The Committee met to hear the views of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and stakeholders of the gun trade against the backdrop of poor compliance with the country’s gun-control laws and gun owners’ failure to renew firearm licences. Participants included the South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers’ Association (SAAADA), the South African Gun Owners Association (SAGA), Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA), the Hunters Forum and Gun Free South Africa.
The meeting opened with a brief discussion about topical events that had made media headlines recently. Members were appalled at reports indicating that as many as 20 assault rifles had gone missing from the Bellville South police station, and resolved to call the station commander to account at its next meeting. They also expressed concern at the child abuse charges facing Mr Robert McBride, executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). After initial suggestions that he should be suspending pending his trial, it was agreed to refer the issue to the Management Committee (MANCO) for processing and to monitor the developments
The common theme in the stakeholders’ comments about the administration of the firearms registry by SAPS was that there was no consistency and no coherent policy. A lack of communication and consultation was cited as a prominent issue. The stakeholders contended that there had been no joint stakeholder meeting with SAPS since 2015, and no attempt had been made to discuss possible solutions with the firearms committee on how to renew firearm licences. Despite the engagement in 2015, the process of finalising the Firearms Control Amendment Bill was being kept secret.
SAAADA asserted that nobody had ever been allowed to participate in, or monitor, the Appeal Board’s proceedings -- not even the person who was the subject matter of those proceeding. It was emphasised that SAPS needed to focus on the individual applicants for licences, and to ensure that the person qualified to own a firearm, instead of focusing on the licensing and re-licensing of the firearm itself, which wasted a considerable amount of time, effort and money.
Members commented on their experiences during a previous Committee visit to the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) in Pretoria, where they had witnessed run-down building conditions and endless boxes of files in the corridors, and were told that the CFR was still in the same building, with the boxes still piled up against the walls. The lack of consequence management was raised, with Members asking whether anyone at senior management level had been held accountable for performance standards at the Registry. SAPS responded that there had been no consequence management reported for poor performance in the past year, but senior managers did get suspended for wrongdoing.
On the issue of licensing the individual instead of the firearm, based on the research conducted by the Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP), the view was expressed that it was vital to have the gun licensed, and to have a competent person licensed to use it, and it was strongly urged that those processes should be conducted simultaneously.
The stakeholders explored the option and viability of establishing an independent firearms compliance regulatory body, and SAPS was urged to explore innovative proposals with the stakeholders in roundtable discussions. After listening to the issues raised, SAPS committed to calling a meeting of all the stakeholders and SAPS legal services, to agree on the rules of engagement. The Committee asked for the progress from these interactions to be presented to it, and hoped its meeting had been a catalyst for future engagement between SAPS and the stakeholders.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members and the stakeholders. He first wanted to deal with a few administrative and public matters that Members had raised with him. With regard to the meeting the following week on Tuesday, they would deal with the report of the panel of experts, the Marikana Commission, as well as the South African Police Services’ (SAPS) task team. On Wednesday the following week, they would deal with a very important issue -- the Domestic Violence Act. He added that the Committee had invited the nine secretaries of the provincial governments, because at the last meeting the Committee had had problems on reporting, so the secretaries would address that.
The meeting on that day was actually supposed to have taken place a week before, and he thanked the delegates and Members for rearranging their schedules.
He welcomed Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) for re-joining the Committee, and said that he was looking forward to her contribution moving forward.
The Chairperson said that he wanted to raise a few matters that had been in the public domain. The previous weekend newspapers had carried various reports on the so-called “Project Wonder.” It was quite clear from the report that the issues pertaining to that fell within the intelligence environment, and the matter had been referred to by various parties, from the Minister of Police to the Inspector General of Intelligence. In terms of the Parliamentary jurisdiction, the secret fund, as well as operational matters, was in the purview of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Therefore that matter should be dealt with and the Committee would await the report of the Inspector General on the issue.
Missing rifles and McBride assault case
There had also been reports of R5 rifles being lost at the Bellville South Police station. A 30-plus number had been made and known in the media and that was a serious concern for the Committee, because part of the exercise for that day, and with the new legislation, was to ensure that firearms were well regulated and that there were efficient systems in the SAPS to ensure firearms were stored properly and that there were sufficient controls. When an incident like that happened, it raised serious questions relating to command control and the current environment. The Committee had indicated previously that they would call station commanders to the meetings if they were not satisfied. He added that what they would do on Wednesday morning, even if it took longer, would be to call the station commander of Bellville South, along with other station commanders that could have been involved, to explain to the Committee, because the station commander should see to it that firearms were safely secured even after operations. There could not be a situation where arms were freely available and used in gang violence.
The Chairperson said he had received a letter from the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) about the challenges they had experienced in Phillipi East, which had more to do with visible policing and firearms in general. He had also received a letter from Mr Z Mbhele (DA) regarding the issue of gender violence, which had also been raised in letters and in consultation with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Flowing from those discussions and the letters received, it had been decided that in October the Committee would have a two-day summit on the issue of gender violence, how the various departments related to it, and the role of SAPS.
Another issue which had come to the fore in the previous days was the one involving the executive director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). He had seen the comments of the various political parties and he wanted to hear the Members’ perspective on it. Mr Robert McBride had been in court on Wednesday, 30 August, on the charges of child abuse and intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The Chairperson was seriously concerned by the charges. IPID reported to Parliament and its executive director was accountable to this Committee, and this assault was an assault on a woman child. The criminal matter was now in the hands of the court and they would need to await the outcome of the matter. The Committee would closely monitor it and its effect on the IPID mandate. He invited the Members to respond to his opening statement.
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) on the issue of Mr McBride, said that he felt strongly that Mr McBride should be suspended. He reminded Members that there had been a situation with the previous acting National Commissioner, and he had been suspended. Mr McBride was in a position to misuse the resources available to him, which could intimidate the investigators in the case. He thought it was appropriate that he was suspended until the investigation was completed. The history of Mr McBride was known, and the law must prevail. He knew that the Minister of Police did not have the authority to just suspend him -- there was a specific process. His question was, who starts the process? It did not help to wait until October when Mr McBride was in court again -- the process needed to start swiftly. He requested that by the following week, a decision must be made regarding suspension. They could not allow for double standards.
He agreed with the Chairperson that the station commander of Bellville South should have been present at the meeting to explain the rifles’ disappearance. Twenty assault rifles just disappearing -- how on earth could that happen? He asked if it was a total lack of discipline, because if that was the case, then there were serious questions to be asked to the commander of that station. He reiterated that it was important to have that station commander at a meeting as soon as possible
Ms Kohler Barnard (DA) agreed with Mr Groenewald that Mr McBride was in a position where staying in his office was untenable. He should have done the right thing and put himself on suspension. He must be suspended. Any other member, and pretty much anyone who was accused of a crime like this, would be automatically suspended, and he should not be the exception to the rule. She added that he should not be in a position where he could have influence over the investigation, and she believed he was in such a position.
With regard to the missing firearms, she did not believe it was negligence at all to have firearms disappear -- it was corruption. They were being sold, and next thing they were being used to shoot other SAPS members and everybody else. It was untenable, and she was very surprised that the station commander of Bellville South was not present at the meeting. He/she should be summoned to the next meeting.
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) said that he would try to be candid and persuasive with the Members. On earth, as a human species, there were no angels. They had not yet heard Mr McBride’s side of the story. He was speaking as a father with children, especially with the challenges that were being faced in this day and age, and anyone that came to him and said that he had assaulted his child when in fact he was correcting his child, he would take strong exception to that. It was known what was happening and the peer group pressures that children were faced with today. He would understand if it had been a stranger, like the case of Mrs Mugabe, but if he was taking hard measures with his kids, he did not believe it should be perceived as someone who was an enemy, or someone who was posing a threat. If it were a case concerning McBride in his core functions at IPID, he would personally join the Members of the Committee in their argument that Mr McBride could interfere with the investigation.
At this stage, the police were investigating this case and there was no way IPID could interfere with it because it was not like he was in the SAPS -- he was actually the head of IPID that conducted oversight over the Police. As a Committee, he pleaded that they should not be vindictive and should allow due processes to take over. They were not a court of law, they were a Committee, and as a Committee they had certain responsibilities and could not encroach on the judiciary.
Lastly, on the question of the Western Cape, he was glad that Members of the Justice Committee were present at the meeting, because they had written letters to the Committee. When he had been told about the situation in the Western Cape, particularly in the area called Marikana, he had personally assured them, after the visit to Mannenburg, that he would persuade the Committee to include the area of Marikana. The picture that had been painted for him was that people were being evicted by criminals in the area and killed like flies. This did not sit very well, knowing that the seat of power was in the Western Cape and knowing that state institutions, particularly security forces, could not discharge their utmost best. It was his own persuasion to try include Marikana to see what could be done in order to ensure that the enforcement of law was observed by the people in that area. It could not be that elderly people in that area were being forced by criminals out of their homes, which had been the picture painted by Members of the Justice Committee.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) said that she shared the sentiments of the Chairperson, but she had a suggestion that with the Mr McBride issue, they should refer the issue to the Management Committee (MANCO) for processing, and the Committee should monitor it. On the missing firearms, she agreed that the station commander of Bellville South Police station should be called in to explain him/herself.
The Chairperson said that he noted the comments. In respect of the IPID issue, he thought the Committee should submit the matter to MANCO processes, and then come back to the Committee.
Mr Groenewald asked if the Committee would get the feedback by the following week.
The Chairperson said it would.
South African Police Service: Missing firearms
Lt Gen Sehlahle Masemola, Deputy National Commissioner, SAPS, referred to the Bellville South police station missing firearms issue, and confirmed that the incident had indeed happened and they were currently investigating the issue. There was a video available, so SAPS was busy analysing it. It looked as though they would be able to pick up exactly what happened in the video and would be able to crack the case. The reports had said it was rifles, but on the list of firearms it had been mostly pistols and revolvers – which was not to say that they did not kill as much as rifles.
He said that SAPS also had a problem at Mitchell’s Plain police station, where pistols were being booked out by police members, and seemed to be lost. The members who booked out the pistols were there, but the pistols could not be accounted for. SAPS had opened a case and were busy with the investigation.
The Chairperson interjected that for the following week’s meeting, Mitchell’s Plain should also be invited, along with Bellville South.
Lt Gen Masemola said that there were currently two task teams handling these cases. They were also compiling a team consisting of both head office and provincial personnel to descend into the Western Cape to audit all stations in the province. Secondly, regarding the firearm amnesty and the establishment of provincial storage, when these teams go to police stations after the audit, they would immediately remove all firearms to the provincial firearm central storage facility, where they would keep everything to ensure safety. It was an initiative that they were working on, but it was one that SAPS would like to do countrywide. Firearms should have a certain number of days in a police station, but it should not be many days -- they should be moved to the provincial central firearm storage.
Central Firearms Register: SAPS Turn-Around Strategy
Brigadier Lesetja Bopape, Section Head: Central Firearm Registry (CFR) said the purpose of the Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act No 60 of 2000) included establishing a comprehensive and effective system of firearm control and management. The Central Firearm Registry (CFR) had been established in terms of the Act to maintain a database of firearm ownership in South Africa. A turn-around strategy had been adopted to address service delivery challenges impacting negatively on work performance and effective administration of the firearms control legislation. Since the inception of the Turn-Around strategy, monthly progress reports have been available to the Portfolio Committee on Police.
The turn-around strategy revolved around five pillars. The strategic objectives included:
- To enhance work performance in order to improve service delivery.
- To enhance services rendered through improved capacity.
- To optimise data integrity through system development and purification.
- To improve sustainable communication and stakeholder engagement.
- To develop and maintain sound corporate governance (quasi legislation).
The CFR was responsible for the processing of the following applications:
- Competency certificates
- Renewal of competency certificates.
- Individual and business firearm licences.
- Renewal of business licences.
- Firearm permits and temporary authorisations.
Brigadier Bopape discussed the performance overview of all categories of applications for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years. These categories included competency applications, individual and business licences received, renewal of individual and business licences, as well as permits and authorisations.
The contributory success factors for SAPS’s work performance included:
- The standardisation of work flow and decision making through revitalisation processes/regrouping of work:
- Competency certifications.
- Individual firearm licensing.
- Business firearm licensing.
- Arms control (firearm dealers, manufacturers and gunsmiths), permits (import, export and transport permits) and temporary authorisations.
- Data integrity and quality control which deals with quality assurance.
- Client and secretariat services.
- Introducing flexi hours to improve utilisation of the Enhanced Firearms Register System (EFRS).
- Prioritisation of applications according to received date.
- Allocation of additional resources (i.e scanners).
- A National CFR enquiry desk had been established: all written enquiries were channelled through one portal (2 291 enquiries were concluded in the 2016/2017 financial year).
- CFR Call centre: all telephone enquiries were channelled through one portal (for the 2016/17 financial year, 251 647 calls were concluded).
- Monitoring and analysing of enquiries: to identify shortcomings and to ensure timeous/continuous interventions.
In the 2016/2017 financial year, the following training courses were presented:
- Designated Firearms Officers (DFOs) programme -- 306 members were trained.
- Section 102 (unfit declaration) training intervention -- 624 officers were trained.
In order to enhance a conducive working environment, SAPS had purchased furniture which included 256 chairs, 170 desks, five bookcases, five filing cabinets and five stationery cupboards. In regard to the facility infrastructure, particularly office space for CFR members and an archive for storage files, processes were under way to relocate the CFR to suitable accommodation. Regarding archives, an additional 20 containers had been procured to expand the increasing storage of firearm applications. The procured containers still had to be equipped and shelved in 2017/2018, and the target date was November 2017. Additional storage space had been allocated in Silverton for redundant files (deceased persons/inactive persons) . They had also implemented the indexing of finalised applications to improve record keeping.
SAPS had made steps to enhance communication and stakeholder engagement:
- 32 meetings had been conducted with stakeholders.
- A further 36 meetings had been held comprising the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), Directorate for Conventional Arms Control (DCAC). The SAPS export scrutiny committee meetings were convened.
- Provincial enquiry desks were established in all nine provinces to enhance service delivery.
- An additional two national email addresses were created to enable dealers, manufacturers and gunsmiths to submit their returns.
- An awareness campaign, with the theme “Stop Firearm Violence,” was mobilised. It included promotional material distributed consisting of 3 078 posters and 148 597 pamphlets.
Information technology (IT) was a key objective used by SAPS:
- The EFRS had been developed to enable the CFR to effectively administer the provisions of the Firearms Control Legislation.
- The following improvements were introduced by the EFRS:
- System-generated SMS notifications;
- To inform the applicant of the status and progress of his/her firearm licence application.
- To inform the firearm owner of a firearm licence of renewal 120 days prior to expiry date.
- To inform the owner of the circulation status of his/her firearm reported lost/stolen.
- System-generated refusal letters
- Valid competency certificates
- System purification to address data integrity.
To maintain sound corporate governance, SAPS had done the following:
- Enhanced good governance through compliance with policies.
- Distributing the following standard operating procedures (SOPs) for comments to be concluded during 2017/2018:
- Destruction of firearms and ammunition.
- Licence to possess firearms: Individuals.
- Licence to possess firearms: Businesses.
- Licence to manufacture firearms or ammunition; licence to conduct business as a gunsmith.
- Licence to trade in firearms and ammunition.
- Notification of lost, stolen and found firearms.
- Competency certificates.
- Notification of incorrect information.
- Notification of change of address and circumstances.
- Renewal of firearm licence and competency certificate.
CFR recovery plan: SA Arms and Ammunition Dealers’ Association (SAAADA)
Mr Martin Hood, South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers’ Association (SAAADA), said the theme of the presentation was thinking better control, better integrity and better service delivery. The independent comments of the CFR, which came from a judgment by Judge Ronel Tolmay and the South African Hunters Association, in contrast to what SAPS had presented, was that legislation relating to the renewal of gun licences was confusing and unclear. It was important to bear the judge’s comment in mind when looking at what SAPS was presenting, because SAPS was not presenting the true picture.
There were a number of key areas he deemed important, relating to public administration. Firstly the judge highlighted in her judgement that there was no consistency and there was no coherent policy. The second significant issue was communication and consultation, and thirdly there were certain specific provisions of the Act, and why they had not been implemented (Section 39(6) and 39(7) of the Act). The fourth and fifth issues were proposed amendments and lapsed firearm licences.
After hearing the SAPS’s presentation for the first time, there was a part of the presentation that came as a surprise to him, which illustrated how the SAPS did not know how to communicate. Under ‘Corporate Governance’ in the SAPS presentation, they claimed that they had ‘distributed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for comments,’ which was accompanied by a list of items which involved firearm dealers in one shape or form, yet they had derived SOPs without consulting stakeholders or the dealers. What would happen was that the SOPs would be implemented without the dealers, and because the dealers did not know and had not participated in those SOPs, they were going to result in challenges and difficulties. It was a fundamental issue that the SAPS did not wrap their heads around -- they did not consult with stakeholders. SAPS do not think that stakeholders should be involved in the administration of firearms, which was why there was a problem with the administration of firearms.
It went with transparency. SAPS seemed to believe that giving information was a state secret. The dealers had to fight and threaten to go to court in order to get a list of licensed dealers in order to communicate with those dealers and to verify that they were still in business. That was not good governance.
The police did not want to simplify their own workload. Section 21 permits were the temporary authorisation which had been referred to in the SAPS presentation. There was no time limit in the Act for how long a person could have a permit. It made sense to issue the firearm permit for five years to harmonise it with the period that the person would be in the country, yet the police did not do that -- the current policy allowed Section 21 permits for only a year. So a person has to apply continuously for the same firearm, which was a simple example of how the police just create more work for themselves. This was not an efficient, economic and effective use of resources.
The reason for the refusal of a licence for a firearm, was another example of how policy was wrong and not disclosed. The reason was: “refused possession of machine guns prohibited Sec 32(1)”. Section 32(1) actually referred to the old Arms and Ammunitions Act 75 of 1969 which was repealed in 2004. So you have a senior officer who was refusing a firearm licence, based on legislation that was repealed 13 years ago. That simply could not be -- it questioned the competence of the Deciding Officer and the internal guidelines used. There had been a change in policy all the time, a policy that was not disclosed and a policy that was not an outcome of consultation with the industry.
With regard to senior management changes within Firearms Liquor and Second Hand Goods Control (FLASH), it was the question of stability. The entire environment had been unstable. It was related directly to why the police dealt in a manner of inconsistency with the industry.
The Appeal Board was not blameless. Besides the constitutional requirements, the regulations for the Appeal Board stipulate that “the Chairperson shall determine the times when the Appeal Board shall meet and the procedure to be followed at meetings”. Yet not one person as far as he was aware had ever been allowed to participate, look at, to hear or monitor the board in proceedings, even if the person was the subject matter in those proceedings. One could not have an Appeal Board operating behind closed doors without transparency, without scrutiny or without being monitored. These examples demonstrated why the system was failing. The police did not want to subject their system to scrutiny, and were not prepared to admit their mistakes. Until they were prepared to do both those things, the situation was not going to improve.
One reason that this problem existed was communication and consultation. SAPS did not acknowledge firearm owners as stakeholders. He had two examples of this. The first was the SAPS communication plan dated 13 March 2017, which was signed by Lt Gen Masemola. Lt Gen Masemola recognised Gun Free South Africa as a stakeholder, yet not one firearm organisation was identified as a stakeholder. That was inexplicable and inexcusable. The second example was the SAPS presentation on the Firearm Amnesty to Parliament on 15 March 2017, where one industry body was identified as a partner. That was why the firearm industry was failing -- because SAPS would not take into account industry inputs that they constantly tried to make.
The Hunters Forum and SAAADA had communicated to the Committee that they were no longer prepared to communicate to SAPS due to a complete lack of communication and/or consultation from SAPS and a breakdown in trust. The Dealers’ Association had been asking the same questions of the CFR for up to ten years without answers, and the last time a meeting between the Dealers’ Association and the CFR took place was in September 2015. The dealers were an important component in the Act, and 13 years into the Act there was still no electronic connectivity. This meant there was a lack of control and no means to speedily rectify data issues. It was inexplicable as to why the police had not done it. They had had offers from private organisations to assist, and they had not been taken up.
With regard to solutions, SAAADA believes that the functioning and control of the CFR should be moved to the Secretariat of Police. It had been heavily discussed and at a time, Secretariat handling and engagement had been successful, so they believed it was the appropriate place for the CFR and the Appeal Board. Another solution was to appoint a ministerial committee in terms of Section 132 of the Firearms Control Act made up of persons who understand the constitution and the Act, were subject matter experts, complied with court orders, removed obstructive or incompetent officials and simplified procedures. Re-licensing was not working at all, and that needed to be abolished. It was important to focus on the competency of the firearm owner, and not the firearm -- to focus on whether that person qualified, had the correct background and the correct temperament, and then regularly check the competency of that person.
CFR Turn-Around Strategy: SA Gun Owners’ Association
Mr John Welch, South African Gun Owners Association (SAGA), without addressing the same issues that had been addressed by Mr Hood, wanted to focus on salient issues. A constructive comment was that generally the licensing renewal process, provided all forms were filled in properly, went quite well and SAGA did not have any hassles there. However, in turn-around times, re-licensing was unnecessary if persons were licensed, rather than firearms. In many instances, the Designated Firearms Officers (DFOs) were helpful and the help desk, albeit not in all cases, was a valuable asset.
The negative comment they had was related to the stakeholder relations, since 2015 no joint stakeholder meetings had taken place. The exception was with the National Arms and Ammunition Collectors Confederation of South Africa (NAACCSA), where SAPS had three meetings with them in 2016 and another was being scheduled for 2017.They were aware that other stakeholders had tried to organise meetings with SAPS, but these had not materialised for whatever reason. It was possible that the litigation involving the Minister of Police and the Hunters Association had something to with it.
Since the judge in the court action had made a constitutional ruling, the constitutional court was required to confirm or decline the ruling, which would come before it on 8 February 2018. The effect of the litigation was that there was still no solution to the failure to timeously renew current licences. He said that Section 24 had no provision contained allowing for a late application for renewal, even with the payment of an administrative fine, and had that simple matter been addressed, the litigation would have been avoided and a lot less criticism would have come forward. Despite the Minister’s right to appeal the ruling, no constructive solution had been forthcoming from SAPS, except to say that firearms must be surrendered to the police if the renewal application had not been submitted timeously.
He had been extremely shocked to hear of the news of the two local stations in the area. He could add to that the case of Peddie police station in the Eastern Cape, where firearms were stolen from a SAPS 13 store. What were police firearms doing in a SAPS 13 store? An SAPS 13 store was an exhibit store, and these were R5 rifles, Z-88 pistols and shotguns, which were typical police guns.
Firearms collectors were the only people who should possess fully automatic weapons. None of those weapons had ever been lost. This implied those weapons must be coming from imports, the Defence Force, SAPS, etc which was a bigger concern than the one or two firearms coming from legitimate dealers.
He agreed with Mr Hood that no attempt had been made to discuss possible solutions on how to renew firearm licences with the firearms committee. Despite the stakeholder engagement in March 2015, the process of finalising the Firearms Control Amendment Bill had been kept secret. He had heard it had been removed from the legal services of SAPS and put in the hands of the Secretariat. SAGA did not know what secrecy was embroiled in that bill and once they saw it, they would go through a major session of scrutinising it in order to ensure they had a bill that was correct and that addressed the major issues.
An online IT system would go a long way towards alleviating the CFR’s workload and enhancing their performance. He had heard Brigadier Bopape speaking of an IT system, but he was yet to see one. He understood that it was under way, yet in the year 2000, in conjunction with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), stakeholders had done the process mapping in the CFR. That was 17 years ago when it had been finalised and yet until today, SAGA had not seen the process developing, nor the online system.
With regards to filing, where the Committee had witnessed the chaos at the building in Pretoria, many of those problems could have been addressed had there been an online system. When there was an online system, one avoided the stacking of paper, the containers that needed to be acquired and stored in Silverton, or wherever enhanced paperwork. He emphasised that SAPS needed to focus on the individual and ensure the person qualified for the firearm so that the paperwork relating to licensing and re-licensing could be reduced to almost zero, and the police would have more time on their hands to do proper policing.
There was no uniform interpretation of the provisions of the Act. For example, in the Western Cape the renewal of competency certificates took a certain number of years, and when one went up north in the country, it was a different period.
SAGA appreciated the efforts being made with service delivery and systems and processes, but it believed a simplified law, a willingness to involve stakeholders and the licensing of the person and the mere registration of firearms, would go a long way towards rendering service excellence to law abiding firearm owners.
Hunters Forum: SAPS and CFR interaction
Dr Herman Els, Hunters Forum, said that the Hunters Forum was established in September 2004 and consisted of the current 11 SAPS-accredited hunting associations, plus the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA).
The responsibilities and accountability of accredited hunting associations towards SAPS and the legislator were mainly prescribed in Sec 8 and in Regulation 4 of the FCA. These responsibilities implied an extensive commitment and compliance with several legal requirements before hunting associations were accredited by SAPS. Accredited associations were responsible for awarding and ascertaining maintenance of the dedicated status of their members, and could be taken to task for non-compliance.
The Hunters Forum engaged with CFR at regular annual quarterly meetings in a forum known as the Hunters/SAPS Consultative Forum. These engagements had always been focussed on achieving the objectives of the FCA, and specifically on those sections of the FCA with relevance to hunting firearms.
The working relationship between the Hunters Forum and CFR had been reasonably successful between 2004 and 2011. This relationship, built on engaging in mutual trust and good faith, had since 2012 seen a steady decline up to the end of 2015, however, when Forum meetings were attended by only two CFR officials, instead of all section commanders, as had been the norm at the time.
In this context, the Hunters Forum could interpret CFR’s declining participation only as no longer seeing them as an important stakeholder in the implementation of the FCA. After the Forum’s June 2016 meeting, SAPS had introduced a proposed new memorandum of understanding (MoU) in October 2016 describing an engagement process with the Hunters Forum, to be chaired and driven by SAPS (FLASH) in consultation with what the new MoU referred to as the Accredited Hunting Associations of South Africa (AHASA).
Unfortunately SAPS had not attended the Forum’s meeting of 10 May 2017, which was scheduled for discussion, adaptation and acceptance of the new MoU. No reasons were given for SAPS not attending that Forum meeting. Its non-attendance thus only further enhanced the Hunters Forum’s loss of confidence in the commitment of SAPS to act in good faith towards a major stakeholder in the implementation of the FCA. Against this background, the Hunters Forum was thus forced to seriously reconsider its own position and commitment to the existing Hunters/SAPS Consultative Forum format.
It must be understood that costs involved for Members of accredited hunting associations to attend Hunters/SAPS Consultative Forum meetings, came to a considerable amount. Members came to Pretoria from Polokwane, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Durban, and many had to stay over to attend Forum meetings.
As associations of members, budgets were limited, apart from the fact that 80% of members representing accredited associations at Forum meetings did so as volunteers, and had to take leave to attend these meetings. If there were then confidence issues between the parties, the question had to be asked if it was worth the association’s while to keep on paying costs for meetings, which continued to show little or no results.
These were the reasons why on 22 June 2017, the Chairman of the Hunters Forum had sent a letter to the Chairman of the Portfolio Committee wherein he had indicated that the Hunters Forum had concluded that “unless further engagement with SAPS/CFR was formalised in a manner where civilian/political oversight was established, the Hunters Forum sees no point to engage any further with SAPS/CFR in a bilateral manner…”.
This position of the Hunters Forum, and their loss of confidence in the bona fides of SAPS’ commitment to the Hunters Forum as an important stakeholder, must also be seen against a wider background, of which the following two examples were enough to make the point. In a SAPS circular of 13 March 2017 pertaining to communication regarding the proposed amnesty, all accredited hunting and sport shooting associations, and all other firearm advocacy stakeholders, were identified as being part of what was described as the “External Target Audience”.
The Gautrain, faith-based organisations, sport associations, other government departments, and even Guns Free South Africa -- all with no responsibility towards the legal possession of firearms in this country, and with no real relevance to the content of the proposed amnesty -- were included in the communication strategy as “Stakeholders”.
Many issues which were within the ambit of specifically the CFR to remedy, some requiring very little effort beyond sheer will, remained as “matters arising” in the minutes of the Hunters/SAPS Consultative Forum meetings and remained unresolved year after year. Examples included duplication in submissions of proficiency training certificates and SA Qualifying Authority (SAQA) certificates. Barrel and calibre changes were not captured on the system and could not be traced once the submission had been handed in (a waiting period of 18 months and longer was not uncommon).
In order for the Hunters Forum to be a major stakeholder in the successful implementation of the FCA at the ground level, they have no other option than to seek the intervention of the Portfolio Committee to assist in normalising the working relationship between SAPS and the Hunters Forum. In the same context, it was the Hunters Forum’s contention that the CFR’s stakeholder engagement strategy, in which considerable energy, time, effort and money was spent by accredited associations and other stakeholders, had so far come to naught. SAPS had not been involved in any firearm stakeholder engagement with recognised stakeholders since late 2015.
The Hunters Forum requested that the Committee take special cognisance of the need for, and importance of, the positive continuance of the firearm stakeholder engagement process, by re-directing the responsibility for process convenor and for oversight of the stakeholder engagement process to the Civilian Secretary of Police. This appointment was appropriate in terms of sec 5 & 6 of the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service Act, 2011 (Act 2 of 2011).
The situation where provinces and DFOs at different police stations still implemented vastly different administrative procedures and processes in respect of competency and firearm licence applications, continued. The Hunters Forum requested that the Committee negotiate with SAPS a previous proposition to make the position of DFO a clear career path in SAPS, so that one training schedule for DFOs could be instituted and be made compulsory for all DFOs. It would definitely also largely benefit SAPS and the firearms licensing process as a whole, as the Hunters Forum members report that at many stations one could see the DFO only by appointment, as their other police responsibilities did not allow them to concentrate on firearm issues alone, and they could therefore not provide a walk-in service to the public.
The Hunters Forum asked for the proposed amendments to the FCA to pass through Parliament sooner than later. It believed there was adequate knowledge within the Civilian Secretariat for Police, in SAPS, and among members of accredited associations, to “workshop” the existing draft legislation into a form ready for public participation in a very short time frame.
The Hunters Forum supported the objectives of the FCA wholeheartedly and would ensure they made the Act’s implementation as successful and appropriate as was possible. They asked the CFR to please be fully and seriously supported by the Committee and by the SAPS top management in order to create the appropriate infrastructure and personnel capacities needed to effectively fulfil their task.
Integrated Firearms Control Management System: Gun Free South Africa
Ms Adele Kirsten, Director: Gun Free South Africa, thanked the Committee for allowing Gun Free SA to talk on such an important issue. She took it up one level by focusing on a an “integrated” firearms control management system and not just focusing on the CFR, because she believed if they were serious about reducing and preventing the number of guns that were moving from a legal system into the illegal market, they had to look across the entire chain of firearms control management.
In her presentation, she focused on what it meant to have an integrated firearms control management system. In doing so, one should not forget why the meeting took place, which was in order to ensure firearms did not get into the hands of criminals. The high number of gun violence related deaths in the country pointed to why it was important for the CFR to get its house in order. It was easy to look at systems and institutions and to forget about the people, which was why it was vital for these institutions and structures to work.
Based on the Hunters Association’s presentation, it was also clear that something had gone wrong in 2011. She was not sure what it was, but since then there had been a steady increase in gun deaths and other murders. There were two cases which provided evidence that the firearms control management system was not working as it should. The first example was Prinsloo’s guns (former police colonel, Chris Prinsloo) who stole 2 400 guns, and had been in charge of the SAPS Silverton secure facility and had moved the guns with the assistance of an accredited firearms dealer and a businessman in Cape Town to gangs in the Western Cape. Through ballistics, it was found that there were over 1 000 deaths related to those guns, of whom 89 were children under the age of 18. They had been killed due to fraud and corruption in the firearms control management system.
The uneven enforcement of Section 24 of the Firearms Control Act (FCA) undermined the stated principles of determining if the gun owners remained fit and proper. In her judgment, Judge Ronel Tolmay had said that there was no question that firearms were hazardous objects, and that possession and ownership must be strictly controlled, failure to comply with the Act exposed society to harm, especially in a country like ours where violence was rife.
Linked directly to the Prinsloo case was the fact that currently there were no clear protocols and national instruction around the process of destruction, from the point of recovery to the point of destruction. She believed that this was something easy to do and it was clear, based on SAPS’s presentation, that the idea of provincial control came through, which was something she recommended. In terms of fraud and corruption, there had been a deliberate leakage of guns, even from the Silverton secure facility, and fraudulent issuing of Section 21 permits. A red flag for the Committee was that given that there were over 1000 deaths related to the Prinsloo guns, this opened up the SAPS to the risk of serious litigation.
She suggested that a systems approach needed to be taken right from the point of manufacture up to the point of destruction. South Africa had signed regional and international political agreements, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Firearms Control and the UN Programme of Action (PoA) which were legally binding, and therefore the country was required to stick to these obligations.
Given the nature of firearms, there was always a risk for diversion. The criminals do the killing but there were people further up in the chain who enabled that. Therefore, the key elements were record-keeping, renewals, enforcement and compliance, stockpile management and destruction. With regard to record-keeping, CFR was the powerhouse of effective firearms control, so that the state knew who owned what gun and for what purpose. Essentially, record-keeping meant that one collected and maintained accurate information. Across the globe it had been seen that good record-keeping was a good measure to stop the flow of guns into the illicit market.
With regards to the firearm licence renewals, South Africa had a two-tier licensing system and a dual purpose. Essentially, the licence renewal system recognises that people’s circumstances change, so every five years the owner had an opportunity to rethink if they still needed the gun. It was an important process, but the owner needed to prove that there was a genuine need for renewal, it was not the state’s job to prove. The state had the responsibility to determine the ongoing fitness and proper status of the owner.
With regard to enforcement, enforcement and compliance went hand in hand, in that good enforcement usually resulted in good compliance. FLASH had been responsible for firearm compliance in the 2015/2016 financial year, and in the SAPS report the compliance section at FLASH had done 18 000 firearms inspections of both individuals and dealers. Furthermore, over 191 000 guns had been individually inspected, which sounds like a lot but when one looked at the number of guns in circulation -- which was over three million -- that was not a lot of guns that had been inspected. Therefore it was a case of where else and who else should be doing this?
Compliance was a dual obligation, where the state was responsible for enforcement and the end user was responsible for compliance. In all law, there were two factors influencing compliance: the one was the push factor, which was the fear of being caught; the other was the pull factor, which was the legitimacy of the law. What she had seen was a big critique of the SAPS, in that the poor enforcement of Section 24 of the FCA had given rise to poor compliance.
In terms of stockpile management, there needed to be a secure facility and the management of the safe storage facility. There were two police officers who were in charge of massive amounts of guns, yet there were no checks and balances, and that had to change. The true aim of stockpile management was that one did not want the guns to move from the legal into the illicit market.
With regards to destruction, in order for SAPS to track new waves of illicit firearms, it important that the data was disaggregated and the circumstances in which guns were coming into recovery were known, because it would provide SAPS with patterns of the emerging trade. This was how the Western Cape had caught Prinsloo, because instead of two or three cartridges being found at the scene of a crime, there were twelve which informed that there was a surplus in supply. That type of detail in intelligence was absolutely critical.
A recommendation was that all weapons had to be destroyed within two to three months. She offered a few recommendations, some of which were long-term and others could be implemented straight away. SAPS had to ensure they had the budget, infrastructure and skill to ensure integrity across the firearms control management system. As she mentioned earlier, something had happened in the year 2011 -- the murder rate had increased, and in the Western Cape gun-related deaths had gone off the charts. Therefore an audit needed to be conducted of all licences and permits issued by the CFR since 2011.
Gun Free SA recommended the establishment of an independent firearms compliance regulatory body. Something that could be done immediately was to develop a national instruction for the safe storage and disposal of recovered firearms, including provincial capacity. She pleaded for the Minister to prioritise setting down the court judgment of 2009. The final recommendation included holding a national firearm amnesty and public destruction, hopefully by the end of 2017.
The Chairperson said the “elephant in the room” was the issue of stakeholder relationships. Clearly the stakeholder relationship had been broken down and he needed an assurance from SAPS and the Secretariat of Police as to what was going to be done to solve that. The Committee would like to get a proper response on that because it dealt with the issue of commitment, leadership and capacity. Secondly, there was the issue of the firearms amnesty. The Committee wanted to know what SAPS’s game plan was and where that process was.
Ms Kohler Barnard agreed with the Chairperson in that between the stakeholder and SAPS, they seem to be like a divorced couple and that needed to stop. In 2014, the Committee had visited the CFR and determined then that the building should be condemned. There were rats, lice and the corridors were blocked with endless boxes of files. It was a death trap -- one woman spent R1 000 a month to fumigate her office because the bird lice came in waves. While SAPS was claiming that there was another building shining in the distance, she did not believe that, and she proposed that the Minister of Public Works be called to the Committee to formally tell them when and when the CFR would be moved to a building that was fit for human habitation and work. The Minister of Police was intimately aware of what was happening in that building, and the CFR needed all the help they could get.
There were also general concerns of non-compliance and the management of firearms. What measures had SAPS put in place to address non-compliance by SAPS members, DFOs and detectives? There seemed to be a lack of consequence management. When they did not comply, was SAPS telling them to comply, or was it doing something to sort out the matter? She was including the detectives who failed to submit the identity document (ID) numbers of persons unfit to possess a firearm -- if a person was not on that list, then the detectives were working against the outcomes of the Domestic Violence Act. She asked how many cases of corruption had been linked to the CFR in the 2016/2017 financial year, and a comparison with the 2015/2016 financial year.
Mr Mbhele expressed his opening remarks by conveying a reminder to the SAPS that as a state body, SAPS was vested with public power but that public power needrf to be exercised both reasonably and rationally in the public interest. The challenges that he had heard reflected that public power was being exercised unreasonably, such as the recent history of poor consultation. It was also being exercised irrationally by not having consultations that could contribute to the solutions, making SAPS’s job more difficult by not benefiting from that input.
His first question was whether SAPS management, especially within the CFR, viewed the firearm and ammunition dealers, owners and hunters association as valid and legitimate stakeholders in the firearms control environment. If so, why had SAPS’s efforts to maintain transparency and productive engagement been so poor?
Secondly, he asked SAPS management what their paradigm and philosophy as SAPS management was when it came to private firearm ownership. Was it the view of SAPS management that citizens had an inherent a priori right to own firearms, and the state’s role was to merely regulate the conditions for that ownership in order to mitigate risk factors? Or did SAPS management believe that firearm ownership was a privilege that the state could dispense with at its discretion and that in fact the ideal situation for SAPS was where there was greatly reduced and minimally maintained levels of private firearm ownership.
The third question was linked to consequence management. Had anyone at senior management level been held accountable for performance standards at the CFR? In other words, did section heads, component heads, major generals, still get their bonuses for example, despite the dysfunctionality in the system. Was there accountability enforcement for performance standards and performance outcomes at the senior level?
Ms Molebatsi referred to slide 16 of the SAPS presentation, and said that SAPS had mentioned a training manual for the officers in “unfit declaration.” She asked for the Committee to be provided with that manual. She asked whether the CFR still had those piles and piles of files in their corridors, or if anything had changed since the last time the Committee visited those offices. Lastly, she asked what had happened to the company that was responsible for the painting and distribution of licence cards in the past.
Mr Mhlongo said that he had an observation instead of questions. With regards to Gun Free SA, the projected views, in his opinion, seemed to be workable and systematic in terms of bringing a desirable kind of systems management of firearms control. In past meetings, he had raised that with fiscal dumping and the budget cycle of the police, there would always be billions and billions of rands that were pumped into the system without the public getting the desired outcome. On the last visit to the Free State, the DFO there had outlined a serious challenge even when it came to staffing. People from the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) in particular were brought into the service of management without a deep knowledge of firearms, but because of the staff shortages. The purpose of having a firearms control unit was to render a service to the end user.
At this meeting, he had heard a lot about “no consultation” or “poor consultation,” which would be guided by the high level of secrecy. Policing had not moved to become a transparent organ when it came to the secrecy, even when it was unnecessarily so. What he had observed in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), was that if one was a member of party ‘A,’ one was given leeway for a firearm, and if one was a member of political party ‘B’ which was not in power, one was subsequently disarmed. That kind of theory brought about unnecessary tension between the police and firearm owners, and he thought that area needed to be addressed.
Police would be tasked with the responsibility of saying “how many gun owners do we have in the country, and were they compliant with the rules” so they could pick up or have early warning signs of people that were unfit. Failure to have a track record of that would be an unnecessary bureaucracy and a burden to law abiding citizens, who had to subject themselves to very unrealistic gun control measures in South Africa. People in South Africa were largely being killed because of these illegal firearms, because there was insufficient control over them. If one was disarmed, people said that “the state had the duty to protect you,” but when one’s family was raided by criminals the police arrive at the house and they say “they could not be everywhere at the same time”, which he believed was a stupid excuse. A space should be created for people to defend themselves so that criminals could not take people for a ride. If SAPS made it impossible for people to defend themselves, the country would hit a ceiling where civilians would undermine the rules of engagement.
The concern by end users was that there seemed to be a lack of consultation in that particular process, so the Committee was being tasked to ensure that the firearms control division initiated a transparent mechanism in order to develop a policy that would be benchmarked on the basis of tangible, realistic reforms.
Legislation update: Civilian Secretariat for Police
The Chairperson said that seeing that a number of the issues brought forward were related to the legislation, he asked the Secretariat for Police for an update on the legislation, as it was included as the agenda item. He further asked when the legislation was coming to Parliament, and what the consultation processes internally were.
Mr Alvin Rapea, Secretary of the Civilian Secretariat for Police, said that he just got the signature from the Minister of Police for the draft that they had to process through the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster, to Cabinet. Therefore that approval had been done, and the consultation with the state law advisors had been finalised. Once the Cabinet had approved, the bill could go for publication for public comment. It would be published, and then they would have consultation with all the stakeholders.
A number of stakeholders had been raising the issue that they wanted to get involved. The inputs from stakeholders that the Secretariat had received at the summit coordinated by Parliament in 2015 was all being taken into consideration. Furthermore, the Minister of Police had established a Committee to do further research on those inputs, which included international comparisons. The research report had been taken into consideration in the drafting of the legislation.
The stakeholders did request bilateral engagements with the Secretariat of Police from time to time, and from those engagements they put those inputs into consideration when dealing with the legislation. He said that SAPS would put the legalisation forward in September 2017 to the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster, and he expected that by October 2017 they would be heading to Cabinet to get permission to publish the bill for public comment.
He reminded the Members that there was a bill that had been published in 2015, yet SAPS had had to improve it following the summit that had been held. So at this point in time, they were asking Cabinet to republish the bill because it had since been revamped, based on the research that had been done.
Lt Gen Masemola referred to the issues raised by all the stakeholders, and said there had been court cases in between the processes, with the SAPS legal services getting involved and advising on what could be discussed and done, and what could not be discussed. Having listened to all the stakeholders, SAPS would call a meeting of all the stakeholders, together with SAPS legal services, to agree on the rules of engagement. He committed that they would meet as soon as possible, and he himself would undertake the chairing of those meetings twice a year.
The Chairperson said that what seemed to be quite critical was the issue that there needed to be constant engagement, whether there were court cases or not. It was about the principle of constant engagement.
Lt Gen Masemola said that on the issue of amnesty, the starting date had been 1 June, when SAPS had presented it to the Justice Committee, which had given SAPS the go-ahead. Thereafter the former Minister had tabled it to the National Assembly. It was then referred back and had since been changed to the current Minister, who would table it to the National Assembly, with the recommendation being the first date in January 2018.
The Chairperson responded that that would be a major problem. In the previous engagement with regard to consultation, the bill had to be properly processed by the Portfolio Committee, which then reports it to the National Assembly. It could not be tabled by the Minister of Police, as this would be side-stepping the legislative processes. He said that the legal services of SAPS should also come to Parliament the following week because this was the third time the Committee had raised the issue. SAPS’s legal services did not seem to understand the legislation, as well as the Parliamentary processes. Furthermore, the Committee had indicated previously that there should be consultation with the stakeholders in that process as well.
Lt Gen Masemola said that they had taken note of that, and they would comply.
On the question regarding the philosophy of firearm ownership, SAPS’s role was to manage and administer the firearms -- it was not their objective to say a person could not own a firearm. Their objective was to administer the law and whoever qualified for a license to carry a firearm, they had no problem with that. The stakeholders had raised the issue of focusing on the individuals with firearms, and he deemed it necessary that the stakeholders and SAPS met to establish some criteria around that. He invited the rest of his team to tackle the rest of the questions.
General Nobesuthu Masiye, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, responded on the question of the leadership that was changing in the CFR. For 2016/17 they had made changes only in terms of the structure of the police, and had made two appointments in the CFR. The one appointment was the Component Head, who was General J Bothma, and the other appointment was Brigadier Bopape. In terms of the accommodation of the CFR, they were still in the same building that the Committee had visited, and with regard to the files, yes, they still had those files in their corridors on a daily basis.
She said that the training manual in section 102 would be made available to the Committee. With regard to the cases of corruption reported at the CFR, they currently did not have the numbers for 2015/16, but they could provide those details in writing to the Chairperson. For 2016/17 they had not had any corruption cases registered in the CFR environment.
Major General Jaco Bothma, Component Head: Firearms, Liquor and Second-Hand Goods Services (FLASH) dealt with the issue of compliance at SAPS. With regard to the negligent loss of a firearm, if a firearm was lost or stolen it had to be reported within 24 hours to the nearest police station. Then a process was followed, where a proper investigation had to be conducted, from a criminal and departmental perspective. With regard to firearms from the safe storage facility, a case docket would be opened because it was still theft of a firearm, and the matter was seen as a criminal case that would be investigated against the official. Concurrent to that were departmental processes that were followed, and if it was a police firearm in the SAPS 13, a loss management process was followed. That answered the question as to whether there were police firearms at the SAPS 13 – yes, there were firearms there which were processed through the SAPS 13 to test if the firearms had been involved in any criminal activities.
With regard to the printing by the Government Printing Works (GPW), the current status was that SAPS had printers which had been purchased in 2013. Their lifespan had lapsed, so they could not continue to be used, and they would have had to purchase new printing machines, which was costly. Furthermore, the parts could not be replaced.
Lt Gen Masemola, on the question as to whether SAPS viewed stakeholders as persons working with them, he said that SAPS did view them as stakeholders in the firearms environment. He committed to SAPS engaging with the stakeholders as soon as possible.
Brigadier Lucky Mabule, Section Head: Central Firearms Register (CFR), responded on the issue of PSA employees being employed as DFOs without the necessary competences, and said that on a continuous basis, they undertook a skills audit with regard to DFOs and everyone else who functioned in that environment. On an annual basis, they prepared training courses for those identified as having skills shortages. Currently, the CFR was doing a skills audit around the country in order to identify the skills gap and offer training courses.
Mr Patrick Mongwe, Director and Chairperson: Firearms Appeal Board, responded to Mr Hood, who who had quoted the Firearms Control Act (FCA), and said that Mr Hood had not quoted the entire Act. Mr Hood had indicated that he was not happy with how the Firearms Appeal Board conducted itself, in that it was conducting its proceeding in secrecy and did not allow members to give oral presentations at proceedings. His response was that the procedure of how the Appeal Board conducted itself was laid down in the Act, and the Act provided that the procedure should be determined by the Chairperson. That was the law, and it was not something they had made up themselves. On the issue as to whether members of the public could give oral evidence in Appeal Board proceedings, regulation 91, sub-section 8 of the FCA states that the Chairperson shall have the discretion to call for oral evidence when it was deemed necessary. Therefore, it was not an open session like a normal court of law.
Gen Masiye, on the issue of consequence management, said there had been no consequence management registered for any senior manager for 2016/17 relating to poor performance. In response to Mr Mhlongo’s question, after the Committee’s visit to the Free State, where it had been learnt that there was a limited number of DFOs, the CFR had increased the number of DFOs to 29 persons and all 29 had been trained.
The Chairperson referred to the issue of vetting at the CFR, with the different colonels and the section heads, and asked what the current status of the section commanders was in terms of vetting. With regard to security at the various SAPS stores and the SAPS 13 store, he asked for an indication of what proactive measures SAPS was taking in order to ensure that a ‘Prinsloo issue’ did not occur again.
Ms Molebatsi told Lt Gen Masemola that the ANC would not accept any process of the firearms amnesty which had not been properly processed in the Committee. If this was not going to be taken seriously, then the Committee would have to call in the Minister of Police. She asked about the flexi-hours that were being introduced, and whether they were overtime. She was stressed by the DFOs having to perform three tasks, and asked how long was it going to take for them to be relieved of their other duties so they could be effective.
Mr Mbhele asked a follow up question relating to the consequence management at the senior level. Although none had been recorded in 2016/17, what about the past years? Did the managers who had presided over the decline in performance and the deepening dysfunction of the CFR ever have to deal with consequences? There seemed to be a long-standing tradition in the SAPS of creating a mess and then leaving it unaccounted for, then somebody else had to clean up that mess. Senior managers ended up cleaning up the predecessors’ mess, and they were now currently cleaning up Riah Phiyega’s mess. Had people from before 2016/17 faced accountability for poor performance and mismanagement?
The short-medium term picture described what was happening against the background of a shrinking SAPS. 3 000 posts would be lost in this financial year, and it was further under-staffed and under-resourced. He asked what had been, and would be, the impact of this on the capacity within the CFR. How many vacancies did the SAPS have to freeze in the CFR this year that could not be filled? And how would that affect and shrink the number of DFOs at the station level, particularly after hearing that DFOs were already overstretched at the moment.
He asked Mr Rapea if the Police Secretariat was looking at or researching the merits of the alternative proposal that had been raised a few times, where the policy and regulatory approach was to license the gun owner for competency and merely ensure accurate registration of the firearm, as opposed to the two track system that was not synchronised well. Would the Police Secretariat look at that to advise policy reform?
Mr Molebatsi asked if SAPS had received fewer applications in comparison to the previous year. What did that imply? Was it good?
Ms Kohler Barnard said that there was an increasing number of rejections for applications for firearm licences, and asked if the figure of 72 000 was up to date. The applications that had increased also seemed to be in line with the climb in the murder rate as citizens sought to protect themselves, so she asked how many appeals SAPS was looking at year on year.
With regard to the ordering 20 additional containers to store the piles of documents that were lying in corridors, she was amazed that SAPS had not predicted the magnitude of the paper work they would be dealing with as a result of the legislation. She asked if they had hired additional staff to deal with cataloging and filing the applications. Where was the paper work store, because there was certainly no room in that building and staff were getting parking tickets every day, because there was certainly no parking either.
What was the status of the contract with the company responsible for printing and distributing the firearm licence cards? Had it lapsed or was it terminated?
She asked the Chairperson if the Committee could perhaps be informed about the stakeholders that SAPS had listed in their documentation as having had 32 meetings with. She asked for the names of the associations that SAPS had met with.
Mr Mhlongo congratulated General Masiye with regard to the Free State, because that had been a concern for him when the Committee had visited. He added that Gen Bothma had spoken of a storage facility which had a very high cost. These costs raised the question of resource management and financial management within policy. If there was no budgetary cycle that spoke to the allocation of resources, the Committee would continuously attend meetings where files were still lying idle and eaten by rats. Yet it was expected that the very same headquarters discharged services to lower structures. A culture needed to brought in, where even at the station management level people would have to be fit to question the budget propositiona by police. There seemed to be a lot of fiscal dumping taking place in the policy, without a tangible output or very little output. If a budgetary cycle system which addressed the interests of officers at the station level was not adopted, then SAPS would forever have the kind of issues seen at the KwaHlabisa police station.
The Chairperson directed a question to all the stakeholders. He said that at the conclusion of Gun Free SA’s presentation, a point had been made to “establish an independent firearms compliance regulatory body.” He asked in what other jurisdiction this body had been successful, and what was the view of the stakeholders on that suggestion for the future. He invited SAPS, Gun Free SA and the stakeholders to respond.
Lt Gen Masemola responded on the question of the safe keeping at storage facilities of the firearms, and said that they had standards according to which police firearms should be stored. If police stations did not have the adequate facilities or safes, they stored the firearms at the next police station. He clarified that the firearms that were at Bellville South, which were in the SAPS 13, were not SAPS firearms but in fact were exhibit firearms.
As they embarked on the exercise in the Western Cape to auditing all storage facilities, they would ensure that the standard of storage was the same. With regard to the Bellville South case, the firearms had been in a trommel (drum) with a padlock, and it was not yet clear where the drum was.
Ms Molebatsi asked where the Bellville South station commander was. Was he/she still at work, and what was happening to him or her?
Lt Gen Masemola responded that the Provincial Commissioner was still investigating the case, and he thought that the station commander could meet with the Committee the following week. On the firearms amnesty, he had taken note of what Ms Molebatsi and the Chairperson had said.
On the consequence management within the environment of the firearm registry, he reminded the Committee that the previous firearm registrar had been dismissed and a quite a number of officials had had action taken against them before the current management had been appointed, so SAPS did take the matter seriously when there was wrongdoing.
He said that the staff shrinkage would impact everywhere, including the DFOs. They had not been able to increase the staff of the DFOs because the human resources (HR) processes stated that there first had to be a study in this environment, and they were currently still busy with that.
Gen Bothma, on the issue of vetting, said they had been informed by Crime Intelligence in June this year that they would be going through an e-vetting route, so they were providing them with a list of all the DFOs
The Chairperson countered that that was not the question that had been asked. The question had been what the current status of the vetting was, how many had been vetted and how many had not.
Gen Bothma responded that he did not have the exact figures with him. He apologised for that and added that he would send them to the Chairperson. On the question about having fewer applications, he said that this was very difficult to determine because there was the hunting season, for example, so the number fluctuated.
Ms Molebatsi clarified her earlier question to Gen Bothma and asked was it good to have fewer applications in a particular year as compared to the previous year? Were people resorting to illegal firearms and buying them for R50, for example?
Gen Bothma said that that was a very difficult question, because it was difficult to determine if it was due to the cost of the firearm that there was an increase or decrease, and he did not think that there had been any research conducted on that. He personally could not answer. With regard to the printing of firearm licence cards, the machines themselves belonged to SAPS and not to any other company. The ribbons, clearing tapes and other consumables did not belong to SAPS -- they came from other companies. SAPS could continue with the printing, but they were running out of lifecycles with the machines so they had a whole programme with GPW to replace them. With regard to the storage facilities, SAPS would like to get the files into the containers, and from the containers they could take them away and create sufficient space.
Brigadier Bopape responded to the question on flexi-hours, and said that they resolved around the system. There were members who came early in the morning, around 6 am, and others were there beyond 4 p.m.
Mr Rapea responded on whether Civilian Secretariat for Police (CSP) was researching the proposal to license the individual instead of the firearm. He said that they had done detailed research after the ministerial committee had been established. Extensive research had been done which dealt with this matter. The issue of competence was very important, and they also had to make sure that whoever was using the gun was competent. It was the same principle as using a car -- one must be competent to have a licence to have a car, but that car must be registered to make sure it was legal. Whoever uses that car must be competent -- one could not drive an 18-wheel truck with a code 8 licence. In the research CSP had conducted, they had also referred to areas in the legislation that needed to be amended. Based on the research, it was vital to have the gun licence and to have a competent person using it -- those processes could not be divorced from one another. They needed to be done simultaneously. He further suggested that when CSP returned to do the presentation on the draft bill, they would also present the research they had conducted, which would clarify the issues that had been raised.
Ms Kirsten, on the establishment of an independent firearms compliance regulatory body, said that the suggestion had been made based on the evidence that in the area of compliance, there had been quite a lot of fraud and corruption, such as the suspension of the Head of Compliance in 2013. The route to go then, was to strengthen and reduce the risks in that area. However, another route would be that it was a separate aspect and part of firearms control management, so take that out. She believes it was an innovation, and the two principles that supported it were ‘independence.” In many countries, the firearms appeal body sat outside the regulatory body. The second principle relating to being independent was the principle to broaden the membership so that it was not just SAPS -- there could be other departments, like the department of health registration, civil society and industry players.
She reiterated that it was an innovation to explore more. As Gun Free SA, they could do more research to see if it was happening elsewhere in the world.
Mr John Welch, SA Gunowners’ Association (SAGA), said that Section 132 in the FCA provided for a committee that the Minister may appoint, and SAGA had made proposals in that regard. Competence was a big issue within the Police, so SAGA had thought it would be a good idea to address that.
With regard to an independent firearms compliance regulatory body, he believed that was something that required careful consideration because should that be opened up too much, it would become politicised. He added it was something that could be considered, the merit of it being having continuous oversight of what was being done. The independence of the Appeal Board was something that SAGA had always proposed, as they did not believe that the Appeal Board should be under the SAPS. The close link between the Appeal Board and the CFR was not acceptable to SAGA.
Mr Hood said that the statement that rules of engagement needed to be established between stakeholders and police demonstrated the divide between them. It implied that there was some sort of confrontation between them, and this was not coming from the industry. They had tried to talk to SAPS in 2015, particularly to address operational and day-to-day issues, but SAPS had wanted the stakeholders to enter into a detailed agreement. He argued that the stakeholders did not need to enter in a lengthy agreement with SAPS -- they just wanted to sit down and engage with them.
The fact that comprehensive reasons would be made from the first of August begged the question, how were decisions made before the first of August this year? Lt Gen Masemola had said that they would develop criteria for decision-making, which also begged the question of how they had been making decisions before without those criteria.
He did not believe that establishing an independent firearms compliance regulatory body would be appropriate at this point in the legislation. He felt there should be civilian oversight for which there was legislation, so it was best to work with the legislation they had. He believed that the Appeals Board was not independent, yet there should be an independent body to hold the police to account.
Mr Paul Oxley, Chairman: Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA), said that he believed there should be an independent board.
Mr Mhlongo said that it was in the best interests of South Africa (SA) to look after its own wildlife. He had seen an Al Jazeera journal which addressed a diplomatic ploy involving the Chinese, who were de-horning SA’s rhinos for their own benefit. He asked if there was any type of consequence management, because the Chinese were using hunters’ rights which were internationally protected, but they were abusing SA’s resources.
Mr Mbhele hoped that this meeting had been a catalyst between the stakeholders and the Police for better engagement and consultation. For an environment to become more effective and optimal, it needs to decentralise and foster public-private partnerships. The CFR could decentralise and foster public-private partnerships to improve performance.
The Chairperson thanked the Members and the stakeholders for the interaction, saying that it was quite critical that the legislation process should get earnest attention. SAPS had committed to a roundtable process of interaction with the relevant stakeholders, which needed to be constant and viable. He asked for the progress from those interactions to be presented to the Committee. Consequence management was critical. With regard to the CFR vetting issue, the fact that the delegation did not have that information was a major concern for him, because that was the first risk.
In terms of innovation, there had been a lot of proposals presented, and he urged Mr Rapea to take the lead in the roundtable engagements with the stakeholders.
The meeting was adjourned.
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