POLICE Minister Bheki Cele addressing the National Press Club. Picture: James Mahlokwane
POLICE Minister Bheki Cele addressing the National Press Club. Picture: James Mahlokwane

Pressure mounts for police minister to revise gun amnesty notice

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Dec 7, 2019

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Cape Town - Police Minister Bheki Cele is under pressure to terminate the firearm amnesty and start a new process to be approved by Parliament.

This comes in the wake of calls by political parties and interest groups raising concerns about the process followed in declaring the amnesty, which started on December 1 and is set to continue until May 31, next year.

There are now fears that litigation could ensue and the amnesty period could be interdicted.

On Thursday last week, Cele declared the firearm amnesty and published a notice signed on August 28 despite Parliament approving the amnesty last month. In the notice, Cele said those wishing to possess the surrendered firearms should apply for licences with designated firearm officers within 14 days and ordered ballistic tests on all firearms surrendered under the amnesty.

Yesterday, it emerged that the South African Hunters’ and Game Conservation Association wrote to Cele on Wednesday urging him to terminate the amnesty and issue a revised notice.

“The present process is fatally flawed and will most certainly not deliver the results you may hope to achieve,” wrote the association’s chief executive Fred Camphor.

The DA also wrote to Cele on Wednesday urging him to withdraw the amnesty so the SAPS could ensure technicalities were dealt with and that the notice be sent back to Parliament.

The DA’s Andrew Whitfield said while the amnesty should be welcomed, it should only be welcomed when it was done properly.

He said the notice had raised a lot of important questions which caused a lot of confusion in the public domain. “Some gun owners are unsure how it works and whether to hand over and renew or hand over and apply for new licences.”

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said the amnesty was meant to reduce illegal firearms in the fight against crime and reduce crime.

He said a parliamentary response from Cele revealed that no illegal firearms were surrendered during previous amnesties. “Amnesty does not work because no criminal will hand in his or her illegal firearm. It is quite clear that they target those owners of firearms whose licences have expired.”

His sentiments were echoed by chairman of South African Gunowners’ Association John Welch, who said there were between 450000 to 500000 people who had failed to renew their licences.

Welch said the law did not provide for renewal of licences for surrendered firearms. “What is even worse up to this stage, December 6, the police computer system can’t accept applications for licensing of firearms surrendered during the amnesty.”

He noted with concern that the three police stations that were flagged were not suitable to receive firearms on the list of 46. “I don’t know whether they suddenly remedied the situation. I have serious doubts about that because they were made out to be the worst police stations in the world.”

He said they had learnt the designated firearm officers and designated amnesty officers were only trained on Thursday, after the amnesty opened.

Gun Owners South Africa chairperson Paul Oxley said the amnesty process was rushed. “The amnesty makes no provision for renewal of expired licences. The aim is to get people with expired licences to surrender and apply for new licences and at which point they will be refused and lose the firearms.”

Oxley said the SAPS was trying to get around a court order which barred the police from taking action against gun owners with expired licences pending an appeal by SAPS. “This is not a constitutional democracy. This is dictatorship.”

Despite being sent questions, Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said: “I can confirm that the minister of police has received the letters and is yet to respond.”

Politics Bureau

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