Minister of Police Bheki Cele. File photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA).
Minister of Police Bheki Cele. File photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA).

Cele has reduction of illegal guns in his sights

By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA Time of article published Sep 3, 2019

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Johannesburg - Police Minister Bheki Cele has again asked Parliament to approve another declaration of the firearm amnesty, to run for six months from next month.

This emerged in a letter Cele wrote to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, requesting that the police portfolio committee consider the amended draft declaration for the firearm amnesty.

Modise has now referred the letter to committee because the Firearms Control Act provides for the amnesty to be valid if it is approved by Parliament.

In his latest letter to Modise, Cele said a draft notice for a declaration of amnesty was tabled by his predecessor Fikile Mbalula in 2017 and was referred to the police portfolio committee.

“The portfolio committee was unable to consider the draft notice prior to February 1, 2018, being the proposed date on which the amnesty period was set to commence."

He also said the committee had required that Mbalula table a new letter containing the new date prior to approval.

“While I am in support of the declaration of an amnesty on the condition that was in principle already agreed to by the portfolio committee, I further wish to add that an application contemplated in Section 134 (4) of the said Act shall not apply to illegal firearms where documentary proof of previous ownership cannot be produced,” Cele said.

The minister said the proposed new dates for amnesty would be October this year to March next year.

“It will be appreciated if the amended draft notice can be forwarded to the portfolio committee of police for consideration,” Cele said.

Cele said the Firearm Control Act required him to publish a notice to declare an amnesty.

“The amnesty may result in the reduction of the number of illegally possessed firearms in South Africa. It's in the public interest to do so,” the minister said.

In terms of legislation, the amnesty must specify the period in which people may apply for it as well as the conditions under which it may be granted.

The amnesty was first mooted by former minister Nathi Nhleko in 2017. However, parliamentary processes were not concluded at the time.

It was resuscitated by his successor, Mbalula, and then once again by Cele last year.

However, there were delays in processing the amnesty amid a Constitutional Court judgment, which ruled that it was an offence to possess a firearm without a licence.

This had sparked confusion over whether the thousands of people with expired licences could not be criminally prosecuted when handing over their firearms.

Political Bureau

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