what would need to be done to leave the summit with a reconciled view on how to begin addressing the impact of violence, including gun violence, on the lives of all ordinary South Africans.

Another person thought there should be an emphasis on responsible and practical solutions for the road forward, in order that the public and Committee make informed decisions based on the correct data. Over the last two days, some had been hung up on specific data points but everyone could agree that availability of data was severely lacking. The Committee did not have the time to research everything on its own so it was important for the stakeholders to inform them, and incorrect data that pushed one agenda only would result in the country being done a disservice. He suggested that, in order that the Committee be informed by proper studies, independent research would need to be conducted, by independent bodies which everyone could agree on. Hopefully this would inform the Committee so that they could apply their minds and come to an equitable solution.

Another person from the floor highlighted that the Bill called upon accredited associations to further the aims, objectives, spirit and letter of the legislation, once passed. In order to due true justice to this, accredited associations needed to look at all other greater societal issues. He had no doubt that if working relationships happened more often and on a more general plane, there would be more engagement as friends. The associations needed to look into development and supportive projects in which they could become involved. Most firearm owners were economically active people and needed to have a certain minimum wealth level, and so were part of the engine of the economy. Government’s 2030 goals would be driven largely by the type of people that legal firearm owners were – doctors, lawyers, ministers of religions of all faiths, educators and people from all walks of life. It was stated that the biggest percentage of owners of firearms, especially in the recreational space, remained white people, but this was changing rapidly, as more black people were also becoming involved in recreational use of firearms. This might demystify some of the huge fear in communities about firearms, if there were opportunities for engagement in this cultural disconnect. He was committed to such partnerships and engagement.

A representative from PSIRA highlighted the need for more education and training for people to be deemed really fit to possess a firearm. It was suggested that perhaps the process of destroying firearms recovered needed to be quicker, because the lengthy process contributed to the firearms landing up in the criminal world. The media and TV also promoted a violent culture; violence sold seats and the film industry must also become involved in solving the problem. Movies should be promoting non-violence, to teach children and the community that one did not need a firearm for protection.

Mr Walsh said that many views expressed great concern about the use of firearms in crime. Many were multiple firearm owners. Whatever a person might be doing irresponsibly with a firearm affected all. It was necessary to look carefully at specific purpose firearms. He noticed that the firearms used for self-protection created the problems because these were generally the firearms which were stolen. Very seldom were firearms from collectors, hunters or sport shooters being used in crime. Designated users were generally very responsible because of the huge investment made in those firearms. A clear distinction could then be drawn between these two groups. The one problematic area of research was the illegal trade in firearms – it was easy to do research into lawful, licensed firearms but not to do research into illegal, privately manufactured firearms. However, the SA Gun Owners Association and Collectors Association thought this was a vitally important facet of research to undertake. He thought there was a closer move toward licensing of the person rather than registering of the firearm – something he raised in 1985 already. The principle had been carried over fairly forcefully. Finally, he said that amnesty was applauded as a success in the sense that illegally-possessed and unwanted firearms were removed from society. The SA Gun Owners Association favoured an amnesty although had certain doubts about the functionality and security around amnesties. There was a lot of discussion around firearms collected in an amnesty being used later for crime, so there needed to be a guarantee that this could not happen.

Mr de Klerk cautioned against creating false dichotomies by saying “either or” when it could be “both”, for example, licensing of the individual and registering the firearm could co-exist.

Ms Adri Kitsoff, SA Hunters Forum, noted that from the summit there was a movement away from the “us and them” situation to recognise a lot of commonality and shared concerns. A key issue was the role of societal challenges and the impact crime had on society, as opposed to the culture of guns. She spoke on behalf of all responsible hunters, sports shooters and firearm owners, noting that these individuals would not own firearms if they were not responsible. She took the challenge to educate people, wherever she could, about the responsible handling of firearms. The CFR could not do its job if it did not have capacity and she was delighted to hear that the Deputy Minister realised what was going on with the Registry and how it could be capacitated. Responsible firearm ownership needed to be matched by adequate enforcement of the Firearms Control Act, which was not currently being done. For partnerships to work there needed to be trust between firearm owners, government, Cabinet, the Committee and the public.

Another person from the floor highlighted that there were two steps that could be taken to move forward immediately. The first was to get an understanding of the illegal firearms economy through independent research, to create an understanding of the problem that had to be solved, and this was a priority. The second was to make better use of competency requirements through section 102 and 103 of the Firearms Control Act. The key point was to ensure that unfit people did not get possession of firearms, and this was currently not adequately implemented from a operational point of view. Society as a whole had an interest in ensuring this was done adequately, because everything else would probably be a waste of time if the individual was not competent.

Mr Hood thanked everyone present, and said that there was progress made in understanding respective positions and challenges. However, with the first debates on the FCA in 1995, the same matters were raised. Talk could be positive, but action was needed. He thought the message on the basic problems was received by the Committee, loud and clear. There needed to be action to sort the problems out, because 15 years down the line there should not be just talk.

Ms Adele Kirsten, Director: Advocacy and Lobbying,Gun Free SA agreed the same issues were being heard as 15 years ago, but there were useful and interesting discussions. Gun Free SA saw there was emerging consensus on licensing the person and registering the gun – the current Act did this but there was often a lot of resistance to it. There appeared to be differences on the logic of “people committing crimes, not guns committing crimes", which explained why a regulatory regime was needed, to control who owned what weapon and for which purpose, and this was a principle underpinning most gun laws across the world. Consensus was also seen on the need for a national firearm amnesty, particularly, a no-questions asked amnesty and the need for accurate record-keeping, especially for the sharing of data in the public domain to develop an analysis of where the problems were. This was not to apportion blame but to develop solutions and change existing practices. She was concerned that the direct question of Gun Free SA to the Minister on whether the recommendations or findings of the report of a committee of inquiry that was established by the previous Minister (in 2013) into fraud and corruption in the firearms control management system would be made public. It raised questions around why the public could not see the report and issues of transparency. When thinking of gun control, one needed to think beyond firearm owners as end-users of the Act. The cost of gun death and injury needed to be balanced against the economic contribution of hunters and sport shooters, as highlighted by a previous member. Annually, lives lost to shootings, together with rehabilitation, medical services and other issues, cost R6 billion. This was not to mention the enormous cost of gun violence on societies. She thanked the Committee and CSP for being bold enough to bring people together, especially those with very different views and perspectives. The facilitator, Mr de Klerk, had also been extraordinary in making the discussion a safe place encouraging people to speak out in a respectful manner.

Mr B Joseph (EFF) thought it would be interesting to look at the cost implication of gun violence on society or more specifically, the impact the different firearms had on shootings in communities on the Cape Flats. He observed the boldness of the Deputy Minister to acknowledge the problem of the integrity of firearm-related data. If this was a challenge pertaining to firearms, he wondered if the same challenges arose on crime statistics? He asked if the usage of the R4 firearm by police during official duties was perhaps outdated and whether alternative firearms should be considered, especially in terms of crowd control.

Mr Kwape thought it was important to know that the implications of what was said and how it was said could be quite dire. When the implications of firearm injuries were being spoken of, one needed to distinguish between licensed/lawful and unlicensed/unlawful firearms instead of generalising all firearms. This distinction spoke to education and the mindset of individuals. He hoped this talk was not cheap over the two-days of the summit, and there were partnerships to work on solutions. He hoped the institutions opened their doors and were available so that relationships did not end here.

A representative from PSIRA was thankful for the brainstorming over the two days but she believed in taking matters to the grassroots. She believed it would be good to have a crime hotline to sensitise people to report matters when a gun was being used illegally. This could help to remove all illegal guns.

Mr Doctor felt that the discussions were pretty goal orientated and was wondering at what stage the matter would be revisited.

Facilitator's closing comments
Mr de Klerk highlighted the importance of personal connections made over the two-day summit. It was an opportunity to listen and hopefully to be heard, which helped to create the impression of having done one's bit. This summit presented an opportunity to exercise leadership over such a vital topic, and he hoped people would continue to exercise leadership over these and other matters that affected all. He hoped it was an opportunity where people were able to speak candidly, and he appreciated this from all the speakers who did not sugar-coat the issues but spoke directly to the points, especially the Executive leaders who admitted the challenges. The summit was also an opportunity to acknowledge the shared responsibilities and agree, where there were challenges, on the need to address them, whether as institutions or partnerships. There was agreement that partnerships should be credible, ongoing and encourage robust engagement to build true, sustainable relationships. This was sometimes difficult when people in the institutions changed so it was important to build relationships with institutions, and not just people. There was acknowledgement of the insight, knowledge, understanding and experience many had, for example with data access and microdot testing. There were comments on the need for SAPS and institutions of state to step up to the technology used in the private sector. Minister Nhleko reminded everyone of the 2030 country-wide vision in the NDP raising the question of how to build a free, safe and prosperous society and the role guns and gun ownership played in this. He hoped the "elephant in the room" had been addressed - the call for relinquishing gun ownership as against the need for an effective regulatory regime to control that ownership. There was an honest acknowledgement of where the administration of laws was failing, where the gaps were and accord on what could be done to resolve this. Amendment processes needed to take account of what there was and to focus on a cure instead of causing further distress. In this, the Committee and CSP were preparing for written submissions on proposed amendments to the legislation, and those present were adequately resourced to provide these written submissions, and he was sure their voices would be heard again in this process. The time lines for this process would be articulated by the Committee. He thanked everyone for their participation and contribution.

Chairperson's closing comments

The Chairperson thanked the Members of the Committee who stayed until the last, particularly, Ms Molebatsi, Ms Mmola, Mr Ramatlakane, Mr Maake and Mr Joseph. The spirit in which everyone participated over the two days was focused on the critical need for everyone in SA to be and feel safe. The Committee, as part of the National Assembly, at the end of the day, represented 50 million people in SA who should be able to participate in social and community life without fear or the danger of violence – there was a collective responsibility to ensure this happened. The Committee was responsible for overseeing the state institutions who worked in this environment, namely, SAPS, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), the CSP and PSIRA. The spirit was to ensure these institutions functioned effectively and their budgets were spent in the correct way. The discussion over the two days contributed to this process. It was critical that the criminal justice system worked for everyone together, with an effective and professional SAPS. The management of firearms was part of Programme 1 of SAPS, and firearms in the wrong hands could affect people very negatively so there must be an assurance that the necessary procedures were in place, along with rules of the game, inclusive of discussions stemming from this summit. In terms of time lines, the Committee would consider the budget of SAPS in two weeks time with the budget of Programme 1, including the CFR, to be considered on 15 April 2015. The Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee thanked everyone for their input because questions around necessary procedures and leadership would be asked by Members on this date. Any contributions in this regard could be made available to the Committee to be fed into the process.

The Chairperson acknowledged the SA Hunters Forum, Tshwane municipality and PMG for their participation. Many people paid out of their own pocket to attend the summit from other provinces and he was thankful of this. It was vital for the Committee to get input from the provinces, especially people at the grassroots level, to spread the participation base of the process going forward. In terms of practical solutions, the Committee took notes of the points raised and there were already some on which the CSP could begin work on for immediate redress. The Committee acknowledged the role played by hunters economically and in terms of tourism as well as the major issue of strategies to deal with illegal gun ownership – SAPS would have to come up with solutions and dedicated policing to address the issue proactively. There was a role for education by institutions and civil society to influence the youth at a very young age at schools for model citizenry, as envisaged for 2030.

The issue of the CFR would also be addressed on 15 April, with the Committee needing to make tough calls this year along with tough decisions on leadership in terms of the institutions it had oversight over – if there was non-performance, the Committee would come with very firm recommendations and it was important to make this clear. The Committee would also need to discuss the important issue of amnesty together with the Minister and Executive authority, to look at ways of addressing the pool of illegal firearms. The need for training had not received much attention over these two days but maybe training institutions needed to be given more authority and a bigger role in terms of refreshing training to ensure competency. This was an issue to be discussed going forward.

He felt that the talk had been extremely important because it influenced the process. 31 March was the deadline for submissions on the Firearms Control Amendment Bill. The Bill would then head to Cabinet after which it would officially be tabled in Parliament; this was anticipated for mid-June 2015. The Committee would then invite written comments on the Bill and oral input, inviting some of the role-players from this summit. The Committee believed the CFR was vital in the process and there would be a special hearing on 5 June 2015 on this subject where a few of the institutions present would be invited to contribute to the process before the legislation was embarked on and to give the Committee assurance that the turnaround strategy of the CFR was stable and appropriate measures were under way. Members had some concerns - and those were also expressed during this summit - that new legislation could not be introduced if the institution meant to drive it was not ready – a sentiment expressed by many during this summit as well.

He thanked everyone for their participation, the CSP, secretariat and researchers of the Committee for the role played, time, availability and assistance in the joint process - this was appreciated. He thanked the panellists for their availability noting the process was not once-off because there needed to be partnerships with civil society to ensure it was a SA were everyone was and felt safe. He also thanked the facilitator, Mr de Klerk for his input.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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