“The SAPS’s administration of the Central Firearms Registry is, to put it simply, rather chaotic,” said Blu Air Sea and Land Logistics Ltd director Megan Battiss Piller.
She said in papers before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that her company had for years successfully applied for permits on behalf of clients across the globe who wanted to either bring firearms into the country or take them out.
But the police, out of the blue, had refused the company the right to act on behalf of these people, she said.
The SAPS now required that people applied for these permits in person. This was simply impossible, Piller said, as most of them were abroad.
This new policy hampered, among others, the country’s very lucrative hunting trade as it now made it very difficult for hunters to come and hunt in South Africa and to bring their firearms with them.
She asked the court to declare that her company was entitled to continue as an agent and to submit import and export permits applications on behalf of licensed firearm dealers.
Piller said the Firearms Control Act contained numerous safeguards to protect both the SAPS and the public from abuse by an entity such as her company.
The applicant, who went about obtaining these permits by following the law, had in the past lodged about 200 applications for import and export permits.
However, since October last year, the acting head of the registry, Colonel Danisile Ndukula, had steadfastly refused permission for the applicant to apply for these permits.
Piller said her attorney had pointed out in a letter to the police that the Firearms Control Act did not prohibit these applications being made on behalf of agencies, such as the applicant.
She asked the court to order the police to get their house in order, as there was confusion.
It was impossible to obtain commitment from the SAPS as to what a particular process should consist of. “I am not aware of a single policy document that the public has access to in order to determine what processes should be adopted and how.”
Pillar said that over the past few years there had been at least five different heads of the registry, which resulted in no conformity in policy.
“Decisions are made unilaterally, policies changed, directives issued and the people who are the subject of such changes or policies are not even advised about it.”
The section commander of the register, Colonel Ramphuti Chabangu, said the Firearms Act did not make provision for agents to obtain import and export permits on behalf of individuals.
A firearm owner had to apply in person for an import or export permit, he said. “The act is very clear as to who should apply for an import or export permit."
The application was postponed indefinitely so that the Minister of Police could be added as a party to the dispute.