BRIEFING TO PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE FOR SAFETY AND SECURITY:

CONSIDERATION OF APPROVAL OF A NOTICE BY THE MINISTER FOR SAFETY AND SECURITY:

DECLARATION OF AN AMNESTY:

SECTION 139 OF THE FIREARMS CONTROL ACT, 2000 (ACT NO. 60 OF 2000)

5 APRIL 2005

 

Chairperson

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Committee on the above matter. According to the Act, an amnesty may be declared by the Minister for Safety and Security, by notice in the Gazette if

  1. The amnesty may result in the reduction of the number of illegally possessed firearms in South Africa; and
  2. It is in the public interest to do so.

Taking those criteria into account, one needs only to look at the results of the amnesty that Parliament approved and which expired on 31 March 2005. I will deal with those results at the end of the presentation.

First, however, one needs to emphasize that the amnesty is but one facet of a three-pronged approach, which contributed to the excellent results.

  1. The first element is the voluntary handing back of unwanted registered firearms. This is necessary, as the pool of legal firearms is one of the sources of illegal firearms. This process started already on 1 July 2004, with the implementation of the Firearms Control Act, 2000. The Regulations made under the Act, and approved by this Committee provides for a mechanism in this regard. With the launch of the Act, at the Waterfront last year, the Minister made an appeal to the public to hand in such unwanted legal firearms, and the positive results in this regard had been continuous since the implementation of the Act.
  2. Secondly, police operations to locate and seize illegal firearms and to arrest persons in possession thereof, continued unabated during the amnesty period. In this regard is must be noted that a person cannot fall back on the amnesty after being arrested for the illegal possession of a firearm or ammunition. These police operations are a permanent feature of crime prevention and law enforcement, but has been intensified during the amnesty period.
  3. Lastly, provision had to be made to retrieve as many illegal firearms and ammunition as possible, by providing the incentive of non- prosecution for such possession. In this regard we are bargaining on the goodwill of the public and not on the dubious method of buy-back that creates a market for illegal firearms and which proved in the past not to be really successful.

Chairperson, although there was an intensive media campaign to popularise and promote the amnesty, the best results were effected over a period of time as word of mouth confirmed the guarantees of non-prosecution and confidence into the process was instilled. This caused a rush towards the end of the amnesty- a momentum no-one would wish to block. In addition, calls were received from Non-Governmental Organisations, ranging from Gun Owners Associations to Gun Free South Africa to extend and intensify the amnesty. The Act does not allow for an actual extension of a declared amnesty, but a new notice has to be issued by the Minister. The criteria for such declaration were clearly met, which is borne out by the statistics that I will highlight, as well as the fact that it is clear that there is still a huge willingness on the part of the public to hand in illegal firearms. The question of public interest is so obvious that I am not going to dwell on that.

Of course, an amnesty is in terms of the Act only valid, if approved by Parliament. For this reason liaison took place with the Chairperson of this Committee, as well as the Chairperson of the Select Committee for Safety and Constitutional Development, who were of the opinion that all indications are that Parliament will support and approve the declaration of a further amnesty-effectively extending the already approved amnesty. The Act does not require a prior approval by Parliament of an amnesty- it is the notice published in the Gazette which need to be approved. It will always be our preference to obtain prior approval as during last year when, we deemed it appropriate to submit the proposed amnesty to Parliament as a draft notice, as there was ample opportunity to do so. Unfortunately Parliament was not in session when the amnesty drew nearer to its end and had to be "extended".

It is, in the public interest, as well as promoting the objects of the Firearms Control Act, 2000 that an appeal is made to the Committee to recommend to the National Assembly that the amnesty be validated.

Chairperson, the conditions and terms of the amnesty declared by the Minster from 1 April 2005, until 30 June 2005 are exactly the same as the amnesty already approved by Parliament from 1 January 2005 until 31 March 2005. A copy of the relevant notice in the Gazette is attached.

I will now continue to highlight the successes of the amnesty in terms of all three elements set out above, namely amnesty, voluntary handing in of unwanted licensed firearms and police operations.

AMNESTY

The total results of the three pronged approach are as follows for the period 1 January 2005, until 4 April 2005:

Illegal firearms surrendered under the amnesty: 19 041

Ammunition surrendered under the amnesty: 351 268

 

 

VOLUNTARY HANDING IN: UNWANTED LICENCED FIREARMS/AMMUNITION

Voluntary handing in of unwanted licensed

firearms in terms of the Regulations of the

Firearms Control Act, 2000: 26 058

Voluntary handing in of unwanted ammunition

of licensed firearms: 529 228

FIREARMS SEIZED/CONFISCATED: POLICE OPERATIONS

Firearms confiscated as a result of police operations: 8 896

Ammunition confiscated as a result of police operations: 112 660

Other interesting statistics are:

The totals under the above categories for the following types of complete firearms recovered, are:

Revolvers/Pistols 39 521

Rifles 8 668

Shotguns 4 529

Automatic/Semi-Automatic Firearms (excluding pistols) 156

Homemade firearms 248

Above totals are not inclusive of firearms components, that is barrels, frames or receivers, which falls under the definition of a firearm and of which a huge number have been recovered, in addition to the complete firearms referred to above.

Other spin-offs of the amnesty are: the handing in of -

  1. 106 hand-grenades,
  2. 1 anti-personnel mine,
  3. 23 rifle grenades,
  4. 24 mortars,
  5. 4 anti-tank missiles,
  6. one limpet mine,
  7. one rocket, one warhead, and
  8. one aircraft rocket.

Numerous other explosive devices and military ordinance were handed in.

Chairperson, I think the above suffices to motivate this important process to cleanse society of weapons which are used daily in crime, and to stabilise the community in order to live free from fear and crime.

Thank you.