Central Firearms Registry: SAPS progress report; Firearms: inputs by Gun Free South Africa, MJ Hood & Associates Attorneys

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03 June 2015
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with senior management of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and a range of stakeholders to receive briefings and submissions on the most recent progress made with the turnaround of the Central Firearm Registry (CFR). 

SAPS spoke to the progress on the CFR's Action Plan. This presentation outlined the background to the CFR before moving on to outline the action steps, performance indicators, targets and progress made on a number of objectives including service delivery, corporate governance, performance management, performance reporting, human capital management, facility infrastructure, information technology and communication.  The Committee then engaged with SAPS on the presentation questioning what was being done by Public Works to improve facilities or to move out of the CFR, input made by the Deputy Minister of Police at the Firearms Summit, targets for the vetting and the current status quo of the vetting of members, the revised fixed establishment and the Commission of Inquiry set up by the previous Minister while there were concerns around the leadership of the CFR. Other questions centred on the backlog and 90-day target for processing applications, status of members of the Appeals Board and the turnaround time for appeals, firearms handed in for destruction turning up at crime scenes and claims that SAPS were hiring guns out to criminals and what was being done about this, training of Designated Firearm Officers and what was being done to fill capacity gaps when these officers left stations and results of compliance inspection visits. Several Members wanted specific details on certain targets. All indicated that there were still a number of serious concerns and that concerted and unified action would be needed. They asked in particular what was to be done with the building, which was in a serious state, with records strewn around, and the involvement of the Department of Public Works in that process.

The Committee then heard presentations from a number of stakeholders. Each of them expressed concern at the current processes, which were not only unwieldy but marked by lack of clarity, policies and regulation, which opened up the process to differentiation between the provinces and a serious risk of corruption and fraud. The Professional Hunters Association of SA spoke to the economic contribution of professional hunting, the relationship between SAPS/CFR and the hunting industry, CFR challenges in general and specific issues.  before concluding by looking at some suggestions for improvement.

Gun Owners of SA spoke to the turnaround strategy of the CFR after looking at the groups of stakeholders. The specific comments on the CFR turnaround strategy focused on how to “fix” the CFR and the current situation, stated aims/desired outcomes of the Firearms Control Act (FCA), problems with some requirements of the legislation and current challenges facing SAPS/CFR. The presentation looked specifically at the turnaround strategy commenting on the current situation, problems of duplication with application, current requirements for licence applications with concerns of uncertainty, duplication and unnecessary documentation. This body made recommendation on how current requirements could be simplified and made more beneficial, before concluding with the short term interventions for the proposed turnaround strategy.

The Security Industry Alliance (SIA) questioned the successful implementation of the FCA. It looked at the history of the FCA after it was introduced in 2004, including the November 2010 ministerial announcement, problems identified in 2009/10, recommendations 2009/10 and the Ministerial Inquiry into corruption and bribery (2013). One of the most serious concerns was that the Inquiry report had not been released. The presentation then outlined the current status, commitment of the SIA and industry, an objective overview of the problems in the CFR today, implications of a lack of policy and guidelines and how progress could be achieved, specifically for the security industry. 

Gun Free SA (GFSA) assessed the functionality of the CFR looking at the global norm of record keeping and the case of SA before looking at the turnaround strategies of CFR (2010-2015) noting the problems of  backlogs in processing of licences, integrity of the database system, the system of renewals under the FCA. independence of the Appeal Board and the impact of poor record keeping. A full description of each of these issues was given.

The Committee felt it was important for there to be thorough engagement with the stakeholders, as a perceived lack of communication had been one of the common threads from the submissions, especially in anticipation of the legislative process. The SAPS highlighted that there was in fact a forum, but Members then asked that the minutes of this, for the last twelve months, should be sent to the Committee. Members also highlighted it was important for the Committee to discuss all the issues which arose and apply their minds on what would be done moving forward, and for this, full information would be needed. Specific questions were raised on the instances of firearms which were handed in for destruction that were later found at crime scenes, SAPS members arrested related to this, and in which provinces. A DA Member was particularly critical of the process adopted by SAPS in relation to one major complaint and suggested that the actions taken were not satisfactory. Members were also particularly worried by an affidavit made by a SAPS official denying that there were problems with the CFR, in direct contradiction to the Minister's acceptance that there were such issues, at the recent Summit, where she had been quite forthright and realistic about the challenges.

The Committee also adopted the Committee's Draft Report on the Oversight Visit to the Mpumalanga Province [10 February 2015] and the Draft Report on the National Firearm Summit held on 24 and 25 March 2015.

Meeting report

Central Firearms Registry updates
Chairperson's opening remarks

The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Maggie Sotyu, and noted she was welcome to contribute at any time.

The Chairperson noted that legislation would dominate the Committee's activities next term. In the following week the Committee would hold a follow up meeting on the Criminal Justice System (CJS).

During the Firearms Summit, it was noted there were still some challenges in the Central Firearm Registry (CFR), following interactions with South African Police Service (SAPS) on the matter last year. The Committee had asked for an action plan, which was delivered in a briefing in November 2014, and there was further information provided at the Firearms Summit. Today’s meeting was intended to get an update on where SAPS was with the turnaround strategy of the CFR. The Committee felt it would be very difficult going into legislative processing when there was still uncertainty as to the current capacity of the CFR to deal with issues. When the Committee dealt with the legislation there would be thorough discussion and public participation. It was clear, judging by the presentations, that there were two views coming to the fore – one that there was progress, but the other, held by civil society, that there were still some huge challenges and issues. It was important to get an exact indication today of where the CFR was. If there were problems of capacity, the Committee would have to look anew into the current legislative framework and what could be done to assist.

SAPS (Visible Policing): Central Firearms Register: Action Plan Progress Report
Lt Gen Khehla John Sitole, Deputy National Commissioner SAPS: Visible Policing, began by noting the five main objectives of the legislation which defined operationalisation. The focus was on the reduction of firearm-related crimes. The Firearms Control Act (FCA) was vertical legislation while there were other horizontal pieces of legislation cutting across firearm control. He acknowledged that there was a bit of a gap between SAPS/CFR and civil society but the presentation would speak to moves to try and close this gap.

Maj Gen Maropeng Mamotheti, SAPS Component Head: Firearms, Liquor and Second-Hand Goods (FLASH), began by outlining the background to the briefing. In 2010, the Central Firearm Register (CFR) resorted under this Division. Visible Policing had experienced number of challenges such as firearm application, backlogs, corruption, poor service delivery and lack of command and control. The Portfolio Committee on Police instructed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) must develop a CFR Turnaround Strategy which was presented and approved by the Committee for implementation. The CFR Action Plan was developed to ensure the implementation of the Turnaround Strategy.

In terms of progress, the aim was to ensure effective, efficient and accessible service delivery to the client through the processing of firearm applications. With products and services rendered within the specified timeframes, the performance indicator was the percentage of compliance with specified timeframes in respect of number of days to finalise firearm applications, including renewals and competencies. That target was that 90% should be finalised per annum. 2014/15 progress saw 94% of applications finalised.

The next step was to review and revise the service delivery improvement plan. Performance would be measured by the number of meetings with stakeholders and dealers, hunters, collectors and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) to address service delivery. The target was to have one meeting per quarter. The progress for 2014/15 was that four meetings were held.

In respect of corporate governance, the aim was to ensure effective governance and accountability through compliant practices and effective systems of risk management and internal control. The first action step was to design and implement a CFR risk management framework. The performance indicator was to implement the risk matrix by 31 March 2015. That had been completed.

The next action step was to activate preventative measures to curb and minimise corruption. Here, the performance indicator was the percentage of cases finalised within the stipulated timeframe. The target was that 90% of disciplinary cases would be finalised within 90 days. The 2014/15 progress included the fact that two PSA members and two Police Act members were suspended for more than 60 days, and disciplinary and criminal processes were in place. There was a delay in the disciplinary process as a result of continuing criminal investigations. The Human Resource Management (HRM) environment had been tasked by the National Commissioner to unblock the delays.

The next action step was to preventive measures to curb and minimise corruption. The performance indicators were the centralisation of the AVS (CFR to be access point for applications) and the percentage of initiation of vetting processes for identified personnel at the CFR. The targets were for a functional AVS and 100% of initiation of vetting processes for identified personnel at the CFR. In 2014/15, the AVS was centralised and functioning, and Crime Intelligence had prioritised the environment. 380 members identified for vetting had been subjected to the initial vetting process. 

Maj Gen Mamotheti then moved onto performance management. The aim was to institutionalise performance monitoring, enable awareness, accountability and to improve service delivery. The first action step was to address administration and performance problems regarding audit findings within the CFR. The performance indicator was the number of repeat audit findings from external and internal assurance providers. The target was no repeat findings, and this was achieved for 2014/15.

The next action step was to conduct compliance inspections at stations identified as having shortcomings. The performance indicator was the percentage of compliance inspections on firearm applications conducted at sampled problematic stations. The target was that all 300 targeted entities should be inspected,, and that compliance monitoring visits be conducted at 45 identified problematic SAPS 13 stores. In 2014/15, 166 police stations were visited for compliance inspection from 1 November 2014 to 31 March 2015 while the rest will be visited in the 2015/16 financial year. 53 compliance monitoring visits were conducted.

Performance indicators, targets and progress were also outlined for the following actions steps: reports on the performance of the CFR in achieving the Firearm Acts’ outcomes, implementation of quarterly performance and budget review reports and external stakeholder engagement to enhance operational processes (see attached presentation for full details).

Maj Gen Mamotheti noted that in regard to human capital management, the aim was to achieve CFR effectiveness by building capacity and capability that would transform the CFR into a high performance business unit. Performance indicators, targets and progress were outlined for the following action steps: ensure that the CFR was adequately resourced and skilled to deliver on its mandate, to increase the Designated Firearm Officer (DFO) training for PSA members to conduct administrative functions in the DFO environment, review and implement the current evidence management learning programme and to review the fixed establishment of the CFR.

In terms of facility infrastructure, the aim was to create a safe and secure working environment, and the performance indicators, targets and progress for the following action plans were outlined: improve the suitability of the CFR Veritas building, enhance accessibility through establishment of targeted service delivery points and for records to be filed and indexed correctly in containers.

The next area was information technology, where the aim was to support the business with required technology infrastructure based on service levels agreements. Performance indicators, targets and progress for the following action plans were outlined: expansion and replacement of IT equipment at the CFR, categorising data in terms of ratio and to improve SMS content of notification to applicants. A further aim was to develop and intensify the communication strategy through the "CCC approach": Communication, Command and Control, and Coordination. The performance indicators, targets and progress for the following action plans were outlined for enhancing communication with the target public on safety issues relating to firearm and legislative requirements. Additional information was provided for the procurement of additional storage facilities (containers) for files, acquisition of a building and capacity building.

The Chairperson noted that, at the end of day, the CFR fell under Visible Policing (VISPOL). Since the beginning of the year, the Committee had been focused on leadership of SAPS and its entities. He sought an update on who was now in charge of the CFR, and what the medium to long term plans were. He noted that the main issues leading to this situation were to do with leadership. If there were constant acting positions in this environment, not much progress would be made. Someone needed to be appointed at the CFR who could really take charge of the environment and deal with current challenges, otherwise progress would not be made.

The Chairperson also felt that more detail was needed on the physical facilities – when was the interaction with Public Works? What were the issues at hand? The Committee needed an update on the practical steps and plans to move out of the building. 

Lt Gen Sitole outlined that the post that had been occupied by Maj Gen Luke was now filled by Maj Gen Mamotheti, who was permanently appointed to be in charge of FLASH. There were also three permanent Brigadiers under FLASH. These appointments were part and parcel of the progress made along with quite a number of other posts which had been filled, so there were very few unfilled posts remaining. The leaders appointed were very competent to fulfil their jobs and they were under serious performance assessment.

A SAPS official added there were only seven outstanding posts in the whole CFR environment but they were intended to be filled by 1 August.

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) said that to him the presentation did not clearly set out an acknowledgment and resolution-finding mechanisms for some of the identified problems, particularly for those highlighted by the Deputy Minister during the Firearms Summit. He asked where, on a scale from one to five,  SAPS could say it was in resolving the findings made by the Deputy Minister? The presentation made no reference to these findings, and he wondered if they were regarded as a side issue? or whether management perhaps thought it not important to acknowledge and highlight the Deputy Minister's findings? To his mind, the comments by the Deputy Minister had actually gone to the heart of the issue, and repeated that he found it strange that they were not referred to.

He asked if SAPS was suggesting that everything was dependent on Department of Public Works (DPW) for infrastructure, and SAPS had no say because DPW acted on behalf of SAPS? On the targets for vetting, no mention was made of the current status quo of vetting. He commented that he could not agree that the revised fixed establishment was "completed" as there was additional work, and he asked what the deadline was for this. There seemed to be systematic problems. He repeated that he wanted an indication of where it was.

Lt Gen Sitole explained that the filling of the posts, alluded to in this answer, were under the current fixed establishment. Two feasibility studies were undertaken: one on the fixed establishment and one under the direction and guidance of the Deputy Minister after she visited the CFR. The Deputy Minister suggested CFR was a division on its own so a feasibility study was undertaken. Once the study was completed it would be presented to the Deputy Minister. The feasibility study on the fixed establishment said the positions in the CFR could only be filled in the current establishment and there could not be expansion. If the CFR became its own division, the establishment structure would change and be broader than the current structure. If SAPS received instructions from a higher authority when there was already an approved plan, SAPS would embark on a special action plan as an addendum to the existing plan.

In respect of implementation there would be integration of current deliverables. This addendum explained why the input of the Deputy Minister was not directly stated. Some of the instructions of the Deputy Minister were for the CFR to have more computers, to have interns to assist with the filing process  - and here, he pointed out that 20 interns would be starting soon - and to work on the suitability of the building. The same process was followed when the Committee made inputs to SAPS to address issues.

In respect of the vetting, the initial stage of vetting was the gap analysis where all members were taken through this process. ID numbers were put into the system and members were shown up by the system if there was a criminal case or departmental conviction against their name. All members had gone through the gap analysis and had been cleared. The next vetting process was secret, and then top-secret – this was what SAPS was moving towards. He assured the Committee the gaps analysis was a completely reliable system and was the first safety net.    

Another SAPS official added that the Committee would be aware of the challenges with the Waymark contract around the firearm system. In order to address this there was a Memorandum of Understanding between SAPS and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) where there was a bilateral and technical committee addressing all issues relating to the evaluation and assessment of the system, also assessing the level to which the contractor had implemented under the contractual obligations. This process was continuing, with meetings every second week of the month.  

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) agreed that more detail was needed in some parts, for example, on the initial vetting He asked how many vettings had been completed and how many members were still outstanding? He questioned the findings made in the report relating to improving the suitability of the CFR building and asked how these problems were handled? The presentation made reference to the number of file indexing completed for all finalised applications, but no mention of those not finalised, so he wanted to know if they were correctly indexed and filed because this was usually where the problem was.

Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) knew that when the Committee visited the CFR it was a "rat and lice infested hell hole of a building" and she could not understand how anybody worked there, and was surprised that SAPS members were not protesting about it. She remarked that papers stacked in the corridors would be hidden frantically when authorities came to visit the building and then the papers would be returned again, and this was a catastrophic situation. She did not understand how anything was found in this building. She sought more information on the Commission of Inquiry set up by the previous Minister looking into the entire firearm system, trainers and dealers. The deadline had passed but she had not seen anything on it. She wanted an update on the 15 members and civilians charged. She asked if the backlog of applications was completely cleared? Did it take 90 days to process applications? The problem might be that applications were dealt with by CFR in 90 days but then sat at stations for months – this caused a disconnect, and she asked what was being done about this? She wanted an update on the status of the members of the Appeals Board, and an indication of the turnaround time on an appeal. She heard there was a room full of appeals that had yet to be seen to or touched. She also called for comment from SAPS about the firearms that were handed in for destruction, turning up at crime scenes recently. For some time there had been claims that some of these firearms were sold off by SAPS members to criminals. Again, she wanted to know what was being done about this? There were also claims of firearms hired out of SAPS 13 Stores used by criminals and returned at the end of the day. She asked how situations had been tightened up at station level to ensure this did not happen?   

Lt Gen Sitole suggested that the Committee be provided with a full progress report on these arrested members. The case had appeared in court but this was a complex and covert investigation where not all the details could be provided now. There were two covert operations involving the CFR, which enjoyed success. The moment a firearm was found on a crime scene, the Criminal Procedure Act applied immediately along with CFR processes and testing. SAPS started a Stores 13 project which was dedicated to correct the shortcomings at this store to ensure there were no gaps. This was also linked to the combined assurance process where all oversight bodies, including the inspectorate, internal audit and the Auditor-General, worked together to look at risks. There was also the compliance board within the inspectorate.

The Chairperson said this could be submitted to the Committee by the following Wednesday. The Committee needed the numbers, not full details.

A SAPS official added that the 90-days processing of applications referred to 90 working days. SAPS was conducting announced and unannounced visits to police stations to ensure they were held accountable and to address any hold-ups with the province. The Appeals Board fell under the Ministry so he suggested the question be escalated to that level. With regard to the the disciplinary case, one Brigadier was dismissed, another was reinstated along with a Colonel, the three PSA members resigned and some other charges were actually withdrawn because of a lack of evidence. There were no other disciplinary cases.

Lt Gen Sitole clarified that the Brigadier was not reinstated within CFR but was deployed elsewhere. The Commission of Inquiry was instituted by the Minister and protocol meant that SAPS could not speak about it until the report was released by the Minister. 

Ms A Molebatsi (ANC) questioned if anything was done about the training of DFOs and whether the  compliance inspection visits referred to were yielding any envisaged results. She asked what was being done at the three outreach programmes mentioned. Did the head of the environment feel there was any improvement?

Lt Gen Sitole responded by noting that the compliance inspections number was a projected performance figure but by the end of the deadline the target would be exceeded. The public awareness and education programmes were complemented by the multi-stakeholder forum involving civil society so the forum was part and parcel of the public awareness and education.

A SAPS official added that compliance inspections were conducted to ascertain whether stations were compliant or not, and if there was non-compliance, members were held accountable if there was negligence or omission in terms of their duties. There were also follow-up visits to ensure there was no recurrence of problems. Public education and awareness was conducted with the outreach programmes, to alert the public of the dangers of firearms, and to encourage the community to report illegal firearms and whether licensed firearms were utilised illegally to commit crime or shoot randomly. This outreach also sensitised the licence holders to be compliant in terms of the FCA. There was also a mobile vehicle to assist communities to enquire about their applications.  

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) asked about the "disciplinary cases finalised" performance indicator, which did not match the progress reported and target. He asked if steps were taken to increase the DFO capacity by training, and if the progress referred to the number of stations. If so, then it was quite far away from the target, and he asked when the target would be fully met. He pointed out that attention must also be paid to qualitative aspects. It seemed that members were going on courses but were fulfilling other duties at the same time. Furthermore, when members were transferred, the station lost that capacity of the trained members. He asked, therefore, what mitigation measures were in place to ensure the capacity was at least backed up to some degree.

Mr Mbhele commented that it was great to have expansion of IT capacity but there were questions around where the expanded equipment would go, and what this meant for bottlenecks, given space constraints of the building. At national office level, things seemed on the mend, but serious problems were apparent at provincial and station level,l such as massive application backlogs and capacity shortages and he wanted to know what measures were in place to address these issues at provincial level? Did the provincial operations around firearm applications and inspections reside primarily under the Provincial Commissioner’s office or the CFR? He commented that it would help Members if they knew where the site of primary operational authority and management control was, to target the analysis, investigation and recommendations of the Committee more effectively, and who actually was monitoring the provincial challenges? 

Lt Sitole explained that at a provincial level, the provincial commissioner was assigned to take responsibility for the CFR and was measured for this in terms of performance management processes. There was a provincial structure for the CFR, where there was a deputy provincial commissioner for operations, who was assigned with the responsibility to manage and direct the CFR. Underneath that level, there was then a provincial head of VISPOL at the level of Brigadier. This Brigadier accounted to the deputy provincial commissioner on CFR issues. Within the CFR was the provincial head of FLASH. This was the responsible management structure. 

A SAPS official added that the number indicated on the presentation related to those members trained since the approval of the action plan. The rest of the members would be trained in the next financial year. With the transfer of the DFOs, an instruction was issued by head office to all provinces to note that before a DFO was transferred, there must be approval by the provincial commissioner. This explained why PSA members were also trained to ensure that they filled any gaps. 

Mr J Maake (ANC) was mainly concerned with the suitability of the CFR building and wanted to understand the use of containers, asking if these were shipping containers parked outside the CFR building. Problems could not be solved unless what was happening in the CFR was sorted out, and this involved DPW. He did not know of a single department who did not complain of DPW, so he was happy that department would be appearing before the Committee so that Members could get an understanding of how it  worked. He emphasised that when Members asked questions, the aim was to help SAPS with problems. Maybe some of the responsible officials from DPW could accompany the Committee next time it went on an oversight visit to see the problems.

Lt Gen Sitole indicated that the Committee was the service delivery platform of SAPS because the service delivery shortcomings were highlighted at these meetings. SAPS would immediately improve these challenges, so this input was appreciated. He asked for the support of the Committee in relation to DPW and the building. This was a question of strategic alignment in government. DPW had its own priorities and the CFR building was not as high a priority, so SAPS was on the "normal priority" list in terms of capital projects. As a result this delayed SAPS processes as it waited on DPW. He urged the Committee to assist in pushing the priorities of SAPS forward when engaging with DPW so that the building was given attention urgently because his view was that the CFR was a priority in government – the sooner it was addressed the better. SAPS had submitted all the documents and indicated to DPW that it was extremely urgent. He would appreciate the support of the Committee.

The Chairperson said Mr Groenewald's question would be answered in the next round of discussions. 

Professional Hunters Association of SA (PHASA) Presentation
Mr Hermann Meyeridricks, PHASA President, began by noting that there was great economic contribution which came from PHASA. In terms of non-monetary contributions, there was job creation where approximately 140  000 jobs were in the entire value chain. Wages were on average higher than in agriculture, employment ratios compared to agriculture was three times more and the labour was skilled. There was provision, through the PHASA activities, of low cost protein, social uplift projects, community development, skills transfer and transformation so there was a socio-economic, tourism and conservation success story. 

With the SAPS/CFR and hunting industry relationship, firearms were tools of the trade of professional hunters and the hunting outfitters for hunting, guiding, client use, client safety and also protection of wildlife (particularly rhino). The private hunting industry relied on temporary import permits and there were legitimate interests of resident hunters, sport shooters and collectors.

CFR challenges in general were seen in administrative processes and service delivery, lack of uniformity in application of the Act, “rules” and “policy”, for example, late applications for renewals in the provinces and acceptance of applications at various DFOs. There was also a lack of guidelines. This meant that new “rules” were determined arbitrarily without communication, for example, this was seen in the documentation to be included with application motivations, endorsements which were sometimes treated as an absolute requirement, required supporting documents (e.g. letters from hunting outfitters/landowners) and timelines for certain applications, while the CFR disregarded its own timelines. If these challenge were not addressed there would be a lack of clarity, uncertainty in the public and the CFR itself, leading to frustration and delays. This would affect legitimate business interests, open up space for litigation, create an unnecessary administrative burden and open up for corruption. From PHASA’s perspective, SA’s competitive edge as a preferred hunting destination was waning due to import restrictions. The perception abroad was that it was easier to go elsewhere and it was containing growth of the industry, rural economy and creation of jobs.

Mr Meyeridricks highlighted some specific issues of temporary import permits which had a massive effect on SA’s professional hunting industry and created capacity problems when permits were not issued in time. There were also issues with temporary export permits, renewal of competency certificates, head stamps on reloaded ammunition, a clear policy was lacking on section 21 permits and there were undue delays in the applications for barrel replacements. There were issues with late applications for renewals which were inconsistent per province, training certificates, the requirement for submission of all training documents, notwithstanding competency certificates already issued on the basis of the same documents, refusal notices with new applications where it was difficult to ascertain deficiencies in original applications, and there were time constraints with the evaluation of semi-autos in terms of “new” amendments to the Act and consideration by the Registrar personally.

There were suggestions that there should be clear policies, protocols and guidelines/criteria for each situation to be applied consistently, sufficient funding for the CFR, sufficient and suitably qualified personnel, suitable training, limited staff turnover for consistency, and a “career path” development for DFOs. PHASA also remarked on the need for regulations to be published, publication and implementation of suggestions of the Ministerial Advice Committee and for the CFR to communicate via email. 

Gun Owners SA (GOSA): Presentation on the Turn-Around Strategy of SAPS/CFR

Mr Johan Schoeman, Representative, Gun Owners SA,  began by outlining that gun owners in SA may broadly be classified as the following stakeholders:

1. Industry

  • Manufacturers
  • Importers
  • Wholesalers
  • Dealers
  • Gunsmiths

2. “Non-Dedicated” firearm owners, typically:

  • Self-defence owners
  • Occasional Sport Shooters
  • Occasional Hunters

3. “Dedicated” firearm owners, typically:

  • Dedicated Sport Shooters
  • Dedicated Hunters
  • Collectors

4. “For Business” firearm owners, typically:

  • Professional Hunters
  • Security industry
  • Training providers

Mr Schoeman said that in regard to the CFR turnaround strategy, GOSA was not privy to any existing structure so it could not comment. GOSA did however have ideas on how to “fix” the CFR which was informed by its experience as “customers” of the system. From the outset, the Firearms Control Act of 2000 was not a well thought out nor a functional Act. Firstly, to establish the apparent shortcomings of this important legislation, GOSA strongly recommended that an independent forensic audit of the entire Act, amendments and operations from CFR to DFO level should be initiated as a matter of urgency. This suggestion was made in the knowledge that there were lessons to be learnt and the hope that parts of it could be salvaged. The current system was unnecessarily confusing, unclear, difficult, time-consuming and, because of this, bred corruption and illegal behaviour. Just recently he fielded a call from a learner colleague, a pilot, saying that he knew how one could obtain a license in two weeks. The result was that the aims of the Firearms Control Act were not met. In fact, the current situation actively undermined the aims of the Act.

Citizens should not be denied their constitutional right to life and their choice of tools with which to safeguard that right. Currently many citizens were effectively denied these rights due to the CFR being dysfunctional. The Firearms Control Act was to prevent the proliferation of illegally possessed firearms and, by providing for the removal of those firearms from society and improving control over legally possessed firearms, to prevent crime involving the use of firearms. A dysfunctional CFR cannot meet this requirement. The Act was also to enable the State to remove illegally possessed firearms from society, to control the supply, possession, safe storage, transfer and use of firearms, and to detect and punish the negligent or criminal use of firearms. Currently this was not being done, because scarce resources were tied up in administrative tasks, meaning that proactive policing was neglected.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. With the turnaround strategy, there was a lack of training and/or expertise and duplication of tasks. Allocating more resources to an inherently flawed concept and system would not achieve the desired outcomes. What was needed was a fresh look at the system and processes and a re-design and a change of mind-set.

Mr Schoeman pointed out that currently, in order to legally possess a firearm,  an individual must:

  • Complete the prescribed training courses
  • Possess and install a prescribed safe
  • Apply for a Competency Certificate
  • Wait for adjudication of Competency
  • Purchase a firearm
  • Motivate the application for a licence
  • Submit the application and supporting documents
  • Wait, after approval, for a licence card
  • Collect licence card
  • Collect the firearm
  • Renew Competency every 5/10 years
  • Renew firearm license every 5/10 years

There was duplication between various steps in the process between competency and obtaining a licence including making an application to the DFO, transport to get the application to the provincial office, transport to get it to the CFR and adjudication for both competency and obtaining a licence. There was no clear answer on what was currently required for a licence application as there was no definitive list of required documents. DFOs had compiled their own lists through trial and error and there were many discrepancies between DFOs and provinces. The public had also compiled its own lists through trial and error. The result was that there were many different opinions on what needed to be included. The result was ‘padding’ of applications by adding more and more documents, in the hope that all bases were covered, to the point that some applications were in excess of 300 pages. This might explain why the CFR was looking to procure containers to house all the documentation. No one had the time to read through all, let alone the CFR itself. This was unnecessary and revising and cutting down the required documentation would also cut down on the workload.

Mr Schoeman then showed an example of how the requirements could be simplified and to cut down on duplication, what documentation and processes could be done with in order to licence the person and register the firearm. This would ensure:

  • Less paperwork
  • Less time
  • Less resources consumed
  • Still ensure that only those that were fit and proper were allowed to legally possess firearms
  • Enable a functional Register
  • Real time update of Register
  • Freed up manpower and resources
  • Empowered SAPS to enforce the laws
  • Empowered SAPS to meet the stated aims of the Firearms Control Act

He pointed out that National Commissioner, Ms Riah Phiyega, noted, during the Firearms Summit, that ‘cars have to be relicensed every year, even though the driver is already licensed’ when there was discussion over licensing a person and registering a firearm. However, he pointed out that  vehicle licensing was an administrative and tax function and did not need anywhere near the amount of documentation and/or administrative workload. For vehicles, the form was submitted, the fee was paid and the licence was issued immediately. This process was not such a drain on resources. If vehicle licensing required 300 page motivations then that system would collapse too.

Short-term interventions to improve turnaround could include:
- creating a simplified and unambiguous procedure for all aspects of the licensing process and make this information available to all stakeholders (internal and external)
- in order to eliminate or significantly simplify re-licensing in the case of current collectors, dedicated sports-persons and dedicated hunters (Sections 16 to 20), the decision would be taken on the basis that for as long as they continue to hold such status and have valid competency, they will continue to have justification for the possession of the associated firearms
- Loss of such status or of associated competencies (including as a consequence of non-renewal) would then result in the termination of the corresponding licences.

Ms Nadine Prior, SA Dealers Association (SADA), added that communication with dealers remained a huge problem. When the Act was first implemented, SAPS told the then-Chairperson of SADA that dealers' participation was crucial in ensuring the Act worked. However, communication with dealers had gone "from indifferent to abysmal" in the sense that there was no communication any more.  In the absence of information, rumours and hearsay tended to fill the vacuum and this was not good. It also made SA look bad in the eyes of the international community for the country was seen as incompetent, when represented by the CFR. Since the Firearms Summit, dealers had been telling her, almost on a daily basis, that their emails and phone calls were not being answered or responded to. It was not known who to communicate with, at SAPS and CFR. There was no idea why import permits, which were crucial to the running of business, were taking months instead of 21 days as stipulated in SAPS’ own regulations. Nobody knew what was going on. There was a real need to interact with the CFR, almost on a daily basis, and she asked for the Committee’s support in developing a liaison between dealers and the CFR.  

Security Industry Alliance (SIA) briefing: "The Firearms Control Act – Has it been Implemented Successfully "
Mr Martin Hood, Attorney, Representative of Security Industry Alliance (SIA), began by noting that it was ironic that he heard the Committee calling for the implementation of the FCA when he had opposed it so strongly 15 years ago. He apologised in advance because he knew he was going to upset people with plain speech. However, he felt it was time to make a realistic assessment of the CFR, what the issues were and how to deal with them.

He found the SAPS presentation too abstract, not telling him anything of the fundamental issues raised by civil society. Yesterday he dealt with a security company who had been given a contract by Transnet, which was a parastatal. Many of the locations to be guarded by the security company were national key points. However, the security company had to wait four weeks for the police station to register the application – it was such an onerous job in terms of the procedures. Another security company had 40 applications lost; they simply "disappeared into a black hole". In another case, a municipal police force was trying to import some shotguns but this organ of state could not get the import permit from CFR. These were the type of issues to address. SAPS did not understand the problem – it was as simple as this. SAPS could not solve their own problems that they had created. For this reason, he suggested that the firearms registration function had to be taken away from SAPS, put somewhere else and addressed independently of the CFR and even VISPOL.

He noted the Firearms Control Act was introduced in 2004, with no supporting policy, which resulted in distrust between the industry, civil society, the CFR and politicians, with court cases involved. This resulted in a Ministerial announcement in November 2010, in which the previous Minister of Police, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, stated that “it is crystal clear that significant problems still exist with regard to the smooth implementation and administration of this Act”. This announcement resulted in the removal of the first head of the CFR and monitoring of the CFR by the Secretariat for Safety and Security. The Secretariat was tasked to investigate the CFR and attempted to set up consultative forums. However, this report by the Secretariat had not been released to the public.

Problems were identified in 2009/2010 with the integrity of the database, ineffective communication, lacklustre IT systems where hundreds of millions of rands were spent on equipment that still did not work, corruption, with most of the decision-making taking place behind closed doors, management and organisational challenges at the CFR and maladministration. The 2009/2010 recommendations were to initiate an intervention team for backlogs, institute management changes at the CFR, redesign the CFR’s IT system and investigate corruption and bribery with dealers and firearm trainers. The report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Corruption and Bribery (2013) was yet to be made public. This did not acknowledge or recognise the problem.

Mr Hood applauded the Deputy Minister for her forthrightness, as seen at the Firearms Summit, where she stated “I am very sad to say today that with the billions that the South African Police Services gets every year from Government since 1994, we are still plagued with the same problems of a Central Firearm Registry that is dysfunctional and in constant decay!” (25 March 2015). Although the Deputy Minister must be congratulated, problems still remained and there was no willingness from the CFR to find a resolution. He highlighted an example of Colonel Sibongile Dorah Kibido who, in a signed affidavit (dated 8 April 2015) in a court case, stated “it is denied that there are structural and administrative difficulties in the Administration of the Central Firearm Registry. There were such difficulties some years back in 2010 but those problems were since rectified and the administration is running smoothly at present”. He was very concerned that a SAPS officer could lie in court this way, in the face of what the Deputy Minister had said. This was dishonest, misleading and symptomatic of the refusal of the CFR to acknowledge and deal with problems. Furthermore, this was not an isolated problem.

SIA and the industry were committed to working positively with SAPS and at a political level. The industry worked with PSIRA through a successful and productive relationship, but PSIRA was limited by a lack of funding and resources. An organised and compliant industry, government, law enforcement and Regulator could work together.

In terms of an objective overview of problems in the CFR today, a corrupt database remained. It was difficult to amend and update information, and re-licensing was unsuccessful, as data correction was not achieved. The lack of transparency continued. There was no consultation with forums and no response to problems submitted by forums. There was no progress with the IT system – no new IT system tender was awarded - and there was no electronic connectivity. Management and organisational challenges persisted where there was inefficient distribution of resources and inconsistent workloads across the provinces. There were vacancies in the CFR, and given that the firearms environment was a speciality, correct remuneration was needed. Importantly, Acts and regulations remained unsupported by a policy. Fifteen years after the FCA was debated in Parliament, there was still no policy. The old Arms and Ammunition Act had a policy – so why did the Firearms Control Act not have a policy?  

Mr Hood then discussed the implications of a lack of policy. He stressed that if a policy was not publicly available nor compliant with the Constitution, this led to arbitrary and/or capricious inconsistent application of the Act from station to station, region to region and province to province within the CFR and the Appeal Board. There were no guidelines/policy for security industry firearms, importation of firearms, SAPS 21 permits (short term permits), processing of SAPS forms (dealer stock reports), lodging and processing applications and the information required for application.

Mr Hood maintained that it would be possible to achieve progress  if there was political will to recognise and embrace the problem, cooperation with stakeholders, work with industry for practical solutions, focus on administration and implementation, a full audit of the database and the establishment of ministerial committees outside of the CFR and at top level in SAPS. On progress specifically for the security industry, there needed to be effective implementation of the PSIRA legislation, empowerment of PSIRA and for non-compliant providers to be made compliant and integration of PSIRA and SAPS databases. There was no quick fix and one needed to be in it for the long haul and embrace the lawyers.

Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) briefing
Ms Adele Kirsten, Director: Advocacy and Lobbying, Gun Free South Africa, began her submission by speaking to record keeping being a global norm, noting it was now accepted across the world that accurate record-keeping was a cornerstone of effective firearms control. With the adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (UN PoA) in 2001, consensus emerged, within the international community, that marking and record-keeping were basic preventive measures to stem the flow of guns from the legal to the illegal pool. The UN PoA urged member states to adopt these measures at the national level. Record-keeping involved the collection and maintenance of information in order to ‘facilitate the identification of any weapon, its legal status and the location of its storage, at a given stage of its life.’ Records were generally kept across the life cycle of a firearm: from the point of manufacture, at import, at commercial sale, at possession, in case of loss or theft, and finally at destruction. Accurate record-keeping was also a key element in developing appropriate and effective strategies to reduce gun violence. Her briefing would examine SA’s record-keeping regime, with a particular focus on the CFR, identifying the key challenges faced by the CFR in carrying out its core function, and reviewing the various turn-around strategies adopted by the Ministry of Police and related institutions in addressing these challenges.

In the lead up to the introduction of the Firearms Control Bill to Parliament in 2000, all available information on the nature and extent of firearm use and distribution in SA was collated by the Crime Information Analysis Centre. This included the number and type of licensed guns in the hands of state institutions, private security industry and civilians, the use of guns in crime, loss and theft of firearms and a brief overview of the extent of firearm deaths. This data played a central role in helping government develop policy that informed the need for a comprehensive and effective system of firearms control in SA. For example, the data showed that in 1998, 85% of all robberies in SA were committed with a handgun, a ratio of 6:1 compared to other weapons (i.e. knives, blunt and sharp objects). Subsequently, the FCA limited access to handguns through a number of means, including limiting the number of handguns any one person can own.

This information was collated by Rob Chetty into a booklet entitled, Firearm Use and Distribution in South Africa. It was the first time that all available data on firearm use and distribution in SA was collated into one source, thereby establishing a baseline. The ‘Chetty book", as it became known, had been widely used by researchers, public health specialists, activists, civil society organisations, MPs, government officials, and the media.

The FCA adopted by Parliament in 2000 was the principal Act governing firearms control in SA. Its purpose was two-fold:
1. To establish a comprehensive and effective system of firearm control and management.
2. To ensure the effective monitoring and enforcement of legislation as it pertained to the control of firearms.

Chapter 17 of the FCA dealt with the organisational structures responsible for implementing the law, in particular outlining the duties and function of the Registrar (that was the National Commissioner) as well as specifying the information that must be contained in the Central Firearms Register, which was the primary record-keeping mechanism. It also looked at the establishment of the Appeals Board and other Ministerial Committees.

Over the last 15 years there had been significant changes in the firearms control regime in SA which had impacted on both the use and distribution of firearms. Furthermore, there had been significant advances in understanding the nature and extent of gun-related deaths through the innovation of a national injury and mortality surveillance system, as well as through scientific research which demonstrated that less guns equalled less gun violence.

Ms Kirsten then looked at the turnaround strategies of the CFR from 2010 to 2015, noting that over the last five years, there had been numerous reports on the status of the 2010 and subsequent CFR turn-around strategies, including several presentations to the Portfolio Committee on Police, the most recent given by the National Commissioner at the Firearms Summit in March 2015. Despite all these reports, there remained little clarity on whether the problems identified in 2010 had been addressed in any substantial manner.  In June 2010, the Minister of Police established a Task Team led by the Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP) to undertake an assessment of the implementation of the FCA. The Task Team’s report identified a range of problems with regard to both the implementation of the FCA and functioning of the CFR. Her briefing outlined five of the problems identified by the Task Team and would show how, almost five years after the Task Team’s report, most, if not all, of the problems involving the CFR continued to undermined SA’s firearms control management system:

Problem 1: Backlog in the processing of licences
The Task Team’s report noted “major backlogs in processing…licences and this backlog is the major cause of litigation.” It stated that as of 30 July 2010 there was a total of 1 387 487 firearm applications awaiting processing, 804 942 for renewals and 582 545 for new licences. In November 2010, the Minister of Police acknowledged the “malfunctioning” of the CFR, which had resulted in a backlog of firearm licence applications. The Minister promised to turn the CFR into a “functional unit” that would deal with the backlog by July 2011. According to SAPS 2011/2012 Annual Report, the backlog relating to 1 048 341 firearm applications (included renewals) was finalised, when the CFR processed over 1 million applications in 9 months. As in other ill-considered ‘target-setting’ measures adopted by the SAPS to assess performance, the focus was on reaching the target of processing just over a million firearm applications, rather than ensuring that all firearm applicants were, or remained, ‘fit and proper’ persons to possess a gun This had compromised the management of the firearms control system.

Problem 2: Integrity of the database system

A core function of the CFR was keeping records of who owned what firearm for which purpose. However, the Task Team’s report noted a number of factors that undermine the integrity of the CFR’s database system, namely:

  • Backlogs.
  • Irregularities and corruption in the issuing of firearm licences, permits and authorisations.
  • The existence of two database systems – one for firearm licences, permits and authorisations issued under the old Arms and Ammunition Act (1969), and the other for licences, permits and authorisations issued under the FCA. Resources were allocated to amalgamate both systems but this had still not been completed.

Further, despite significant investment in Information Technology (IT), the Task Team’s report noted, “there is a lack of understanding by the CFR of the value derived from effective management of information.” The report goes on to note the following problems:

  • No single system on how to process and store information.
  • Duplicate computer systems to track, plan, store, and evaluate the performance of the CFR.
  • IT systems did not always speak to the requirements of the FCA or Regulations.
  • IT systems were not used by staff and much of the work done by the CFR was done manually.

Problem 3: Corruption and irregular issuing of licences

The Task Team’s report noted a number of instances involving irregularities and corruption in the issuing of firearms licences, including:

  • Issuing of licences to people who should have had their licences refused (no examples were given).
  • Paying of bribes to ensure that licences were issued and to avoid delays.
  • Licensing prohibited firearms which were then not accurately listed on the system.

Since the 2010 report there had been a range of instances of fraud and corruption along the firearms control management system involving firearm licences, permits and authorisations. In response to assertions of fraud and corruption by firearms dealers and firearms training institutions, the Minister of Police established a two-person Committee of Inquiry in May 2013 to conduct an enquiry into these allegations of questionable practices. Public submissions were solicited and the Committee’s report finalised and submitted to the Minister of Police. Two years on, the process had ended up being "shrouded in silence". No-one in the various policing entities, including the Ministry of Police, dare speak about it. Surely the findings of the Committee of Inquiry could shed some light on the functioning of the CFR, with recommendations on how to improve it>? To date the findings of this Inquiry had not been made public.

Problem 4: Renewals under the FCA
Renewals were a cornerstone of the FCA, ensuring that firearm owners continued to comply with the requirements of the law. In addition to stipulating that competency certificates be renewed every five years, the FCA also required the regular renewal of firearm licences, with renewal periods varying from two to ten years depending on the type of firearm owned and reason for ownership. The Task Team’s report noted that between 2010 and 2014, 493,445 competency certificates would come up for renewal, yet, “The FCA or Regulations do not describe the processes or procedures to be followed in respect of re-application for competency, other than to state that a competency certificate lapses after five years…The area relating to the issue of renewal of competency certificates needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the FCA." The report went on to note that 214 548 firearm licences would have to be renewed between 2010 and 2014, and that “The process around these renewals…needs to be properly communicated to gun owners.”

In a move aimed at addressing fraud and corruption in the issuing of competency certificates, the quality assurance of firearms training institutions had been transferred from the Safety and Security Sector Education Training Authority (SASSETA) to the Professional Firearms Training Council, after the SETA had its quality assurance role removed for lack of performance. The PFT Council successfully registered with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations as a professional body. In addition, the Firearms Control Amendment Bill 2015 addressed the discrepancy between the validity of a competency certificate and that of the firearm licence, with an amendment that aligned the validity for a period of five years.

Problem 5: Independence of the Appeal Board
The Task Team noted a perception that the Appeal Board did nothing more than rubber stamp decisions made by the CFR and that in the High Court case of George Black vs the Minister of Safety and Security, the judge criticised the Appeal Board in his ruling for, “not having the expert knowledge of firearms to enable it to properly rule on cases.” The Firearms Appeal Board was a key structure in the firearms control management systems, ensuring that firearm licences were granted only to people that were ‘fit and proper’. This perceived lack of independence was being addressed in the Firearms Control Amendment Bill, with an amendment that required the Appeal Board to function independently of the CFR. The Amendment Bill also extended the number of Appeal Board members from only five to at least five, recognising that these members must also be broadly representative of the population of SA.

Ms Kirsten outlined the impact of this breakdown in SA’s firearms control management system was twofold - diversion of guns from the legal into the illegal market and an increase in gun related violence. Firstly, once  firearms were in illegal hands they were beyond regulation, and required costly – and often dangerous – police interventions to recover them.  Secondly, in early 2012 several of the Level 1 Trauma Hospitals in SA began to record an increase in patients presenting with gunshot injuries

The problems identified by the Task Team in 2010 persisted almost five years later, with very little action being taken to address them. The result was a steady leak of guns into the illegal pool of weapons and an increase in incidents of gun violence. 

Since the start of the Fifth Parliament, with a number of changes across policing oversight bodies, in particular in the Police Portfolio Committee, significant attention had been paid to both the implementation of the FCA and the functioning of the CFR. The introduction of the Firearms Control Amendment Bill provided an ideal opportunity to decisively deal with these problems, in particular to ensure that an integrated electronic data base system for record-keeping was put in place, which would go a long way to addressing what the Task Team’s report described as, “a completely dysfunctional [system] and rather than assisting in streamlining the process they serve to create blockages and delays”. Releasing the findings, in particular the recommendations, of the Committee of Inquiry Report could go a long way in assisting every stakeholder to better assess the functioning of the CFR, and more importantly, to put in place measures that will ensure accurate and effective record-keeping of firearms in South Africa.

Mr L Twala (EFF) observed there did not appear to be engagement through stakeholder meetings – this was a bleak picture painted by the presentations. He was of the view that there should be a stakeholder arrangement for engagement, talk to proposed amendments to the Act and all afflictions. Role-players could engage on how to shorten processes.

The Chairperson said this was a very valuable suggestion. 

Lt Gen Sitole asserted that there was a multi stakeholder forum which he chaired himself, involving all organisations dealing with firearms, including the presenters from today. There were further engagement forums – one with PSIRA, one with the Dealers' Association, one with the collectors and another with the hunters. If there was stakeholder engagement but still complaints of lack of communication and transparency then there could be a language problem in the engagement or a communication breakdown at some point. The purpose of the multi-stakeholder forum was for the General to get involved personally. He would take all the issues raised to the forum and he believed and hoped the situation would get better. He appealed to all stakeholders to attend this forum.

The Chairperson wanted the minutes of the forum for the last 12 months to be provided to the Committee to check whether the forums indeed took place and who was present.

Mr Maake agreed that some of the organisations who presented needed a middle ground to sit down and work the issues out, and take matters from there as to what suggestions could be in the Act itself.

Mr Ramatlakane thought that it was tempting to go the shorter route but he had some concerns. One of the suggestions of the Firearms Summit was that there was too much tension in the room and that stakeholders should retreat to a room to resolve a number of issues. He hoped that this would have happened as it would make for smoother sailing. In the SAPS presentation, reference was made to some form of stakeholder forum for engagement but having listened to the stakeholders, it was clear the Committee needed to seriously discuss some of these problems. For instance, what affidavits had highlighted was very worrying and pointed to some denial of the problems. In his own understanding, the affidavit cited, although he was not privy to all the details around it, was essentially saying the input of the Deputy Minister at the Firearms Summit was a lie. Problems needed fixing and this required acknowledgement that there was a problem. The Committee would have to apply its mind and make a recommendation as to what must happen. To ask many individual questions might not be helpful. There would always be a healthy tension with the Regulator, because buying a firearm was not like buying a bag of oranges and there were regulations.

The Chairperson agreed that deeper discussion was needed in the Committee. He did not want to pre-empt matters but it was quite clear the Committee would need to make recommendations.

Lt Gen Sitole responded that a middle-management Colonel made this statement and protocol did not allow him to change what the Deputy Minister had said. There would be follow up in terms of command and control.

Ms M Mmola (ANC) found all the presentations disturbing but everyone needed to sit and find one solution. The Committee also needed to sit and discuss all these issues.

Mr Groenewald heard what civil society was saying and it was a big problem. The Committee was briefed on reports, received turnaround strategies and heard about challenges but nothing happened. He wanted a date from Lt Gen Sitole as to when everything would be running smoothly in the CFR. 

Lt Gen Sitole responded that there were certain things raised in the presentation which had not yet been done and there were certain things not done correctly. There were service delivery improvement related issues which SAPS needed to factor back in for correction. It was good to raise these issues because it was the duty of clients to inform SAPS, in terms of the Service Charter and promise, to evaluate the service of SAPS. There were also things done, so it was not correct to say "nothing" had been done. He suggested what had been done should be acknowledged and separated from matters not done. This would help SAPS to accept criticism positively and not resort to being defensive.

Mr Groenewald interjected and asked that the Committee be provided with lists on what had been done and what had not. It was no good making airy statements. This was exactly his problem – there was a lot of talking instead of getting down to the specifics, and making sure that everyone had clarity on the issue. He was tired of smokescreens, and wanted the specifics. 

The Chairperson said this would be helpful. SAPS could also respond to the issues raised in the presentations of civil society.

Lt Gen Sitole said the information could be provided after having gone through all the presentations to indicate what had been done and what had not yet been done. 

Ms Kohler Barnard wanted to know how many instances there had been when firearms, handed in for destruction, had appeared at crime scenes and how many arrests of SAPS members, and in what provinces, had been made in this regard? She wanted this issue pinned down. She was "utterly horrified" to hear the update on the 15 CFR members, that not one single person was in jail and that some were even recycled within the SAPS, for as far as she was concerned "these people were criminals". The story was splashed on the front page on every newspaper at the time. Either these members were arrested unlawfully, in which case SAPS should probably be sued, or SAPS made a total botch of the process, in which case it should apologise to the SA public for bringing the CFR into disrepute, or these members were in fact criminals and should not be in the SAPS at all. She asked the Chairperson to write to the current Minister and ask for a copy of the Inquiry report.

Ms Kohler Barnard said it was also necessary to know what number of firearms did a professional hunter utilise in doing in his/her job in this business? What number did a sport shooter use in the sport? She was convinced there were moves from uninformed officials to limit these numbers at a whim. These limitations may well cut people out of the Olympics, and this was extreme arrogance.

Lt Gen Sitole said the Criminal Procedure Act was read with other legislation, such as labour laws and court decisions. Sometimes the courts decided it was best to deal with matters involving SAPS members administratively. A decision was then taken as to whether the member/s should be expelled from the Service or should stay. There was a departmental process involving these members and through the labour laws and arbitration some returned to the Service. Matters were addressed according to legislation.   

A SAPS official added that a written answer could be provided on the specific issues needing exact numerical responses for he did not want to speculate.

Mr Hood said he needed to make some comments in response to what Lt Gen Sitole raised, because it raised some of the fundamental problems that SAPS currently had.

The Chairperson asked that input be provided in writing. 

Mr Hood insisted that it would be useful to make the input now, for the benefit of the Committee. Certain things were said of the affidavit of the particular Colonel and it was important for Members to know the status of this Colonel because her comments went further than undermining the Deputy Minister. She had actually said she made the comments on behalf of the Minister as the Section Head.

The Chairperson did not want to open up for further dialogue at this point, and requested that Mr Hood was to make the input in writing, for the Committee to consider. 

Mr Paul Oxley, Sports Shooters Forum, wanted to support Lt Gen Sitole. A process was embarked upon, just after the Firearms Summit, where the Sports Shooters Forum offered to help SAPS as subject-matter experts. Lt Gen Sitole kindly hosted them at his offices on 5 May and there was discussion on how sport shooters, in particular, could assist SAPS. Subsequently there was another meeting on 22 May at CFR and progress was made. The processes to be put in place would be coupled with protocols. He needed to know that these protocols would be taken forward and would actually be implemented. He did not want the process to become a talk shop but said that partnerships actually happened, with Ministerial approval. This was being done in the interests of SA, firearm legislation and the authorities.

Mr Groenewald wanted to know if this was the end of the responses. He was very frustrated that he asked a very specific question on a specific slide in the presentation, and he did not get any response.

Lt Gen Sitole said an official would provide the answer. He apologised for not answering the question.

Mr Groenewald expressed that he was very frustrated and felt his time was being wasted. It was disrespectful and unacceptable that SAPS did not answer his essential and specific question on the proper filing and indexing of non-finalised applications. He decided to leave the meeting.

Mr Maake noted that he felt very intimidated at this point.

The Chairperson asked that temperatures be turned down.

A SAPS official responded to Mr Groenewald’s question, stating that the process of indexing was continuous given that there were more than five million applications. The indexing began with the current financial year working backwards to ensure there was accuracy for audits, and to help the Appeals Board if they requested applications so that they were readily available.

Ms Maggie Sotyu, Deputy Minister of Police, said this was one of the best presentations thus far on the CFR since she had been dealing with the Firearms Control Act. The Ministry was open to working with everybody for the benefit of SA. Firearms were involved in many violent crimes and most of these firearms were illegal so the CFR was a very important programme within SAPS. The main challenge was the facility of the CFR, but last week she had received an invitation from the Ministry of Public Works where it was requested that a senior official should sit in on the DPW committee dealing with infrastructure and facilities. The Minister had felt that the Deputy Minister should attend to ensure the CFR building was being prioritised. After her visit to the CFR, she did not see the 90-day turnaround time for processing applications as not being realistic and said interns could be included to assist with the administration. With the training of DFOs, she did not see much change with what was happening. She chaired the DFO Committee, and said that in most cases the DFOs were involved in administration but were also supposed to check compliance of the institutions with the legislation. The DFOs dealt with firearm legislation, second-hand goods applications and liquor applications and compliance thereof. Provinces would be visited in July especially to empower the stations which did have DFOs to meet the target of 90-days.

The Deputy Minister reiterated that she was pleased she was invited to this meeting. The Minister had planned a summit for Friday together with SAPS internal stakeholders (IPID, PSIRA, CSP and a few experts) to debate policy on gun ownership, her findings on the CFR and recommendations thereof. One of the recommendations was to make CFR a division, because if it was it was likely to be taken more seriously than if it remained a small unit. She was one of the MPs dealing with the FCA 15 years ago, and it was a very difficult exercise. Everyone was needed in the process, because SAPS would not get it right on its own. There was an indication that most of her findings at the CFR would be addressed, as she was given a report by SAPS on it. It was now important to submit progress reports so that matters did not become stagnant. There was a need for commitment and very strict command and control. She did believe that SAPS was trying its best. In regard to the unfortunate affidavit made by the Colonel, it was a very serious offence to lie under oath. She would write to the Minister and National Commissioner to raise her concerns about this Colonel.

The Chairperson said that before August there must be comprehensive stakeholder engagement between SAPS and the stakeholders present, otherwise the process would be very difficult moving forward to August and September. The Committee also needed to discuss matters. However, at the end of the day the buck stopped with the accounting officer of the Department. The Committee would take serious stock of the current state of affairs because it was important that there was progress and turnaround. SAPS would have to submit a monthly report to the Committee on progress in terms of turnaround of the CFR, from today onwards. The danger was that if a certain model was adopted in the legislative process but SAPS’ internal workings and organisational structure did not speak to the model, no progress would be made. It would be essential to have a re-look at the current structure and level. The Committee would be monitoring matters very carefully going forward.

Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on Police on its oversight Visit to the Mpumalanga Province, dated 10 February 2015
The Chairperson commented that this document was well drafted. The Committee went through the report page by page.

Members noted grammatical, format and spelling errors.

The Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on Police on its Oversight Visit to the Mpumalanga Province, dated 10 February 2015 was adopted with minor amendments.

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Police on the National Firearms Summit held on 24 and 25 March 2015
The Committee went through the report page by page, and Members raised grammatical, format and spelling errors.

The Report of the Portfolio Committee on Police on the National Firearms Summit held on 24 and 25 March 2015 was adopted with minor amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.

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