Hon Chairperson, House Chair and hon members, the Portfolio Committee on Police approved the Firearms Amnesty proposed by the Minister of Police. Yesterday our committee met with over 200 Community Police Forums Chairpersons, Neighbourhood Watchers and Police Cluster Commanders from throughout the Western Cape.
We heard how serious crime and gang violence is ripping our communities apart, and our children are being killed by gun fire. Hon House Chair, as a country we cannot allow the wanting destruction caused by fire arms in the hands of gangsters and other violent criminals to go unchallenged. As a committee, we have made it our business to unite in the fight against crime, and we fully support the call for the Firearms Amnesty.
We have decided to amend the dates originally proposed by the Minister of Police and suggested that the commencement date be 1 December 2019 until 31 May 2020. Hon members, the Amnesty was referred to us on 28 August 2019 for a Declaration of a Firearm Amnesty in terms of section 139(2)(a) of the Firearms Control Act. The portfolio committee met on 11 September 2019 and again on 23 October, to finally approve the Firearm Amnesty request.
We have confidence that the amnesty will view the necessary results in the delivery of illegal and unwanted firearms. We know that 32 000 firearms and 348 000 rounds of ammunition were recovered and surrendered during the
previous Firearm Amnesty during the period in 2010. Hon members, our committee raised concerns about the manner in which the SA Police Services, SAPS, has handled the firearms registry and we will continue to monitor the turnaround plan which has been put in place.
The committee further noted that there are people who simply wanted to reapply for renewal of their firearm licenses and that just needed to be considered. However, we show support to the SAPS in making sure that our streets are safer and that they are free of firearms that continue to kill children of Nyanga, other areas in the Cape Flats, Jeppe and Alexandra in Gauteng, in Inanda and Umlazi in Kwazulu-Natal.
We have all the confidence that this amnesty process will allow all firearm owners who no longer want to have their firearms to hand them in for destruction. We also call on all those illegal firearm owners and members of the public who know of illegal firearm owners to come forward and encourage them to hand them in. Hon Chairperson, hon members and hon Ministers, let us all do our bit to make South Africa a safer place.
The South African public experts know less. Chairperson, the portfolio committee is of the view that we need this Firearms Amnesty to help us bring violent crime to order. We support the Firearms Amnesty and we encourage this House to do so. I thank you. [Applause.]
There was no debate.
Chairperson, I move that the Report be adopted. Thank you.
Hon Chairperson, this notice to declare a Firearm Amnesty will not deter criminals from killing innocent people, and it will not reduce gun related matters in South Africa. The Minister will have us believe that is the case, but I want to assure this House that it is not.
The reason for that is that the SA Police Service, SAPS, has failed to prove that any firearm collected in previous amnesties can be linked to a commission of a crime. What the SA Police Service has however been able to prove, is its negligence in looking after its very own
firearms. More than 600 SAPS firearms were lost or stolen in 2017-18 financial year, yet the Minister wants SAPS to collect firearms from lawful South African citizens in order for them to then renew their licenses while the SA Police Service looks after those firearms.
The DA has asked a number of important and critical questions which have simply gone unanswered, and we are concerned that the ANC seems intent on bulldozing this Amnesty through Parliament, without the committee actually have been satisfied whether, firstly, SAPS can handle the intake of the approximately 450 000 firearms.
Secondly, SAPS can actually safeguard the firearms that have been handed in pending the renewal of the license. Thirdly, that the central firearm registry can handle the influx of license renewals of license that may arise, and lastly, whether the committee was in fact satisfied that the notice served before the committee was in fact valid.
The date of commencement of that amnesty and that notice was on 1 October, and the committee had to amend the notice in the meeting. The ANC was previously opposed to
the amnesty and we were all unanimous in sending the SA Police Service back. We sent them back as the committee. In the next meeting before the committee has been satisfied with any of the above points, the ANC simply approved the amnesty.
None of the concerns raised by the committee in the Fifth Parliament seemed to have been satisfied by SAPS, and while the Minister believes that this will help in the fight against crime, he simply cannot prove it. There is an interim order against SAPS in regard to firearm ownership, and I want to read an extract from the judgment. It reads as follows, that the SA Police Service is prohibited from demanding that such firearms be handed over to it for the sole reason that the license of such a firearm has expired.
While SAPS intends to appeal this interim order, the committee has acted irresponsibly by not allowing that process to conclude before approving the Amnesty. Should this Amnesty be approved today, the National Police Commissioner must ensure that the interim order is upheld and that no police officer in any province may demand
that a firearm be handed over for a sole reason that the license has expired.
The great irony in this entire debacle which quite frankly has been a complete mess is that while the irony seeks to deal with the expired firearm licenses, the amnesty noticed itself when it served before the committee had expired. Parliament is not a rubberstamp for the executive, and this amnesty in its current form should not be supported.
It should be sent back to the committee so that we can do our due diligence and protect those South Africans who want to own firearms lawfully, and until SAPS can prove that amnesty is actually a successful mechanism to lock criminals up and make sure that criminals hand back their firearms, the DA cannot support this notice. I thank you. [Applause.]
Chair, we all agree that the levels of crime in South Africa, especially violent crimes that involves guns has raised crisis levels, and this has been the case for a very long time. There are too many illegal
firearms in the streets. While the Firearm Amnesty is a programme that must happen, it does not deal with criminal elements that involve guns, because the majority of the guns on the streets are not guns in the hands of the people who are running away from the land.
But very few people will declare their firearms because they change their minds or positions about the guns. These are the guns that are used in the hijackings; some belong to the police officers. These are the guns used in the heist transits and robberies, and they are also from the police. These are guns used in the illicit trades; some belongs to the security companies. These are guns that are used by the gangs in the Cape Flats.
At the core of the problem, is the failure of the capacity to deal decisively with crime in general; failure to deal with security in the police stations because firearms are being stolen; failure to deal with proper registration that is in the firearm registry; failure to regulate in the security industry who easily rent out firearms to criminals; failure to solve crimes where firearms are used even when the owners are alone;
failure by the justice system to prosecute the so-called persons found in position of firearms for several times.
The Firearm Amnesty Declaration must happen, but it is not dealing with the problem, but instead, it is going around the problem. We need the police service that will deal and work against crime. Thank you very much.
Hon House Chair, we are all of one voice when we state that violent crime is out of control in this country. We also agree and have the statistics to prove that criminals are by and large not licensed weapon owners. Guns do not kill people, hon House Chairperson. But people kill people.
As the IFP, we approve and support the proposed extension of the firearms amnesty to May 2020. We further support calls for the Minister of Police to consider a concession for license gun owners who were not able to renew their licenses and allow them to utilise the extended amnesty period to renew their firearms licenses and state that an additional period may be necessary to complete this heavy administrative process.
Illegal firearms contribute to high levels of violent crimes and instead of retrieving them only when the perpetrators of such crimes are apprehended by SAPS, there must be an alternative process for the surrendering of these arms to the police without criminal sanction. The firearms registry in Pretoria remains in a state of chaos. It remains easier to purchase a firearm and obtain a license than it is to renew an existing firearm license. That must be addressed. Corrective actions must be taken by SAPS and the firearms registry restored a working model, failing which people will be administratively unable to renew licenses which will only lead to further extensions and quiet possible lines firearms owners finding themselves to be in contravention of the law and due to no fault of their own.
USIHLALO WENDLU (Nk M G Boroto): Lungu elihloniphekile Shembeni yiphutha lelo olenzile. Ngicela ukuthi ungaphindi ulenze. Ngiybonga kakhulu.
Agb Voorsitter, ...
... to blame guns for killing people or for murder is like blaming pencils for spelling incorrectly. [Laughter.] The fact of the matter is what is the main aim and purpose of amnesty. As stated in the report and in legislation, that is to get hold of illegal firearms to prevent further crime in South Africa. What are the real facts? We had two previous amnesty periods and if you look at the figures, you will see in 2005, from about 80 500 firearms handed in the amnesty period about 34 000 were illegal firearms.
If you look at the 2010 amnesty period, about 42 000 firearms were handed in and only 11 500 firearms were illegal. But those illegal firearms, Chairperson, were firearms on a technical base.
I have asked the question to the hon Minister, how of those firearms were used in any crime because it's prerequisite that each and every firearm must be ballistically tested to ensure that it was not used in a crime? The answer from the hon Minister was around zero.
So, we say in the FF Plus that we will; not support this amnesty period and the report. The report is incorrectly as published because in the portfolio committee, I explicitly objected to the report, which is not tabled in the House.
My groot bekommernis is dat die administrasie van die vuurwapens deur die polisiediens, die probleem skep. Die polisie is self die probleem. Ek het 'n vraag aan die agb Minister gevra. Die afgelope ses jaar was daar -u moet mooi luister - ongeveerd 10 miljoen rondtes ammunisie by die polisie gesteel, of verlore geraak. So, die grootste verspreider van onwettige ammunisie is die polisie self.
Verder, hierdie amnestie tyken die mense wat vuurwapens het, maar wie nie betyds aansoek vir hernuwing gedoen het nie. Daarom het ek ook in die komitee gevra dat die Minister dit moet oorweeg.
Om amnestie vir misdaadbekamping te gebruik is net eenvoudig 'n mite en 'n leuen. As ons regtig misdaad wil aanspreek, moet ons sorg dat die polisie 'n voorbeeld
stel en sorg dat hul eie wapens en hul eie ammunisie eers behoorlik bewaar word. Ons sal nie die verslag ondersteun nie. [Tyd verstreke.]
House chairperson, while the ACDP has doubts about the police ability to administer an amnesty on illegal firearms, not legal, but illegal firearms safely and effectively, we nevertheless support in principle the proposed amnesty because we believe there are many illegal firearms out there that must be handed in. Some of the concerns we have as the ACDP, include the storage of such firearms when they are handed in as we know full well that many of our police stations are poorly maintained with little or no proper security. What do such police stations do if criminals attempt to rob them of the very illegal firearms that were handed in?
The ACDP calls on the SAPS to tighten their security around firearms that would be handed in to ensure that they do not lend in the hands of criminals again. For this to happen, senior police management must ensure that only qualified and reliable police officials are made
responsible to oversee the collection and safekeeping of illegal firearms that are handed in.
The ACDP will never support the handing in of legal firearms by owners whose licenses have expired due to no fault of their own. We say such legal owners must have their licenses because in most cases, they failed to renew their licenses as I said because of the mismanagement within the SAPS. Thank you. [Applause.]
Hon House Chair and hon members, the ANC support the proposed firearms amnesty from 1 December 2009 to 31 may 2020. We have waited long to reach this point in making our country safe.
Hon members, this firearms amnesty will be the third such amnesty in the country's democratic history. We held a very successful amnesty in 2005 and 2010. We did this because we knew that we need to remove firearms from the hands of ruthless criminals who used their stolen firearms to kill our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters as well as our children.
In 2017, the previous Minister Mbalula briefed the Cabinet on 2 March 2017 on his intention to declare an amnesty in terms of the Firearm Control Act.
For a period of six months to maximise the participation of the community, we were not able to process that amnesty and the current Minister, Minister Cele, tabled a new notice to parliament requesting that we support the proposed firearm. Section 139 subsection 2(a) of the Firearm Control Act of 2000 provides that an amnesty can only be declared with the approval of Parliament.
What the hon said when he mentioned that we want to bulldoze, we are not bulldozing. Hence we are bringing it here with the facts that we have. It is so sad that what they are saying today is what they have mentioned and they find clarity in the portfolio committee. Now they come and grandstand as if we never addressed all these questions that they are raising here today. [Applause.]
Hon Chair and members, the SAPS crime statistics report showed that out of 21 022 murders of 2018-19, firearms have been used in 7 157 cases and 4 720 on knives.
I also want to respond to what the hon member of the DA has said. He said that the amnesty is not going to assist at all, but as this committee, we have looked at the statistics and we have known and seen that the last time when there was an amnesty in 2005, there was an improvement on the crime statistics. There have been fighting about the farm killings, and hence we are trying to assist them so that they can work with us to mitigate all those problems that they had in the farms.
There have been those that urge that firearm amnesty is taking the firearms out of the hands of people who use it for self defence. We want to reject this with the attempt that it deserves. [Interjections.] The ANC ... [Interjections ] I am busy. Thanks. [Laughter.]
The ANC ... [Interjections.] You must listen, please. Listen! [Interjections.] Listen! [Interjections.] Yes. [Interjections.] The ANC support our Constitution and wants to see ... [Interjections.]
Order! [Interjections.] Continue, mam. [Interjections.]
and wants to see a safer South Africa. THE freedom Charter says that there shall be peace and friendship. The Constitution in the Bill OF Rights provides the right to equality, human dignity, freedom and security of the person.
Hon members, our Constitution does not say that everyone have the right to bear arms. We are a peaceful nation and we do not support the right of people to bear arms. We call on these elements in the firearms industry to wake up from their dreams.
You live in South Africa and by its laws. Respect it and respect our people. The ANC calls on all peace loving people of South Africa to do us and help to make sure that we make this South Africa a safe world for everyone.
Lastly, we call on SAPS to dutifully make sure they do their jobs that no arms handed or landed in the wrong hands and make sure that we protect what is ours. The ANC declares that it supports the firearm amnesty proposal and proposes that the House adopts that report. I thank you. [Applause.]
The House divided.