Members of the Committee expressed shock that a brigadier in the South African Police Service (SAPS), who was under investigation for accepting R50 000 for providing a fellow officer with an illegal clearance certificate several months ago, had been nominated to undertake an official visit to France this month. They also expressed doubts as to whether the Firearm Amnesty should be launched in February 2018, as planned, because the vetting process for the police personnel involved would not have been completed by then.
The Crime Intelligence (CI) division of SAPS briefed the Committee on its second quarterly report for the 2017/18 financial year, and reported that it had achieved eight of its 15 performance targets. There was a serious need for personnel, especially at the cluster level, in respect of intelligence report analysts. 181 posts had been requested from the national commissioner to fill these vacancies in order to achieve the targets on intelligence.
Members referred to early warning reports about new crime syndicates coming from overseas, and wanted to know if CI was happy with its progress in dealing with these reports. They urged CI to reconsider its policy on attaches abroad, criticising the fact that it did not have one in China, a major trading partner. They also sought further information about CI’s “persons of interest;” who was responsible for the shortage of intelligence analysts; how taxi violence was being addressed; and
if there was a strategy in place to deal with criminals committing crimes in South Africa and then migrating to their countries of origin. There was also concern about people being issued with a warrant of arrest but then being released on bail.
CI also briefed the Committee on the vetting process that had been undertaken. In total, there were 8 856 crime intelligence personnel, of whom 885 had top secret clearance, 179 had secret clearance and 180 had confidential clearance. The clearances of 1 397 officers had expired and 85 had been denied clearance. There were 6 130 crime intelligence staff members without clearance, but not all of them needed it.
Members asked why security clearances were being denied in some cases, as this had not been explained. There were some cases where members would be promoted, despite the denial of a security clearance, and then were unable to do their mandated jobs because of the lack of clearance. What action was being taken against the Senior Management Service (SMS) personnel who were refusing to apply for security clearance? The Committee should be briefed on the investigation involving Brigadier Phetlhe, who was alleged to have received R50 000 payment for printing an illegal security clearance, and was now due to visit France on official police business.
SAPS reported on its response to the recommendations made by the Committee regarding the Firearm Amnesty 2018. The vetting processes of Designated Firearms Officers (DFOs) were at various vetting stages, including e-vetting. All Designated Amnesty Officers would be screened and appointed in writing by the Station Commander. The appointment letter of Designated Amnesty Officers had been amended to ensure that such officers were fit and proper to deal with firearms during the Amnesty. Lessons learned from the previous Amnesty regarding proper record keeping would be applied, and Amnesty firearms would be identified with specific tags within the SAPS 13 Storage facilities, to differentiate them from other firearms. Three police stations had been identified as high risk. These were at Isipingo in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Bellville South in the Western Cape, and Kanyamazane in Mpumalanga.
Members asked whether there was capacity in place to handle the expected volume of firearms. It was unclear if SAPS would be ready to conduct the ballistic testing within seven days. They asserted it was impossible to have the Amnesty in February 2018 while the vetting process would be concluded only in March 2018. What was the contingency plan to deal with the rush period for the surrendering of firearms? There was also scepticism that the Amnesty would not realise the key objective of reducing gun-related crime, as criminals were not likely to hand in their illegal firearms.
Crime Intelligence (CI): Quarter 2 Performance
Brigadier Leon Lombard, Section Head: Intelligence Plan and Monitoring, Crime Intelligence; said that the CI was allocated 15 performance targets for the 2017/18 financial year and eight of the targets had been achieved and seven had not been achieved. It had needed to achieve 100% finalisation of the information communication technology (ICT) security assessment, and had obtained 99.28% in the second quarter (549 out of the 553). KZN was the only province that did not achieve the target. The CI achieved the target for physical security assessments in the second quarter, although Mpumalanga did not achieve the target in the first quarter, and five physical assessments were not finalised due to accessibility and availability of the people to do the assessments. It had managed to do 296 physical assessments in the second quarter. There was a serious need for personnel, especially at the cluster level, in respect of intelligence report analysts. 181 posts had been requested from the national commissioner to fill these vacancies in order to achieve the targets on intelligence.
Brigadier Lombard said the target for providing global threats reports was achieved for each quarter, as well as the target for providing reports on persons of interest who might have fled to South Africa or assumed to be in South Africa.
The Chairperson said that the Minister of Police had addressed the Committee on existing challenges within the policing environment, and Crime Intelligence had also been singled out at that meeting. The Committee should be briefed on the progress in regard to the 26 goals to be achieved by CI. There were already early warning reports about the new crime syndicates coming from overseas and therefore it would be important for the Committee to hear if CI was happy with the progress that had been made on the early warning reports received. The CI should reconsider the decision to have attaches abroad so as to be ahead in ways to deal with the international crime environment.
Mr Z Mbhele (DA) wanted to know what defined a ‘person of interest,’ and whether this definition included criminals. It was unclear why CI had four targets for targeting persons of interest. Why was this number so low? There should be a standard norm to ensure there was effectiveness in intelligence reporting. It had been reported that there was also reluctance to provide CI with feedback, and this something that needed to be addressed. It was worrisome that there was a shortage of intelligence analysts. Who was responsible for this shortage? This was a challenge that should have been picked up and immediately addressed.
Ms M Mmola (ANC) asked why only four individuals were classified as persons of interest. The CI should come up with a plan on how to deal with criminal elements during the festive season, as this was usually the season targeted by criminals.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) wanted to know if there was a strategy in place to deal with criminals committing crime in South Africa and then migrating to their country of origin. The Committee should also be briefed on ways to deal with the taxi violence involving Uber, and indicate whether this had been picked up in early warning reports and then addressed. The Committee should be provided with feedback on the taxi violence and Uber threat.
Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) asked about the footprint of CI in dealing with criminal elements on a daily basis. The footprint was crucial important in neutralising crime before happening. The taxi violence was a major threat that CI should be looking into, especially in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Western Cape. It had reported achieving its targets on early warning reports despite failing to address crime in various areas. How was CI not able to deal with the burning of a number of schools in Vuwani, Limpopo? The burning of one or two schools was understandable, but it was shocking that the number of schools burned had reached 26 without any intelligence to prevent this damage of property. The Deputy Commissioner had said that the CI had had a challenge with the interpretation of the information received or gathered. It would be important for the CI to provide further explanation on the statement that was made. The Committee should be briefed as to whether the CI had a complete organisational structure. What was the total structure of the organisation that was required? What was the turnaround plan all about? The turnaround plan seemed vague and unclear in terms of its objective.
Mr J Maake (ANC) requested an explanation on the meaning of ‘physical security assessment,’ as this was not clear from the presentation. It was stated that there were cases where CI was not given feedback. Who was not providing CI with the feedback? The Committee should be provided with explanation on the meaning of ‘reactive operations’. Was this referring to ways to try and prevent anything from happening again?
Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) asked for an explanation on the cross border request and what it involved, including the issue that was being addressed.
Lt Gen Lesetja Mothiba, Acting National Commissioner, SAPS; responded that some of the goals included the vetting process, looking at audits and working with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) on addressing issues of private security guards and the enforcement of regulations. Some of the goals were long term, and it was therefore difficult to stipulate the timeframe of the goals. There were also investigations into labour disputes that were currently being addressed. There was a team that had been tasked to look at the structure of CI. SAPS was also looking at the issue of how private security guards should comply with regulations, especially on the use of firearms in KZN.
The SAPS was working towards getting a clean audit in this financial year. The CI had scheduled a meeting with the Treasury, and this would be a very important meeting. CI was part of the management and vetting was a management issue. There was cooperation in the vetting process, but there were cases where senior officials were reluctant to get vetted and obtain a security clearance. There was a lot of crime committed on social media, and people were making a lot of money in that space, so CI had to be involved in this area.
Maj Gen King Ngcobo, Acting Head: Crime Intelligence, replied that there were systems in place for early warning reports and these were communicated to the national commissioner. The CI was happy with the action that had been taken on early warning reports. There were cases where the sources of information would not be adequate to address the issues that had been identified, and the CI would be blamed for getting the wrong information. The CI needed to “purify” the early warning reports. The issue of attaches was essential, as the CI had attaches in 22 countries and they provided active information. This was especially the case in Brazil.
Lt Gen Mothiba said that SAPS would analyse all the countries with attaches. It was indeed worrisome not to have an attaché in a country like China, as this was a big country.
Ms Molebatsi wanted to know if there was a way of demanding feedback if it was not being provided.
Ms Kohler Barnard said that the issue of attaches should have been on the top of the list, especially with SA’s major trading partners. It was really concerning not to have attaches in countries that had attaches in South Africa, as this implied that we did not have reciprocal attaches and therefore intelligence information was going in one direction.
Maj Gen Ngcobo admitted that there were shortcomings in the early warning systems. It would be important for CI to engage with the national commissioner on the need to increase police attaches. The ‘person of interest’ involved looking at a person who was never arrested or sentenced, despite committing multiple crimes. There were cases where CI would do the job of gathering intelligence information, but then the person would be given bail despite the issuing of an arrest warrant. The CI had been able to identify a ‘hitman’ in KZN, but this person had been released on bail and was likely to become a threat to witnesses.
Lt Gen Mothiba clarified that there were many people classified under “person of interest,” and therefore it could not be limited to only four people.
Ms Kohler Barnard asked if there were any specific reasons why people were getting arrested and not convicted. It was clear that bribes were being paid to police members for these criminals and kingpins to be given bail.
Maj Gen Ngcobo said that CI was looking at the matter of ‘kingpins’ or the names of the people that were being sought.
Mr Mbhele said the reality was that CI was not doing well, especially when one was looking at crime statistics that had recently been released. It was also clear that the taxpayers were not getting value for their money, as most of the allocated budget for CI went towards salaries. Was there a different approach that was being used to nail down the drug bosses?
Mr P Mhlongo (EFF) expressed concern about the issue of people issued with a warrant of arrest but then being released on bail. Where were those cases taking place? The warrant of arrest was granted by the courts and therefore it was absurd for them to be the very same people who were issuing bail to those individuals. The only assumption could be that those individuals were under the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA). He wanted to make it clear that he was terribly unhappy with the current head of the NPA, as he had been deployed only to defeat the ends of justice.
Mr Ramatlakane was also shocked that criminals were getting arrested and then released, as it was the responsibility of SAPS to ensure that the criminals stayed behind bars. SAPS should be executing the warrants of arrest. How was it possible for the police officers to fail to execute a simple thing like putting a suspect behind bars by implementing a warrant of arrest? Was it wrong to assume that perhaps police officers were part of this issue?
Mr Maake said that he understood the point that was being made by Maj Gen Ngcobo, and it was indeed shocking to hear that a dangerous criminal could be granted a bail. The release of individuals that were being sought after was indeed a danger to the witnesses. There should be cooperation between SAPS and CI. The reality was that SAPS was responsible only for the arrest and not conviction, and this sentiment was not to defend SAPS members.
Ms Molebatsi reminisced about how one day she was in this one police station, and had heard a police officer asking a criminal to pay R30 000 for the case to be dismissed.
Lt Gen Mothiba replied that the CI was working closely with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) in order to neutralise crime in the country. There were cases that took years to be investigated and then get a person arrested. The DPCI was the one that was investigating and ensuring that there was an arrest that was being undertaken, but the justice system was failing SAPS on numerous occasions and this was something that SAPS was taking to the National Director of Prosecutions. The case of the release of the alleged hitman in KZN showed that there was a problem with the bail system. The prosecutors were the ones helping SAPS to get the criminals behind bars.
Mr Mhlongo said that the commissioner was citing the problem of a lack of harmonisation between the DPCI and National Prosecuting Agency (NPA). There was an indication that the DPCI was a cover-up, as matters that were brought to the DPCI were usually closed down. The issue of the killing of Sindiso Magaqa was still vague at the moment, and the Committee should be briefed on the matter. There was no information on the arrests involving corruption in land reform projects in KZN.
Lt Gen Mothiba asked to provide a written response on the matter of Sophia Town. There was no cover-up from the DPCI, as most cases usually took long to be finalised. SAPS had been able to successfully prosecute Oscar Pistorius and had opposed the bail application, but his lawyer had insisted on the granting of bail.
Maj Gen Ngcobo said that the CI was part of SAPS’s broader plan to deal with crime during the festive season. There was the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) to deal with cases where there was a wanted suspect from neighbouring countries. Therefore, the arrest was done through the INTERPOL offices and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) as was the case with Anni Dewani. There was a task team looking at the issue of Uber and taxi violence. This was a challenging environment, but the CI was working with analysts looking at the issue of taxi violence.
Lt Gen Mothiba mentioned that some of the information provided to CI was direct and accurate, and this was often the case when SAPS was interrupting cash-in-transit heists in KZN and other parts of the country, and SAPS was always coming out on top in these cases. Some of the information could be sketchy, especially in terms of the accuracy of the date and in some cases, the time of the reported crime could be accurate but not the location. The quality of information was critically important to ensure that there was interception of the planned crime.
Maj Gen Ngcobo said that there was no confirmation at the moment on the number required for the organisational structure. The physical assessment was talking about the assessment of government buildings, where the CI was doing security assessments. The feedback was not always provided and sometimes the information was not correct, and therefore needed to be “purified”. The CI would need to operationalise the information even if the feedback was inadequate. The CI was working with INTERPOL on tackling the problem of cross-border crimes.
Crime Intelligence on the Vetting Process
Brig Lombard said that a total of 943 senior managers had been vetted. Of 31 lieutenants-general, 22 had top secret clearance, seven were in the process of obtaining it, and two had been denied clearance. Of the 213 majors-general, 140 had top secret clearance, while five were denied clearance and five had not applied. There were 690 brigadiers, of whom 263 had top secret clearance and nine had their applications denied. There were 53 senior officers (lieutenants-general, majors-general and brigadiers) in crime intelligence. Of these, 30 had top secret clearance, four had had their clearances recently expire, and 19 applications were being processed. In total, there were 8 856 crime intelligence personnel, of whom 885 had top secret clearance, 179 had secret clearance and 180 had confidential clearance. The clearances of 1 397 officers had expired and 85 had been denied it. There were 6 130 crime intelligence staff members without clearance, but not all of them needed it.
Ms Kohler-Barnard asked why security clearance was being denied in some cases, as this was not being explained. It had also been mentioned that there were some cases where a person would be promoted to a position, despite the denial of a security clearance. It was absurd that these very people who were being promoted without security clearance were unable to do their mandated jobs because of the lack of security clearance. Was there any ranking on the vetting process? What were the factors leading to the denial of a security clearance? How were people who had been denied security clearance dealt with? What action was being taken against Senior Management Service (SMS) personnel who refused to apply for security clearance? It was unclear if the current acting head of CI had already been vetted and had a security clearance.
Ms Mmola wanted to know what was being done to those who had failed to renew their security clearance. The Committee should be briefed on the investigation involving Brigadier Phetlhe, who was alleged to have received a R50 000 payment for printing an illegal security clearance.
Ms Molebatsi enquired about the implications of the denial of security clearances, as this had not been mentioned in the presentation. What were the developments in regard to Brigadier Phetlhe?
Mr Mbhele asked why about 6 130 CI personnel were without a security clearance. What was to be done to those people without a security clearance, but were still within CI? How long was the process of vetting? The Committee should be provided with timeframes for the finalisation of the vetting process in order to avoid a repeat of this issue, where CI personnel were working without being vetted.
Mr Ramatlakane commented that a total of 8 856 personnel had been vetted, but it was unclear whether there were any implications for those who remained not vetted. How would positions be readjusted in a situation where a member of staff was denied a security clearance? It was evident that some of the sensitive information was being handled by people who had not been vetted. How did the CI allow the situation to get to this point? It would be important to know if any letter had been issued to warn about the repercussions for failure to apply for security clearance.
Mr Maake commented that the CI was often blamed for various criminal activities taking place in the country, and was curious to know why this was the case.
Mr Mhlongo asked whether the CI had any strategy in place to deal with the situation where people with warrants of arrest were being granted bail. The reality was that the DPCI was taking a lot of time in concluding important cases, and this should be flagged as a major concern. What happened to the cases where security clearance was being denied? It was unclear if the vetting process went down to the provincial level, especially in the Western Cape.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had commissioned the Secretariat of Police to look at the state of policing in South Africa and the issue of vetting was also being looked into. The issue of intelligence and trust of the people towards the CI and SAPS at station level was crucially important in the fight against crime. Was there any master plan in place to ensure that people were able to report criminals to the police stations? SAPS should deal decisively with the “rotten apples” at various levels in order to regain trust from the community level.
Lt Gen Mothiba admitted that it was true that there were those who were promoted without security clearance, and this had been on-going for some time now. However, SAPS had put a stop to this and it was not happening anymore. The acting head of the CI had already obtained top security clearance.
Maj Gen Ngcobo said that there was a plan of action for those staff members that had been denied security clearance. A member who had been denied security clearance had a right to appeal the denial of the clearance to the national commissioner. The supervisor of the applicant would then discuss the negative results of the clearance, including the way forward. The Minister’s decision on the results of the security clearance was construed as final. The Committee would be provided with the names of SMS staff who had failed or been denied a security clearance in writing. The factors leading to the denial of security clearance varied, and could include a pending case or failure to declare a case opened in previous years. All the important information needed to be declared during the vetting process, including business interests. The Act was quiet on what had to be done in cases where a security clearance was denied, especially since there could be labour disputes involved.
Lt Gen Mothiba said that the CI should advise the national commissioner of its intention to transfer a particular individual because of being denied a security clearance. SAPS was busy developing a strategy on security clearance, as security clearance had previously not been taken seriously in the organisation. There were generals that were refusing to have security clearances. All the Lt Generals had now made applications for security clearance. The final date for allowing all SAPS management, including SMS personnel, to have security clearance was 31 January 2018.
Brigadier Leonora Phetlhe was currently being investigated for illegally printing a security clearance.
Maj Gen Ngcobo said that a total of 1 397 personnel would make submissions for the renewal of their security clearance. The CI was still to investigate the matter of dodgy R50 000 payment Brig Phetlhe had received for the printing of an illegal security clearance for a senior officer. A report would be released on the investigation, and the decision would be based on its findings.
Ms Molebatsi complained about the pace of the investigation of Brigadier Phetlhe, as the issue was now long overdue.
Ms Mmola wanted to know what had happened to General Ledwaba and Brigadier Phetlhe. There were also reports that Brigadier Phetlhe would be undertaking an official trip to France on 19 November 2017. Why had she been nominated for the trip, despite all the controversies around her?
Ms Kohler Barnard asked if the son of Richard Mdluli was still in control of interceptions. It was unclear if the head of counter intelligence had been vetted, as the Minister had said she should be moved until this whole vetting issue was sorted out.
Maj Gen Ngcobo responded that Brigadier Phetlhe was not suspended, and was still working for SAPS. She had indeed been nominated for the official trip to France, after the first person nominated for the trip did not have an official passport.
The Chairperson said that what the Committee was hearing right now could not be correct in terms of good governance.
Lt Gen Mothiba said he was opposed to the nomination of Brigadier Phetlhe for the official trip, as she was still under investigation. SAPS would provide assistance to the first person who was nominated for the trip with an official passport, as it took only 48 hours to get a passport.
The Chairperson said that Brigadier Phetlhe should have been suspended, and it was not good governance to nominate an individual under investigation for an international trip.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the case of Brigadier Phetlhe proved that the SAPS management was not taking the Committee with the seriousness it deserved. The decision to nominate Brigadier Phetlhe was undermining the discussion that the Committee had on the matter. It looked like the Committee was being viewed as just ‘ticking the boxes,’ and was not being taken seriously. The Committee should not accept the situation where SAPS management was not taking the Committee seriously.
Ms Molebatsi said that Brigadier Phetlhe seemed “untouchable,” and the Committee should hear why she was so “untouchable,” and why SAPS management seemed to be in dread of her.
Ms Mmola said that the application for a passport took only four hours, and therefore it was not a valid excuse for the nomination of Brigadier Phetlhe. Who was the CI reporting to? Who advised the acting head of Crime Intelligence to nominate Brigadier Phetlhe to go on the trip to France?
Ms L Mabija (ANC) said that Maj Gen Ngcobo was starting on the wrong foot, as the issue of Brigadier Phetlhe was discouraging and showed a lack of accountability. There was something “cooking” within the SAPS management that was being hidden. The SAPS management should indicate to the Committee where the main challenges were.
Mr Mbhele said there were many things wrong within the SAPS management. These included poor management, lack of accountability, and the ability of individuals to act with impunity. The matter of Brigadier Phetlhe was a matter of urgency and needed to be referred to the Minister. It was clear that the national commissioner could not himself address this issue at hand. The issue of Brigadier Phetlhe was the greatest sign of the lack of accountability within the SAPS management.
Ms Kohler Barnard commented that the matter of Brigadier Phetlhe was horrible and showed a lack of accountability.
Lt Gen Mothiba responded that a case docket of fraud had been opened against Brigadier Phetlhe. The SAPS management was in agreement that the matter was serious, and therefore it needed to be tackled with the seriousness it deserved. The acting head of Crime Intelligence was not aware of the R50 000 issue involved in the case of Brigadier Phetlhe. The head of human resource management, Lt Gen Mgwenya, was providing assistance to the acting head of Crime Intelligence.
Ms Kohler Barnard said she was shocked that the acting head of Crime Intelligence had not been made aware of the R50 000 involved in the case of Brigadier Phetlhe. She made it clear that “this woman needed to go today”. What was this woman giving to the SAPS management? It was still hard to believe that the acting head of Crime Intelligence could not be made aware of the R50 000 involved in the case.
Mr Ramatlakane said that the matter had been discussed in August and it was now November and therefore there was an expectation that the matter should have been concluded by now.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would deal with all the outstanding questions on Wednesday.
Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill
The Chairperson said that the Committee would grant an extension for comments on the Critical Infrastructure Bill. The Committee had received two written requests from two civil society institutions to extend the deadline to 24 November 2017.
Firearm Amnesty 2018: SAPS Briefing
Maj Gen Jaco Bothma, Component Head: Firearm, Liquor and Second Hand Goods Services, SAPS, said that on 8 November the Portfolio Committee had requested the SAPS to address the specific concerns raised and to present an amended Amnesty 2018 Notice.
The Committee had raised concerns about the surrendering of firearms at all police stations, given the number of firearms reported lost or stolen from SAPS’s 13 storage facilities at police stations. It had emphasised that there should be Designated Amnesty Officers (DFOs) who were vetted. There were concerns on the ballistic testing of firearms, surrendered during previous amnesties, which had previously been linked to crimes. SAPS also needed to brief the Committee on firearms in storage from previous amnesties which had been positively linked to crime. There were three police stations that had been identified as high risk, and these included the Isipingo police station in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Bellville South police station in the Western Cape, and Kanyamazane police station in Mpumalanga. In terms of the mitigating measures, there was a specific focus on the mentioned police stations, and increased frequency of audits, inspections and monitoring during and after the Amnesty. The alternative was to exclude those police stations in the Amnesty Notice.
Maj Gen Bothma stated that vetting processes of DFOs were at various vetting stages, including e-vetting. All DFOs would be screened and appointed in writing by the Station Commander. The appointment letter of DFOs had been amended to ensure that such officers were fit and proper to deal with firearms during the Amnesty.
Lessons had been learned from the previous Amnesty. Amnesty firearms had been tested together with all other firearms in SAPS 13 storage facilities, and because there had been no differentiation, no distinctions could be drawn. No specific time line had been set to conclude Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) testing and there was also no proper record keeping of firearms linked positively to crime, leading to a lack of data integrity. Amnesty firearms would be identified with specific tags within the storage facilities, to differentiate from them other firearms. Time lines of seven days had been set to conclude IBIS testing. The forensic science laboratory would keep a record of all amnesty firearms linked positively to crime.
Maj Gen Bothma said that all SAPS 13 safe storage facilities were currently being audited in order to determine if there were any Amnesty firearms still there. The Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and Western Cape had already reported that no amnesty firearms were in their safe storage facilities. The remaining provinces were still in the process of concluding their audits.
The Amnesty aimed to address critical success factors. The timing of the amnesty was to deal with illegal firearms in circulation and the use of firearms in crimes. In terms of the internal organisational planning and capacity, there would be a designated Amnesty official.
The Chairperson commended the improvement that had been made by SAPS in the handling of the whole process of the Firearm Amnesty.
Ms Molebatsi said that 42 000 firearms had been surrendered in 2010, and some of the individuals might apply for the renewal of licences. An important factor was whether there was capacity in place to handle the volume of firearms. It was unclear if SAPS would be ready to conduct the ballistic testing within seven days. There was a promise last week that SAPS would be engaging with stakeholders on the Amnesty. Had this engagement taken place?
Mr P Groenewald (FF+) commented that the presentation had not addressed some of the concerns that had been flagged by the Committee. It was impossible to have the Amnesty in February 2018 if the vetting process was to be concluded only in March 2018. There was also the issue of the lack of data integrity on the firearms that had been raised by the Committee. He was in support of the Amnesty but everything needed to be in place before it commenced.
Mr Mbhele suggested there was a possibility of bottlenecks in giving ballistic testing a timeframe of seven working days. What contingency plan was in place to deal with the rush period for surrendering of firearms? What happened if the ballistic testing was to exceed the seven working day period? There was a potential risk of misalignment between the Amnesty process and those lodging notices to apply for renewal licences. It was important to ascertain whether a person could submit a firearm and also lodge a notice to apply for the renewal licence to the Amnesty officer, for it to be handed over to the DFO. The reality was that all the surrendered firearms were not really going to contribute to the stated key objectives around the reduction of illegally possessed firearms, as these were the ones feeding organised crime. If the process was about assisting those who had been the victims of the Central Firearms Registry’s (CFR’s) inefficiency then the Amnesty should be geared and structured towards that. He added that the signatures of the members and commanding officers needed to be at the very bottom and end of the entire declaration, and not midway.
Ms Kohler Barnard asked about the number of the surrendered firearms that had been used in crime, as this was an important question to be answered. It was unclear how long it would take for SAPS to conduct ballistic testing. What was the ballistic testing for, if there was no linkage between the firearm and the crime that had been committed using the firearm? SAPS still needed to explain to the Committee why they thought a criminal would surrender a firearm for destruction. SAPS certainly needed to exclude some of the police stations, especially those with a reputation for stolen or lost firearms. It was evident that the Amnesty was being pushed through despite the vetting process not being finished
Ms Mmola wanted to know why some of the provinces that were not completing their audits of firearms in safe storage. How many stolen or lost firearms had been recovered thus far from the three excluded police stations? Had any people been arrested? How many cases were still pending? Was there any alternative venue that had been assigned for surrendering firearms for people living near stations that had been excluded from the Amnesty?
Mr Ramatlakane asked why SAPS was insisting on 14 days and not 30 days for lodging a notice to apply for the renewal of a licence. Was the 14 days a specific legal requirement? The Committee should be briefed on the current legal battles on firearms issues. What was the status of those legal battles?
Mr Maake asked about the target market for the Amnesty. The main focus of SAPS should be on getting illegal firearms from the criminals. There had been a country where the amnesty had allowed the criminals to throw away firearms in a secret place, and then run away without being questioned. Was this feasible in South Africa? The process of the Amnesty seemed not to focus on the real criminals with illegal firearms, and this should be the main target market.
Lt Gen Nobesuthu Masiye, Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, SAPS; said that 42 000 firearms had been handed in during the previous Amnesty, and those firearms had been dealt with at that time. SAPS was ready, with processes in place, to deal with the volume of firearms that would be coming in. It was also engaging with the forensic unit, and they had been briefed about the volume of firearms expected and to be ready to deal with those firearms in order to avoid any delays. The stakeholders had been engaged informally and would be addressed again on 24 November.
There were 69 members who had been vetted. These were members of the CFR, and not DFOs and designated police officers. SAPS had introduced e-vetting to ensure that all members were vetted. It was indeed impossible to finish the vetting before 1 February and that was why SAPS had designed the declaration form. There would be an alternative venue or police station for handing in of firearms for people living within excluded police station zones. The Committee should be in agreement that those identified three police stations should be excluded from the Amnesty. SAPS was worried that the arrangement of an alternative police station would pose a risk to those individuals who had to travel long distances to surrender firearms.
Lt Gen Masiye said that the seven working day period for ballistic testing was the first phase of ballistic testing, and this was normally done at the police station. There was capacity in place within the forensic facilities to conduct ballistic testing for the surrendered firearms. The other phase for the conclusion of ballistic testing was done at the forensic laboratory. SAPS would be capacitating the police stations as the firearms were coming in in order to deal with the volume of firearms. No distinction was made between the firearms surrendered in order to get the figures of those firearms that were linked to crime. It was indeed true that criminals would not voluntarily surrender their firearms, but there was hope that they might be able to do so -- even if it was only the firearm and not the criminal himself/herself.
A task team including the acting provincial commissioner of KZN had been formed to look into the loss of firearms at the Empangeni police station, and it had been found that there was no loss of firearms at the station.
The designated police officers would be made aware of those wanting to renew their licences, and a person who wanted to renew the license would be immediately referred to the DFOs.
SAPS had taken notice of the input of Mr Mbhele on the amendment needed on the competency declaration and this would be corrected.
The other provinces were still busy with the audits of firearms in safe storage, and this was to verify the numbers.
There were pending cases on the firearms that had been lost or stolen and these were being investigated departmentally. SAPS had lost and then appealed on a case involving renewal of licences, and the case was again coming up on 8 February 2018.
Brigadier Van Niekerk, Division: Forensic Services, SAPS, said that there were concerns around ballistic testing, but the Committee could be assured that the process was much faster than the 30-day period. No distinction was made within the SAPS 13 storage facilities in order to make a differentiation from other firearms. The Amnesty firearms would now be identified with specific tags within the SAPS 13 storage. Regarding the lack of proper record keeping and data integrity, if a firearm was linked to crime, SAPS did not look to see whether a firearm was an Amnesty firearm, or a lost and found firearm
Brigadier J Slabbert, Operational Legal Support, Division Legal and Policy Services, SAPS; said that regulation 93 of the Firearm Control Regulations provided that after the expiry of the Amnesty process, all the firearms must be destroyed within six months. The number of 14 days was thought to be a reasonable time for the firearm licences.
The Chairperson said that the Committee should deal with other outstanding matters next Wednesday, and Members could reserve their rights to differ in regard to the process being followed. The Committee should move forward with the issue of the Amnesty, as this was an important step in fighting violent crime, despite the risks involved. The Committee had to conduct oversight by asking for monthly reports during the Amnesty, and also by perhaps giving an opportunity to stakeholders to address issues that might arise in the first month of the Amnesty. The Secretariat would need to monitor the process much more closely. The Committee was taking note of the amendments that had been made. The Amnesty would need to be approved by the Committee before the end of November. Members would be allowed to discuss matters at the Committee level and then it would make a decision.
Mr Groenewald expressed concern about the date of the Amnesty, as 1 February 2018 was totally unacceptable.
The Chairperson said a political decision would be taken by the Committee on the date of the Amnesty.
Mr Mhlongo asked that the Committee be briefed next Wednesday on the action plan in place to deal with the raiding of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) offices.
The Chairperson responded that maybe the issue would be included in the agenda next week.
The meeting was adjourned.
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