VOL. 15 (29) - 08-12-2019
THE NHSA STANCE ON THE CURRENT FIREARMS AMNESTY AND RELATED FIREARM MATTERS
Fellow firearm(s) owner,
1. SAPS have since 2017 been trying to convince an initially very sceptical Parliamentary Committee on Police (PCoP), and just as sceptical Parliamentary Committee on Security and Justice, that the current amnesty will be successful in getting illegal firearms out of the hands of violent criminals (Annexure A & Annexure B).
2. Two very recently made statements by high ranking officials in the Department of Police, however, proves that the real reason for announcing the current amnesty is a serious effort by SAPS to try and force the owners of the approximately 450,000 firearms with expired licences, to surrender those firearms to SAPS (the number 450,000 was mentioned in the GOSA case of 2018 - on 04-12-2019 the Minister claimed there were only 397,190 firearms with expired licences - Annexure B1).
3. With this stance towards the real reason for announcing the current amnesty SAPS are, in our contention, also trying to circumvent the 27-07-2018 issued interim interdict in the GOSA case. This, despite SAPS having received leave to Appeal the interim interdict by Judge Prinsloo. Judge Prinsloo, however, ruled that the stipulations of the interim interdict will remain in place irrespective of SAPS being granted leave to Appeal the interdict. Under that interim interdict owners of firearms of expired licences, which were not renewed in time, are “protected” against the confiscation of such firearms by SAPS (Annexure C).
4. The first official statement, which confirms our statement in 2 above, is made by the Minister of Police, Genl. Cele, at a meeting of the National Press Club in Pretoria on 28-11-2019. While referring to the current amnesty, he stated: “Those with lapsed licences must hand in their weapons and in terms of the Firearm Control Act, 2000 they should surrender their firearm to apply for a licence” (Annexure D & Annexure E).
5. The Genl. is reported to have at the same occasion “…made a call for those in possession of an unlicensed gun to make use of the amnesty, warning that police would have no mercy on those who failed to do so”. That sounds very much like the Minister actually saying; if you do not hand in your firearms with expired licences, we will come for you (Annexure F).
6. The second official statement, which confirms our statement in 2 above, is a 22-11-2019 dated Directive (order) of the Limpopo Deputy Provincial Commissioner to all Commanders of police stations in Limpopo. In this Directive, Maj. Genl. JP Scheepers explicitly gives the order that DFOs at all police stations have to compile a list of all individuals in their precinct who are illegally in possession of firearms of which licences were not renewed and have lapsed (Annexure G).
6.1 The DFO must, according to the order, send notices to those people who did not renew their licences, advising them to voluntary hand in those firearms under the amnesty. This must be done only “…after the Minister had signed and announced the amnesty period” (thus from 1 December 2019).
6.2 Documentary proof of handing in the firearm(s) must be issued to the owner, and their particulars submitted for cancellation to EFRS” (EFRS = Enhanced Firearm Registration System).
6.3 It is also ordered that surrendered firearms under the amnesty must within 48 hours after having been received, be transported from the specific police station, to the Provincial Safe in Polokwane for IBIS testing (ballistic tests). The surrendered firearm(s) will be kept at “Province…pending destruction” (note no mention that application for “new licence” may be made within 14 days).
7. The impression the Directive creates is that the amnesty in Limpopo at least, is totally focussed on taking in firearms with expired licences. No direct mention is made of any concerted effort to take in the real illegal firearms in Limpopo (those firearms in the hands of the real criminals).
8. In addition, a Directive dated 28-11-2019 issued by the Deputy National Commissioner (policing) to Provincial Commissioners on the procedures for the amnesty (Annexure H), also makes no mention that a person surrendering a firearm under the amnesty, may apply for a licence for that firearm. Yet paragraph (c) of the official Notice of a Firearms Amnesty published in Government Gazette No. 42858 of 27-11-2019, clearly states that an application for a “new licence” for a surrendered firearm under the amnesty can be made 14 days after handing in the firearm, if previous ownership can be proven (Annexure I).
9. The arrangements in Limpopo to receive firearms of which licences have expired under the amnesty, will no doubt be duplicated in the other Provinces, as was so confirmed by the Minister on 28-11-2019 (Annexure D). The process of transporting numbers of firearms from far-flung police stations in Limpopo to Polokwane every second day, will create the exact same potential for theft of transported firearms, which was indicated by GOSA in their urgent court application in 2018.
10. The 2018 urgent application of GOSA was, inter alia, also directed against a similar procedure of SAPS to transport thousands of confiscated firearms in the exact same manner (just on a daily basis), in reaction to their planned confiscation of thousands of firearms with expired licences after the Constitutional Court’s judgment on the constitutionality of section 24 & 28 of the FCA (that firearms of which the licences have expired, are deemed to all be illegal firearms and must be surrendered to SAPS) (Annexure J).
11. The preparations of SAPS to clearly try and take in as many of the firearms with expired licences as they possibly can under this amnesty, is in direct opposition of a minuted statement by the Deputy Minister of Police at the PCoP meeting of 23-10-2019.
11.1 In this meeting the Deputy Minister in a reply on a question if the amnesty would be focussed on taking in firearms of which the licences had expired, assured members the PCoP that the amnesty was not focussed on taking in firearms with expired licences at all (Annexure K).
11.2. However, we now know for a fact how the statement of the Deputy Minister to gullible Parliamentarians (except DA and FF+ members), was the exact opposite of the real intent of SAPS with the amnesty. The arrangements of SAPS in Limpopo at least, are clearly made to try and take in as many as possible firearms of which the licences had expired (Annexure G).
12. The process by which the amnesty was forced through Parliament was to many firearms stakeholders, also flawed. Other Associations, like NHSA, will definitely look into this matter and report to their members on how they decide to proceed on this issue of probable circumvention of the required legal process.
13. During the debate in Parliament before voting on the implementation of the current amnesty, a number of spokespersons for different political parties repeated the hollow SAPS argument that the amnesty was focussed on getting illegal firearms off the streets to curb the high levels of violent crime in the country (continuously only referring to the situation among violent gangs in the Cape Town townships where even the Defence Force have been deployed to try and combat violent crime). Exception was DA and FF+ who had valid questions against implementing the amnesty because of the alleged flawed legal process, despite being in favour of the principle of declaring an amnesty (hour 1:03:33 to 1:36:00 on video clip of relevant Parliamentary debate on voting for the amnesty on 22-11-2018 - watch on YouTube).
14. Two previous amnesties have shown that not one of the 122,783 firearms handed in under the 2005 amnesty (80,454 firearms) and the 2010 amnesty (42,329 firearms) could be linked to any criminal activity after ballistic testing. Those surrendered were thus all firearms, which law-abiding citizens handed in under the amnesties for whatever reason. The constant argument of SAPS in nearly the same words as those of GFSA on he matter, namely that a firearms amnesty under which illegal firearms will be surrendered will bring down the violent crime rate in the country, is thus a statement based on no fact or truth (Annexure K).
15. The Minister of Police also did not heed the request the PCoP included in their 30-10-2019 report to Parliament in support of the current amnesty. In that report the PCoP requested the Minister of Police to declare a separate process for the renewal of expired licences, which should run concurrently to the current amnesty (Annexure L).
16. But then, how could the Minister include that request in the notice of amnesty in the Government Gazette of 27-11-2019 if he had already signed that notice of amnesty on 28-08-2019. This despite the Deputy Minister of Police on 23-10-2019 promising the PCoP that his Department would investigate the possibility of running a renewal of firearms process concurrently with the amnesty (Annexure K) (all the while knowing that the Minister of Police had already signed the notice on 28-08-2019 and that the request made on 23-10-2019 could thus never be included in the already signed notice - see Annexure I).
17. There is now also evidence that the notice of amnesty was not part of the documents which were before Parliament when they voted to implement the amnesty on 21 November 2019 (Annexure M). In section 139(2)(a) of the FCA, it is explicitly stated that the Notice of Amnesty must be approved by Parliament. The legal argument here, is that the PCoP is not the Parliament.
18. As responsible and law-abiding firearm owners, we are averse to hand in firearms with SAPS, under normal circumstances or under conditions of amnesty. We are not convinced of SAPS’ ability to safeguard such firearms. Which other country do you know of where private security companies guard over police stations, and where 46 police stations are excluded from receiving firearms during a firearms amnesty because they cannot be trusted to safekeep such firearms ? (see Annexure N). Note has to be taken that in the Notice of the Amnesty in Government Gazette No. 42858 of 27-11-2019 (Annexure I), there is only mention of three police stations which are excluded from taking in firearms under the current amnesty, despite the 3 stations not being listed on the 26-11-2019 dated list of 46 handed to the PCoP (Annexure N).
19. Neither are we convinced that SAPS can responsibly handle the number of firearms they might have to manage, if only half of the owners of the approximately 450,000 firearms with expired licences would hand in their firearms under the amnesty.
20. At the Pretoria Press Club address on 28-11-2019 the Minister of Police stated: “Guns are the enemy of our society.” and that “It is the Government’s endeavour to deal decisively with excess illegal firearms and unwanted firearms that end up in the hands of criminals, therefore increasing the proliferation of firearms” (our emphasis – see Annexure D).
21. It seems the Minister needs reminding that the word, proliferation, means rapid increase in the number of something. If there are a given number of illegal firearms, and there is a given number of unwanted firearms, how can the number of those firearms then rapidly increase just because they are now in the hands of criminals. Surely the number of firearms remain the same, although no-one can determine how many they might be (not even the Minister or his close “bed-fellows”, GFSA).
22. The Minister also needs to explain what the concept, excess illegal firearms, means. The word, excess, means that there are more of something than there is a need for. Is the Minister then suggesting that there is an acceptable number of illegal firearms, and that Government is only concentrating on getting rid of the excess of the acceptable number of illegal firearms in the country ?
23. The Minister must further also explain how unwanted firearms get into the hands of criminals. Owners can hand in unwanted firearms with SAPS for destruction whenever they would want to. One does not need an amnesty under which to hand in such firearms with SAPS. Unwanted firearms are also sold to or given to other firearm owners. If such unwanted firearm is now in the hands of a new owner, that firearm becomes a wanted firearm. Therefore, the only place unwanted firearms can get into the hands of criminals are out of SAPS-13 stores after the owner had surrendered it to SAPS because s/he did not want it anymore. Is the Minister 100% sure that unwanted firearms he says ends up in the hands of criminals do not originate in his Department ? How would criminals otherwise have access to unwanted firearms ?
24. If the Minister is, however, trying to say that the excess illegal firearms are those firearms of which the licences have expired, then he needs to be reminded that the really illegal firearms in this country are in the hands of the real criminals. Firearms of which the licences have expired are not excess illegal firearms. Those firearms were all licenced. It is only that the licences have expired due to them not being renewed under a flawed, unreasonable, and not well formulated section of the FCA (how anyone can think that it is correct that sections 24 and 28 of the FCA should imply that a licence actually expires 90 days before it really expires, is beyond any logic - SAPS for very long implemented the process of renewals in that manner).
25. The owners of firearms with expired licences have openly expressed their wish to be legal owners of firearms when they first applied for licences for those firearms (they jumped through all the hoops put in their way by the FCA to be legal owners of firearms in the first place). They are not criminals who keep firearms to perpetrate criminal deeds. Their only mistake is being human in that they might sometimes forget (to renew licences in time).
26. Just like the Minister himself seems to forget that he just the other day (12-08-2019) in answer to a question of Dr Groenewald (FF+), in Parliament stated that SAPS have “lost” 4,357 firearms and more than 9,5 million rounds of ammunition over the past six years with no-one in SAPS being able to explain these “losses” (>3 million rounds of ammunition were “lost” by SAPS in the Eastern Cape in one year) (Annexure O). In 2018 SAPS “lost” an additional 785 firearms and a further 505 in 2019 (Annexure O1).
27. However, to top it all, the Auditor-General's report of 2011 indicated that there were 82,000 firearms of the SANDF unaccounted for (Annexure P). Although one presumes that numbers of these firearms could have been misplaced (it is afterall the "army" - not that it makes gross negilence correct), one can be certain that thousands would have found their way into the hands of violent criminals. There are no reports that SAPS or the Military Police had investigated this matter of really serious negligence. It thus seems it is rather your Department and the Military who are the main "suppliers" of illegal firearms to violent criminals in this country, Minister.
28. As legal firearm owners we do not deny that firearms get stolen from homes by criminals. However, if none of the 122,783 firearms handed in with SAPS in the previous two amnesties could be linked to one single crime (Annexure Q), where are the facts which entitles you, as Minister of Police, to against the above-mentioned facts of thousands of so-called "lost" official firearms, even think to suggest that the legal firearms owners in the country are the "source" of your undefined and so-called excess illegal firearms ?
29. The case of your former Col. Prinsloo selling more than 2,400 firearms out of SAPS-13 stores to criminal gangs is still fresh in the memory of the legal firearm owners in this country, Minister (2,400 was the number of firearms he admitted to as part of pleae bargain with prossecutors).
30. When firearms are stolen from a legal firearm owner that person can unfortunately not order an entire police force of a large city precinct to immediately search for that stolen firearm. As was the case when the service firearm of the Northern Cape Provincial Police Commissioner was stolen out of his vehicle at a car wash in Kimberley earlier this year (Annexure R). We as citizens have to wait for your officers to attend to our problems when we are subject to firearm theft, when they “choose to arrive”. Such firearms are sometimes retrieved from criminals, we must admit. But we also know that it is not because there was a concerted effort by your officials to retrieve it, Minister. Usually because such firearm is found in posession of a criminal your officers happen to arrest for other crimes.
31. To the legal firearms owning community in this country, it is increasingly becoming apparent that the Minister is driving a hidden agenda through which he is trying to disarm legal firearm owners by "selling" half-truths to Parliamentarians to get his amnesty approved. At the Pretoria Press Club address 28-11-2019 the Minister once again reiterated his by now old statement that he was of opinion that only SAPS should be allowed to carry firearms (Annexure S).
32. At the rate your officers “lose” firearms, your Department might have only a few left over in a few years’ time, Minister. Not to mention that your officers might have very few rounds of ammunition to practice with, or to carry on patrols for use in the dwindling number of firearms in your Department. These small inventory items paid for by taxpayers’ money, are seemingly being “lost” a million at a time from your Department's armouries and SAPS-13 stores.
33. In this regard, it will serve you well, Minister, to read the 09-03-2017 Media 24 article in which two of your own officers explain how glad they are that the then Minister was planning to announce another firearms amnesty. According to your officers: "The really great thing about a firearms amnesty is that the guns just come to you. You don't even need to do anything, and no one notices when they go missing. With your issue gun, it's much more tricky..." (see Annexure T). The current amnesty is the amnesty which would have been run in 2017. Can we be sure that the statements by your own officers in 2017, will not still be true in 2019, Minister ?
34. It is thus, even more disconcerting when the Minister at the Pretoria Press Club address on 28-11-2019 publicly stated that SAPS “will be coming” for owners of firearms with expired firearm licences after the amnesty had run its course (“we will go from house to house if we have to” ) (Annexure U). Minister you can only go from home to home if you know where excess illegal firearms are kept. That immediately means your officers will target only people who have firearms with lapsed licences as you know where they live. Your officers do not know where the real criminals with the real illegal firearms live. We reiterate, citizens with firearms of which licences have expired are not the criminals, Minister. But we understand that they are easy for you to target. The real criminals seem really difficult to target or possibly just too dangerous.
35. We understand that being able to say you took in 100,000 or so, so-called excess illegal firearms during the amnesty, might be a big feather in your cap Minister (especially on the eyes of your special friends, GFSA). However, for legal firearm owners the bad thing is that we know you will not publicly tell the people whose lives are daily threatened by violent criminals that the firearms you took in were not really those of the real criminals who threaten their lives, but only those with lapsed licences.
36. As legal firearm owners, we also know that you and GFSA will after the amnesty have run its course, try and “score points” by stating in the media that you have taken in thousands of excess illegal firearms and that you have made the country a safer place. You, GFSA and us, know that is just not the truth. It is an open question as to how many firearms will be handed in this time round by the real criminals in just the Cape, Minister. You will again be failing your Parliamentary spokesperson and the people on the Parliamentary Committee on Police who believed your half-truths regarding the focus of the current amnesty. While the real focus is far from a concerted effort to disarm the real criminals with illegal firearms, who are the real every day threat to the people of our country. People with firearms of with the licences have lapsed, threatens no-one’s life, Sir. On the contrary, they want to be and remain legal owners of those firearms, irrespective of the fact that they might have fallen foul of one or other inflexible bureaucratic ruling re renewal firearm licences, which were for one or other reason not done on time (it makes no real sense, no matter how you look at it). These people are not your enemy, Minister. The real criminals are. You and GFSA will surely have some explaining to do to people who are daily threatened by violence, when the violence does not magically stop after your amnesty, as the real threatening illegal fireams will still in the hands of real criminals.
37. Ironically enough, the Minister’s tough stance on pursuing legal firearm owners with expired licences after the amnesty (we shall go from house to house), was again publicly contradicted by his Deputy Minister. The Deputy Minister at a meeting of the PCoP on 23-10-2019, on a question to this effect, denied that the amnesty was focussed on taking away firearms from law-abiding citizens. In the official minutes of the meeting, the Deputy Minister is reported to have said: “There was an impression that SAPS would pursue the owners of firearms with expired licenses once the amnesty was over. This was not the case” (Annexure K).
38. It is also clear that the Minister conveniently forgot about the 2018 interim interdict in the GOSA court case, which states that his officials may not confiscate firearms with expired licences from their owners (Annexure C). Unless the Minister is aware that the outcome of the SAPS Appeal against that interim interdict will be given in favour of SAPS in advance of the Appeal being heard, his “house to house search” will be illegal.
39. Fellow firearm owners, there are four clear facts concerning our continued legal firearm ownership in this country, which we can take away from the above:
39.1 That the amnesty, which was forced through Parliament in a legally flawed process coloured with half-truths of not targeting owners of firearms with expired licences to surrender same under the amnesty, is nothing less than a "clandestine exercise", focussed on forcing citizens to surrender the firearms they held legally. It is thus, nothing less than a veiled show of force against the firearms community for even contemplating to take the “SAPS establishment”, Minister included, to court by sections of the legal firearms owners of this country.
39.2 That the Minister of Police, his Deputy Minister, neither many high-ranking senior SAPS officers can be trusted to speak truthfully on any part of the manner in which they would want to management the implementation of the current amnesty, let alone the implementation of the FCA. Above we have, with their own documents, shown that the "stories" of the Minister, the Deputy Minister, and that of the National Commissioner, on the emphasis of the amnesty, differ markedly. So much so that the public is not certain what to really expect from the amnesty.
39.3 That the Minister of Police, his Deputy Minister, and many high-ranking senior SAPS officers continuously direct the focus away from their own incompetence to bring the real criminals to book; those people who really perpetrate violent armed crimes with illegal firearms and ammunition “lost” by SAPS and other Government departments. That is why they drive a concerted effort to focus the blame on us, the legal firearms owning community as being the "pool" from where violent criminals get their excess illegal firearms. We are much, much easier to target than the real criminals are. The “SAPS Establishment” can also openly threaten legal firearm owners, as they know who we are, and where we live, and they know that we have a passion for our firearms and do not want to lose them. In this instance one must invariably wonder how deep the Minister and some senior SAPS officials could be in the pockets GFSA. However, it is clear that the numbers of "lost" official firearms could well be the principle "source" of illegal firearms which land in the hands of criminals.
39.4 That if we as legal firearms owning community cannot ascertain adherence to the simple processes required by the FCA, which asks just a small effort to do some paper work in time to ascertain the continued legal ownership of our firearms, we must expect that we shall continuously fight "a fight from behind”.
39.4.1 As was stated in paragraph 5.4 of our Newsletter on the current amnesty, this “fight” can never be just about approximately 450,000 expired firearm licences, despite all firearms stakeholders being prepared to, and will, “fight this fight” in a responsible manner.
39.4.2 An irresponsible and concerted public disobedience campaign in this regard, will only end up in government withdrawing all licences for more than 2 million firearms to the detriment of 1,5 million other legal firearm owners in this country. We reitterate; as firearm owners we are responsible for each other.
39.4.3 Never forget that Judge Froneman on 07-07-2018 in the Constitutional Court clearly stated that owning a firearm in this country is a privilege. If that is the verdict of the highest court in the land, then all we as responsible firearm owners have to do is to do the damned simple and easy required paperwork to retain our firearms legally! How difficult is that?
At NHSA we shall not stop fighting for the rights of our members who are all responsible and accountable firearm owners. Of that you, our highly valued member, can be assured.
Dr Herman Els (Executive Chair)
All members informed of the posting of this Newsletter on 08-12-2019 at 19:00 via Email.