Press Releases (37)
There is increasing pressure on all forms of wildlife-based tourism and enterprises in the wildlife sector to become more sustainable and to generate income and benefits without significant deterioration of the environment and natural resources, whilst also addressing social responsibility.
The SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) will continue discussions with the SAPS and other authorities to find practical and reasonable solutions for the administrative problems that legal firearm owners experience with the firearm licensing process.
The Association is disappointed that the Constitutional Court judgement on 7 June 2018 overturned Judge Ronel Tolmay’s ruling in the North Gauteng High Court in 2017, when she had declared Sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional.
This ruling brings no relief for the estimated 300 000 firearm owners that merely forgot to renew their firearm licences in time. It forces these owners to hand in their firearms at their police stations to be destroyed. The current law makes no provision for these people to renew their firearm licences.
SA Hunters CEO, Fred Camphor, said the Constitutional Court focussed on the constitutionality of Sections 24 and 28 of the Act, while it did not seem to consider the other limitations and difficulties associated with act. “Although the court acknowledged the chaotic administration and management of the Act, no remedy was offered to address any of the problems that firearm owners experience.”
SA Hunters’ case regarding the unconstitutionality of Sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act, or parts thereof, rested on the following three principles.
- The Act is irrational and vague in terms of the principles and process of relicensing.
- Unequal treatment existed among gunowners.
- Contravention of the property clause in the Constitution.
The Constitutional Court judges rejected all three these principles and ruled that Sections 24 and 28 were not unconstitutional.
The legal battle between SA Hunters and SAPS follows on many years’ frustration and problems among firearm owners about the renewal of firearm licences and uncertainties created by SAPS’ interpretation and implementation of Sections 24 and 28 of the Act.
Direct implication of the judgement
The ruling means that all firearms of which the licences had expired and for which renewal applications have not been submitted in time, are deemed to be in illegal possession. Therefore, the owner of such a firearm could be criminally prosecuted for illegal possession of a firearm.
In addition, the current Act and the Constitutional Court’s judgement provides no option for the relicensing of such a firearm. This compels firearm owners to hand these firearms in at their nearest police station. They may apply for compensation for handing in their firearms but will not necessarily be granted compensation as the Registrar is allowed to decide whether compensation would be payable.
The only possible alternative for this dilemma, is if a firearm licence amnesty is implemented. Earlier this year, SAPS indicated that it wished to declare an amnesty period from 1 June to 30 November 2018. “As far as we know, SAPS did not submit its application for the approval of an amnesty to Parliament in time,” said Camphor.
Should an amnesty be announced, the law makes provision as follows:
- Illegally owned firearms (including those of which the licences had expired) must be handed in at the SAPS.
- A firearm owner will not be prosecuted for illegal possession of a firearm.
- SAPS will do ballistic tests on the firearm to check if it had been used in criminal activities. If the firearm can indeed be linked to a crime, the owner can be prosecuted for the crime, but not for illegal possession of a firearm.
- The owner may apply for a new licence for the firearm handed in during the amnesty period. If the applicant complies with all the requirements, SAPS can issue a new licence and the applicant can collect his/her firearm from the police station.
Without an amnesty, firearm owners whose licences expired, can be prosecuted for illegal possession of a firearm. Although the judge expressed his opinion in the judgement that he doubted if the SAPS would prosecute an individual that hands in his/her firearm, the Court did not place any restriction on the Police or ordered them not to prosecute in this instance.
Persons that hand in their firearms do not have the option to apply for a new licence because the Act does not make provision for relicensing of a firearm that was handed in under these circumstances. In his judgement the judge suggested that the Police does not have the jurisdiction to store a firearm until a new licence has been issued.
Section 137 of the act makes provision for compensation to be paid to a person that was compelled to hand in a firearm. Regulation 92 determines the nature of the compensation. It is important to note that the Registrar has the authority to decide if compensation should be paid out. Compensation in this instance amounts to a maximum of R500 for a handgun and a maximum of R1000 for a rifle, which is far below the real value of these firearms.
Camphor said law-abiding citizens have no choice but to hand in their firearms of which the licences had expired. “The question remains if the SAPS has the capacity and ability to store the large number of firearms that are expected to be handed in”.
SA Hunters is still considering the full impact of the judgement and other options to resolve the matter. “The highest court in the country has spoken. We will probably engage with the Minister and the authorities to discuss a pragmatic approach and to resolve the ongoing problems going forward,” he said.
Issued by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters)
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The Constitutional Court reserved judgement in the court application by SA Hunters and the Minister of Police on the constitutionality of Sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act (Act 60 of 2000). Judgement can be expected anytime between four to twelve weeks from today.Read more...
On Wednesday 7 February, licensed firearm owners will be holding their breaths in anticipation of the Constitutional Court’s judgement in the SAPS appeal against a Gauteng High Court ruling on 4 July 2017, that declared Sections 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act (Act 60 of 2000) unconstitutional.Read more...
Plans by the South African Police Services to establish a national” ballistic fingerprint” database of all legally held firearms owned in South Africa as a forensic tool in criminal investigations, have been exposed as a wasteful and largely futile exercise to link firearms to crimes.Read more...
The South African Police Services’ request to institute a firearms amnesty from 1 February to 31 July 2018, is a desperate attempt to save face amidst convincing arguments that SAPS is unable to manage and administer firearms legislation (The Firearms Control Act: 60 of 2000, as amended) effectively.
Fred Camphor, CEO of SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) said law-abiding firearm owners in South Africa bear the brunt of systemic systems failure of SAPS’ firearms division and the Central Firearms Registry (CFR). “A proposed amnesty will not resolve the complexities experienced by SAPS and the firearm owners.”
Stakeholders in the firearms community are frustrated with the poor performance by SAPS. Some of the stumbling blocks in the way of a well-run, reliable and trustworthy firearms control mechanism include:
- Ongoing problems with licensing and relicensing of firearms;
- arbitrary handling of late applications for the renewal of firearm licences between 2011 and 2016
- inconsistent application and interpretation of firearms legislation by SAPS offices nationwide; and
- lack of communication from SAPS to the firearms community
It is the second time this year that the SAPS attempted to implement a firearms amnesty, which they claim is to “remove illegal firearms from society”. In its new proposal of 8 November, SAPS tried to convince the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police (PPCP) that the amnesty is a solution to rid society of illegally-owned firearms and to give legal firearm owners, many of whom merely forgot to renew their firearm licences in time, the opportunity to apply for licences.
“Amnesty is not a quick fix for systemic failure,” said Camphor. During two previous amnesties in 2005 and 2010, none of the approximately 123 000 firearms handed in, could be linked to criminal activity and no one was prosecuted for any criminal acts resulting from firearms handed in under these amnesty periods.
The timing for the requested amnesty period is also suspicious, says Camphor. We believe that SAPS intends to use the firearms amnesty to create a mechanism for legal relicensing to pre-empt the outcome of the Constitutional Court’s hearing on 8 February 2018. SAPS’ appeal follows on the North Gauteng High Court ruling on 4 July 2017, which was in favour of SA Hunters’ application to declare Section 24 and 28 of the Firearms Control Act unconstitutional. However, it seems unlikely that an amnesty will be approved by the National Assembly in time to be implemented in February 2018.
Should all of the estimated 300 000 firearm owners that forgot to renew their firearm licences in time decide to hand in their firearms for safe-keeping at police stations during the amnesty period, while applying for new licences within 14 days after the firearm was handed in, it is highly unlikely that SAPS has the capacity to store the firearms safely, and the resources to manage the associated administrative logistical burden.
Camphor said that Deputy commissioner admitted in 2015, that SAPS do not have sufficient storage space. The public has lost trust in the SAPS following recent events where approximately 20 semi-automatic rifles from SAPS stock disappeared from two SAPS police stations in the Western Cape. There is also the case where a former officer was involved with the theft of in excess of 2 000 firearms that ended up in the hands of gangs in the Western Cape.
During meetings of the PPCP, SAPS officials admitted to various shortcomings in the system, among others:
- SAPS officials at certain police stations cannot be trusted to take care of firearms;
- Ongoing poor service delivery and inconsistencies in the processing of firearms licence applications and the issuing of licences;
- Lack of technical skills and knowledge about firearms among Dedicate Firearms Officers (DFOs) at stations;
- CFR admitted to systemic failures such as outdated IT systems, and the fact that two parallel data systems have not been integrated, despite undertakings to do so years ago;
- lack of storage space for the bulk of paper work associated with the licencing system.
Stakeholder engagement falling short
The SAPS Stakeholder engagement process has also fallen apart during the past two years. SA Hunters is one of twelve SAPS accredited hunting and sport shooting associations that established a forum in 2004 to engage with SAPS as part of SAPS/Hunters Consultative Forum. Since 2012, the relationship between SAPS and the Hunters Forum declined steadily and practically came to a halt in 2015. Attempts to revive the relationship in 2016, failed when SAPS did not attend a Consultative Forum meeting to discuss the way forward.
To date, SAPS plans of a so-called turn-around strategy towards a more efficient system, has not resulted in any positive change. All these plans look good on paper, but there is little evidence of implementation. Stakeholder engagement was listed as one of the aspects that needed attention, yet the situation has worsened. Recently, it became clear that SAPS did not regard firearm owners as stakeholders, and representatives of the firearms community were excluded from discussions. Numerous offers from the private sector to assist SAPS to improve the licencing system – at no cost to SAPS - have been ignored.
SA Hunters believe that the hasty attempt to implement a firearm amnesty early in 2018, is a smoke-screen by SAPS for covering up an inept system and legislative shortcomings. “The problems will not go away without addressing the weaknesses of the current system. We are confident that the Constitutional Court appeal will again be in favour of rational and constructive criticism that can bring about positive change,” Camphor said.
So far, we have enjoyed enormous support from responsible firearm owners, law-abiding citizens and organised firearm communities. We trust that this support will escalate in the run-up to the hearing on 8 February 2018.”
Issued by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation AssociationRead more...