Firearms Control Regulations: briefing

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11 June 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


11 June 2003

Mr M George (ANC)

Documents handed out:
International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages
Convention on the Prevention & Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons
Accession to Counter-Terrorism Conventions Presentation
Implementation of Regulations: Firearms Control Act 2000 Presentation
Draft Firearms Control Act Regulations 2003
Firearms Control Amendment Bill
Explanatory Memorandum on Conventions

The Committee unanimously adopted reports that recommended that Parliament approve the Conventions.

The Committee expressed frustration at the slow pace of the implementation of the Firearms Control Act. Members objected to the reintroduction via the tabled Amendments of measures discussed and rejected during the deliberations on the Bill. The Committee instructed the SAPS officials to return with Regulations that could be implemented immediately so that the Act could come into operation as soon as possible.

A written request from Mr Gibson that the Committee summon the Minister for Justice for a discussion on Section 49 was rejected. The Committee may only summon the Minister for Safety and Security. The Chair suggested that the DA make the request through the Committee for Justice and Constitutional Development.

International Conventions
The Chair noted that the Portfolio Committees for Justice & Constitutional Development, and Foreign Affairs were supposed to attend. He had received a letter of apology from the Chair of the Justice & Constitutional Development Committee - the Committee could not attend due to budget hearings. The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee had assured him that they would be present. He stated that Parliament should re-examine the system of Committees conferring on matters. It is too easy for Committees to avoid meetings when they are part of the process but not responsible for it.

Turning to the conventions, the Chair noted that they are mandatory UN resolutions. The Committee could only accept them, not modify them in any way. He asked for the Committee's views on the Convention Against the Taking of Hostages.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) stated that since the Committee could not amend the Conventions, they should proceed to accept them.

Adv P Swart (DA) noted that the Committee would be recommending the ratification of the Convention whilst still getting the supporting legislation into effect. They would have to ensure that the Anti-Terrorism Bill put the Convention into effect.

Ms M Xulu (IFP) and Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) both stated that the Committee should accept the Convention.

Mr D Gibson (DA) noted that it would be unfortunate if the Convention were tabled with misprints. He drew the Committee's attention to Articles seven and twelve, which had been poorly printed.

The Chair responded that the Committee should then ask Parliament to ratify the Convention and the Secretary would be asked to ensure that the tabled convention was correctly printed. He asked if the Committee would agree that the Convention be tabled without debate since it was contained in the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Dr S Pheko (PAC) responded that members would only speak on the Convention if they disagreed with anything said about it by the Chair.

The Chair stated that members should familiarise themselves with the Convention since it would not be able to make a law that was not in line with it.

Mr Gibson asked if the Justice Committee had approved the Convention. He was concerned that it might raise legal problems relating to extradition of persons to countries with the death penalty.

The Chair responded that the Bill and Extradition Act are clear on this. He would talk to the Chair of the Justice Committee about the issue - the letter gave only the Committee's apologies and expressed no view on the Convention. This gave him the impression that they had not considered the Convention.

The Chair asked how the Committee wished to proceed on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons. The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee had assured that the Committee would attend. He asked if the Committee wished set aside considering the Convention until the Foreign Affairs Committee arrived, if it did, or continue immediately.

Rev Meshoe responded that since the Foreign Affairs Committee had not sent their apologies, the Committee should assume that they were on their way and return to the Convention later.

Mr Gibson supported Rev Meshoe. He stated that it would be unwise to rush out of pique.

Dr Pheko suggested that the Committee proceed and deal with any points of disagreement later.

Mr Q Kgauwe (ANC) supported delaying until the Foreign Affairs Committee arrived.

The Chair stated that the Conventions had to be considered that day, but that the Committee could delay considering them until later in the meeting.

Adv Swart asked that the Committee obtain a copy of Article 20 of the Convention. Their copies of Article 20 were entirely unreadable.

At the end of the meeting, the Committee unanimously recommended that Parliament ratify both Conventions. The Foreign Affairs Committee did not arrive during the course of the meeting.

Firearms Control Act Regulations: briefing by SAPS
Director P van Vuuren (Legal Services: SAPS) stated that draft Regulations had been published and comment received. The comments were considered and the Regulations published again in March for further comment. The Regulations could now be implemented.

During the development of the Regulations, they had discovered that amendments are needed to the Act. A draft Amendment Bill had been tabled on 3 June 2003. Most Amendments were simply corrections. A few new matters were introduced in the Amendment Bill: The substitution of 'game hunter' by 'game rancher' was needed to avoid unintended consequences of the wording of the Act. Forms were to be removed from the Regulations so that they could be more easily changed. Provision would be made to allow apprentice gunsmiths to possess a firearm. Provision would be made for declaring firearm free zones. The provision regarding the commencement of the Act would be deleted so that it took immediate effect on promulgation without a further appearance in the Government Gazette. Further proposals from the comments could be considered in public hearings.

The Regulations for accreditation were finalised and before the State Law Advisor; the Committee had been sent a copy of these. The rest of the Regulations would be finalised during the accreditation process. The Act will come into full operation with the promulgation of the comprehensive set of Regulations.

The Chair stated that his main concern was that the proposed Amendment Bill dealt with issues that had been discussed when the Firearms Control Bill was discussed. Unless new information had become known, no change should be made. He asked what the status of the accreditation process was vis-à-vis the Amendments. Members would be happy for the accreditation to proceed - could this happen without the amendments?

Mr Van Vuuren replied that there were only two issues in the Amendment Bill that dealt with accreditation. First, the substitution of game hunter with game ranger. Without this there would be four kinds of hunting licence. Second, the definition of a security service provider. This was to regulate security services not provided by security companies regulated under the Security Industry Act.

Adv Swart stated that the usual process was to amend an Act once it was in place and it emerged that it did not work properly. The evidence was that the process is a mess. He had had no time to look at the amendments, having only received them that morning. He needed information on the workload of the Committee, especially since new public hearings were proposed. He did not want to ask questions since this was merely a preliminary briefing.

Mr M Booi (ANC) agreed with Adv Swart. It had been two years since the Act was passed. He expected the Department to implement the Act. It was unfair to expect that further public hearings would be held. What were the bases for the amendments?

Mr R Zondo (ANC) stated that it seemed the Regulations might be ready. If the Department said that they are ready, why were there such areas of concern?

Mr Kgauwe stated that the Committee were faced with a problem: the Department were not ready to implement the Act. They were bringing up matters that had been discussed. To accede to the request would take the Committee nowhere.

The Chair stated that licences were still issued under the old Act and Regulations. One of the aims of the new Act is to reduce the number of legal firearms in the wrong hands - such as people that did not store their arms correctly. An Amendment would mean having a series of public hearings. He asked if the Act could be implemented. He asked what the problem was with publishing the Regulations in the Gazette.

Mr Van Vuuren replied that the change would allow the Act to take effect as soon as the President signs the Bill. This was just a concern about time.

Adv PC Jacobs (Head: Legal Support, SAPS) added that this was a technical issue. The Amendment Bill had been tabled on 3 June 2003.

The Chair asked what stopped the Department from implementing the Act immediately.

Mr Van Vuuren replied that they had to deal with the matter of accreditation before they could issue licences according to the Act.

The Chair asked what stopped the Department from proceeding with the Regulations.

Mr Van Vuuren replied that they could proceed immediately, but wanted the amendments because they foresaw problems.

The Chair asked why the State Law Advisors had been drawn into the process.

Mr Gibson noted that only Section 113, which had to do with body parts, and Section 140, which empowered the Minister to declare gun-free zones, of the Act had been implemented. He stated that he understood that portions of the Act could be brought into effect as and when ready.

Mr Van Vuuren replied that this was what the Department were doing.

Mr Gibson responded by asking why the Committee had been told in September 2002 that the Act had had a positive impact, when it was not implemented. Had the Committee been misled?

Ms A van Wyk (ANC) stated that all the points presented had been presented at the public hearings on the Bill. She asked what had changed. She stated that she could not see why the Act should be amended.

The Chair agreed that the briefing had simply reintroduced old motivations for change that had been rejected.

Adv Swart stated that he understood Mr Van Vuuren as having said that the Security Industry Act had caused problems with the Firearms Control Act. This might mean that an Amendment is required. His main concern was that the Amendment Bill had been tabled and that the Committee would be flooded with people wanting to make a presentation.

Mr Maziya stated that the engagement was healthy. He was suspicious though that a game was being played. Why was the Act being sabotaged when the procedure stated that the Department should implement it? If there were problems, they should be raised when the Act had been implemented.

The Chair suggested that the Committee approve the accreditation on Regulations and instruct the Department to implement them. He advised the Department not to 'fish' for information from people whose arguments had been rejected. They should implement what they could. They could not allow the delay to continue.

Mr Kgauwe stated that he agreed with the Chair's suggestion. The Committee should hold the Department in contempt. They were undermining Parliament by not implementing the Act and had to be held accountable.

Dr Pheko noted that the old Act encourages what the new Act sought to stop.

Adv Swart stated that the Bill had been tabled and so the Committee must deal with it. The Department should present a proper memorandum arguing for the amendments. The Committee should consider the Regulations at the next meeting when members had had time to go through them.

Adv Jacobs replied that they were acting on the Advice of the State Law Advisor.

The Chair asked again why the State Law Advisor had become involved.

Adv Jacobs replied that it was normal procedure to submit Regulations to the State Law Advisor so that the legal language could be checked. A draft proclamation is ready. There might be a way out on the game rancher matter. Once they had approval, they could approach the President to promulgate the Regulations. It was possible but not advisable to proceed without the amendments.

The Chair stated that there appeared to be agreement that the Committee would consider the Regulations on 17 June. They could spend half an hour on the matter before the start of the public hearings. The Act should be implemented. The aim was to reduce the number of firearms in the wrong hands. The matter should be finalised on 17 June.

The Chair asked if licences could be issued under the new Act once the accreditation Regulations had been approved.

Mr Van Vuuren replied that they could not. Licences could only be issued under the new Act when it had been fully implemented.

Ms Van Wyk stated that there was no will to implement the Act.

The Chair said that the matter would be discussed on 17 June. He wondered if it might not help to suspend the old Act so that licences could no longer be issued - would this encourage the implementation of the new Act?

Letter from Mr Gibson requesting the presence of Minister of Justice
The Chair stated that Mr Gibson had written to him requesting that he invite the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development for a discussion of Section 49. To do this, they would need a joint meeting with the Committee for Justice and Constitutional Development since only they had the power to summon the Minister. The Committee could invite the Minister for Safety and Security to that meeting if they wished.

Mr Maziya asked what the purpose of this would be. The DA are represented on the Committee for Justice and Constitutional Development. Their representatives on that Committee could submit the request.

Adv Swart responded that the Committee had agreed that it needed a meeting with the other Committees in the cluster and the Ministers. This was not a party political matter.

The Chair stated that it was not for the Committee to summon the Minister for Justice. If the Department thought there were problems, they could come to the Committee. It was clear from the previous meeting that the Department thought that Section 49 is clear. The Committee's view appeared to be that the DA should request an invitation to the Minister for Justice through the Committee for Justice. This matter should not be confused with the idea of having a broader meeting of the Committees and Ministers in the cluster.

The meeting was adjourned.


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