Protesters march against the new proposed gun laws, as row erupts over police summit

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Jun 19, 2021

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Cape Town – Protesters took to the streets of Cape Town on Saturday, and marched to Parliament to demand that the Firearm Control Amendment Bill be scrapped.

Gun owners said they believed they needed firearms for self defence.

This week, a row has erupted over the firearm summit planned by the DA to discuss the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill, which scraps self defence as a reason to qualify for a gun licence.

This comes after chairperson of the National Assembly committee on the police Tina Joemat-Pettersson fired the first salvo at DA MP Andrew Whitfield, who she accused of planning to convene a firearms summit.

Joemat-Pettersson said the committee was concerned that Whitfield politicised the matter of firearms when the committee worked together without politicising matters they were seized with.

In his response, Whitfield said he was unapologetic about hosting “this important summit” and stated it was urgent to convene the summit to generate awareness about the bill.

The planned virtual summit will be held on Tuesday with civil society organisations, academia, interest groups, and members of the public expected to attend.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has been invited, but it was not immediately clear if he would attend.

“The summit will provide an opportunity for the legislation to be fully unpacked, understood and debated.

“We trust that the minister will put politics aside and accept our invitation,” Whitfield said.

The Civilian Secretariat of Police published the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill in May and it has drawn widespread criticism.

The draft bill provides for new limits on the amount of ammunition gun owners may hold, and on how many firearms hunters and sport shooters may possess, among others.

Joemat-Pettersson said she was disappointed in Whitfield’s decision because his invitation was misleading to invited guests and members of the public.

“Firstly, it is not a South African firearms summit as the invitation states.

“It is a DA firearms summit convened by the DA and we call on firearm owners’ associations not to be fooled or misled on this matter.”

She said the proposed summit would exclude a number of people and stakeholders, including the members of the portfolio committee on police.

“Also, it is pertinently untrue for Whitfield to allege that the portfolio committee has done nothing about the firearms summit it committed to convening in early 2020,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

She said the portfolio convened the first firearms summit in 2015 and proposed the second one in 2020.

When Covid-19 broke out last year, the committee’s plans for a summit were disrupted but not cancelled, and that there was one planned for next month.

Joemat-Pettersson said some of the work was done towards their planned summit and accused Whitfield of jumping the gun.

“We must call on all stakeholders in the firearms sector to engage with the portfolio committee … and call on all industry stakeholders to wait for the SA summit that will be convened by the committee.”

Joemat-Pettersson said after the Civilian Secretariat for Police received the submission on the draft bill, it will still consult the Cabinet before the bill is tabled in Parliament.

Whitfield told Independent Media yesterday the DA’s firearms summit communication clearly stated that it was hosted by the official opposition.

He said the DA had a duty to engage stakeholders and to participate fully in such debates as a key role-player in the public domain.

“The DA’s firearm summit doesn’t seek to replace any work that Parliament must do but the bill is not yet before Parliament.”

Whitfield said the DA felt it was urgent to convene the summit to generate awareness about the bill published for comments and debate prior the July 5 deadline.

“I am unapologetic about hosting this important summit and look forward to the committee’s summit when it takes place,” he said.

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