I welcome in principle the National Firearms Amnesty period announced today by the National Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, during a Portfolio Committee meeting in National Parliament.
A Firearm Amnesty was one of the recommendations the Western Cape Government made in 2015 to the Civilian Secretariat of Police, to help reduce the circulation of illegally owned firearms and encourage people to hand in their unwanted legal weapons.
However, people in the Western Cape and the rest of the country need to be assured about the operational readiness of the Police to effectively manage a Firearm Amnesty.
Key to the operational implementation of the amnesty period is to ensure that weapons and ammunition handed over are traceable, disabled and prevented from being used again or finding their way back into criminal hands.
The Western Cape has a serious gun problem which needs to be addressed if we are to reduce the high murder rate in the province, reduce violent crime and disarm the criminals, gangsters and druglords who continue to hold our communities hostage.
As part of my oversight mandate over policing in the Western Cape, I will be requesting further details on the amnesty period from the National Minister of Police, Acting National Commissioner and Provincial Commissioner.
My request for details will include:
The various locations, operations and campaign drives to allow people to hand over their weapons;
Process of disabling the weapons on site without compromising forensic firearm investigation and cataloguing;
Process and timeframe for ultimately destroying the weapons and ammunition to prevent loss, theft or corruption peddling weapons back into communities;
Who will be appointed to monitor the process to oversee and ensure compliance; and
What international standards, protocols or existing best practice models will be included to ensure success.
The Firearm Amnesty period, running from 1 April 2017 to 30 September 2017, is a great opportunity to reduce the number of illegal firearms in circulation and to prevent unnecessary deaths at the hands of those who should not be able to have a weapon in the first, or who do not comply with the prescripts of owning a firearm.
The Amnesty period is a necessary step in the right direction towards reducing the proliferation of gun related crim in the country, especially in the Western Cape. The Firearms Control Act (FCA) is an innovative and comprehensive piece of legislation, which, if implemented correctly, can further contribute to this objective.
Other recommendations which the Department of Community Safety made in 2015, and which we will be following up with the Minister of Police, include:
Adequate resourcing of Designated Firearm Officers, including human resources, suitable vehicles, computers and budget in accordance with the scope of their work;
Continuous training of DFO staff on the FCA and it's implementation;
Control of firearms and ammunition through a functioning and effective national electronic database monitored by the SAPS at the Provincial Level. Though this process is already underway, there is an urgent need to speed up the establishment and national implementation of the central electronic database;
Integrated system must be established to link the dealers and the CFR office to enable the SAPS to trace the source of the ammunition used to commit crime in the province.
The FCA must be amended to ensure that the gunsmiths in South Africa manufacture guns with micro-dots and ballistics traces so that the gun can be traceable if used for either legal or illegal activities in the country. These amendments have been proposed in the Draft Bill of 2015.
I urge communities to support the South African Police Service (SAPS) in their attempt to rid our streets of the guns that continue to wreak havoc in the hands of gangsters and druglords.
Safety is everyone's responsibility and the Department of Community Safety will support the drive to get the guns off of our streets.
Issued by: Western Cape Community Safety