12 February 2013

South Africa: DA Welcomes New and Improved Draft of Dangerous Weapons Bill

press release

The DA welcomes the new draft of the Dangerous Weapons Bill, which is a vast improvement on what had initially been presented to Parliament. The Bill will go a long way towards dealing with the thorny issue of carrying dangerous weapons during protests.

The Bill was met with massive opposition when first introduced in 2011. Over 2 300 public submissions were made objecting to the proposals. The DA joined with the public in opposing the previous Bill, which sought to limit the public's use of self-defence mechanisms and recreational weapons.

As the Bill now stands, a dangerous weapon is "an object, other than a firearm, designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or serious bodily harm".

The new draft of the Bill seeks to repeal all existing legislation with regards to dangerous weapons and provide for uniform legislation in this regard. It also prohibits the possession of dangerous weapons, firearms or replicas with the intent of using it for an unlawful purpose.

The most important aspect of the Bill is that it will prohibit the carrying of dangerous weapons and objects likely to cause injury or damage to property at a demonstration or gathering. After the violent protests of the last year, this is a very welcome move.

The Bill is also clear that the context of a situation must be taken into account when determining whether a person intends to use a weapon for an unlawful purpose. It should be emphasised that the use of such weapons in self-defence cannot be regarded as unlawful.

However, more clarity is needed on what constitutes a dangerous weapon. We therefore call on the Minister to provide a schedule of what he considers to be a dangerous weapon, as this is currently not provided for in the Bill, apart from a rather wide definition.

Public hearings on the Bill will begin next week and the DA will take into consideration all public comments when deliberating on this Bill.

Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police

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