South Africa: Media Statement - Disingenuous for Mr Whitfield to Convene His Own Firearms Summit

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The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has raised her concerns that a Member of the Portfolio Commitee, Mr Andrew Whitfield, has chosen to convene a Democratic Alliance (DA) Firearm's Summit. "The committee is concerned that Mr Whitfield has chosen to politicise the matter of firearms when all Members of the committee work together without politicising matters we are seized with," she said.

The Chairperson highlighted her disappointment in the decision taken by Mr Whitfield, especially because his invitation is misleading to invited guests and members of the public.

"Firstly, it is not a South African Firearms Summit as the invitation states. It is a DA Firearms Summit convened by the DA and we call on firearm owners associations not to be fooled or misled on this matter. This is because the proposed summit will exclude a number of people and stakeholders, including the Members of the Portfolio Committee on Police, who are currently seized with the matter.

"Also, it is pertinently untrue for Mr Whitfield to allege that the Portfolio Committee has done nothing about the Firearms Summit it committed to convening in early 2020. Here are the facts; it was the Portfolio Committee on Police that convened the first Firearms Summit in 2015, and again it was this Portfolio Committee that proposed to convene the second one in 2020. When Covid-19 struck the nation, the committee's plans for a summit were disrupted but not cancelled.

"We have consistently raised the matter of the summit in the Portfolio Committee meetings that Mr Whitfield was part of. We have met with some of the key stakeholders in the firearms industry to deal with the Central Firearm's Registry. Mr Whitfield (as was all Members), was invited to the meeting. He chose not to attend that meeting. Stakeholders in the firearms industry attended an unofficial meeting convened by the Chairperson on 22 April 2021, including Mr Whitfield's colleague in the DA, Mr Terblanche, who made a critical input. The question of the summit was raised in the meeting and there was agreement that it should be convened," Ms Joemat-Pettersson said.

Mr Whitfield proceeded with this DA summit without making enquiries about the details of the summit that was promised by the committee. He is misleading the public on the matter. The committee will convene this Firearms Summit in July 2021 and we implore the public and stakeholders not to be drawn into political posturing. The Portfolio Committee developed the concept document for the summit, which was passed on to the SAPS (South African Police Service) and which has already been sent to the department.

As part of dealing with the matter, the committee instructed the Deputy Minister of Police and the National Commissioner to visit the Central Firearms Register (CFR) and implement an action plan and report to the Portfolio Committee.

Lastly, the committee has undertaken an oversight visit to the CFR to see for itself the absolute mess that the CFR was in. As a result of the visit, the Portfolio Committee made recommendations for measures to be put in place by the SAPS, and Mr Whitfield is jumping the gun by his irresponsible actions of politicising this critical matter and creating a false impression that it is a nation-wide summit, when in reality it is a DA summit.

As a result, we must call on all stakeholders in the firearms sector to engage with the Portfolio Committee, especially because of the commitment the committee has displayed in dealing with the problems in the management of firearms and issues faced by firearm owners and calls on all industry stakeholders to wait for the SA summit that will be convened by the committee.

"We also call on stakeholders to engage with the process of the Draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill and note that after the Civilian Secretariat for Police has taken the submissions on board, it has to go back to Cabinet before being tabled in Parliament. Please do not be misled by opportunists who promise they can resolve the problems when we all know that only the department and the Ministry of Police, through the oversight of the Portfolio Committee on Police, can do so," Ms Joemat-Pettersson emphasised.

The matter will be raised in the committee when Parliament reconvenes.

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