POLICE Minister Bheki Cele is intent on protecting his officers from having to advise the subjects of their investigations that they are under surveillance.

Johannesburg - Police Minister Bheki Cele on Thursday announced a six-month national firearms amnesty which will begin on December 1.

The last time South Africans were afforded amnesty for handing over their legal and illegal firearms, more than 42 000 guns were recovered, along with 450 000 rounds of ammunition.

Among the 42 000 guns, 11 887 guns were illegally held guns, along with 129,234 illegally held rounds of live ammunition. 

That was in 2010 for four months, between the period of January 11 and April 11.

Gun Free South Africa said it would be South Africa’s fourth amnesty drive since 1994. 

!n 1994, amnesty was afforded for just one day, on December 16, and on that day 900 firearms were voluntarily handed over along with 7000 rounds of ammunition. 

In 2005, from January 1 to June 30, 45 727 legal and 33 246 guns were returned, along with over 1.4 million live rounds of ammunition. 

And in 2010, amnesty was opened for just four months between January and April, resulting in 42 000 guns retrieved (among them 11 887 of which were illegally held) and more than 450 000 live rounds of ammunition.

Gun Free SA said previous statistics showed how effective amnesty drives were for the government to recover unwanted guns, illegal and unauthorised guns. 

To date, amnesty has seen the police reclaim over 122 202 guns and more than 1.8 million rounds of live ammunition. 

The organisation said there was a gun problem in the country, with 47% of murders committed with guns, compared to 31% by knife-related crimes and the Gauteng province had more gunshots than car accidents. 

Gun Free SA director, Adele Kirsten, said South Africa could reverse its gun violence crisis if it into limiting the flow of new firearms.

“To verify the effectiveness of these systems, it is absolutely critical that an official independent observer with monitors in all provinces is appointed to ensure oversight and transparency and to identify problems as soon as possible so that these can quickly be dealt with,” said Kirsten.

The organisation remained concerned and wanted assurances that guns that had been handed over to the police, would not find their way back to the communities,

“This concern is based on various incidents in which weapons handed in for destruction were leaked from police stores back onto the streets.

Gun Free SA’s engagement with SAPS on the 2019/20 amnesty indicates that safeguarding guns and ammunition from point of hand-in through the chain of storage and transport until the moment of destruction is paramount, and that various stockpile management systems have been put in place to protect against leakages.

“To verify the effectiveness of these systems, it is absolutely critical that an official independent observer with monitors in all provinces is appointed to ensure oversight and transparency and to identify problems as soon as possible so that these can quickly be dealt with,” says Kirsten.

The organisation said they should be allowed access to perform random unannounced visits to police stations to check for compliance during the amnesty process. 

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