File photo: Independent Media

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has given the green light for the firearms amnesty announced by the Department of Police a few months ago.

At a plenary sitting yesterday, the select committee on security and justice recommended to the NCOP that 
the draft notice on declaration of firearms amnesty be approved.

The amnesty, mooted while former minister Nathi Nhleko headed the department, aims to reduce illegally possessed firearms and grant amnesty to people surrendering their weapons.

It is hoped that the initiative will help reduce the incidents of crime.

Briefing the NCOP plenary sitting yesterday, committee chairperson Dumisani Ximbi said Nhleko had declared an amnesty from April this year until September 30, but the notice was only tabled in Parliament in March.

“Parliament was unable to consider the matter before 
the end of the first term,” Ximbi said.

The amnesty can only be valid if it is approved by Parliament, and it must specify the period people can apply for amnesty and the conditions under which it may be granted.

Although the amnesty period in the draft notice refers to the period between August 2017 and January 2018, the SAPS previously told the committee at a meeting in June that the six-month  period would start in November and would cover both licensed and unlicensed firearm owners.

Ximbi said the committee had been informed by the SAPS that increased numbers of firearms were surrendered during previous amnesties. 

A total of 80 454 firearms were surrendered in 2005 and a further 42 329 in 2010.

Ximbi said firearms would be able to be surrendered at any police station and police had been briefed on the conditions of the amnesty. 

The SAPS would embark on a campaign to make the public aware of the amnesty, Ximbi said.

The DA’s Cathlene Labuschagne said her party supported the firearms amnesty. She warned the police minister that the amnesty was not enough to address crime.

She said police should ensure surrendered weapons did not end up in the wrong hands, used in illegal activities.

In terms of the proposed amnesty, a written application for amnesty must be handed in at a police station giving details and identifying the firearm and ammunition.

“The firearm and ammunition must be surrendered to a member of the police, who must issue a receipt.” Firearms will be ballistically tested.

Should the applicant wish to apply for a licence for the firearm or ammunition, the application must be lodged within 14 days from the date of surrendering the firearm.