mpumalanga police manhunt executions

Photo: Pexels/Somchai Kongkamsri

Parliament overrules police decision on firearm destruction

Police commissioner General Khehla Sitole finds himself in hot water after going against parliament’s recommendations.

mpumalanga police manhunt executions

Photo: Pexels/Somchai Kongkamsri

The intended destruction of firearms which was announced in Wednesday’s Government Gazette is illegal and invalid according to the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, which is tasked with overseeing the functioning of the South African Police Service (SAPS)

The notice in the Government Gazette was published in the name of national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole, who is also the national registrar of firearms, in terms of section 136 (2) of the  Firearms Control Act of 2000.

The notice states the SAPS’ intention to destroy firearms, ammunition and firearm parts voluntarily handed over to the police by members of the public and currently in police custodianship (of which there is a list on the SAPS website ) unless people who believe they have a valid claim to the items so listed can show good cause why the relevant listed items should not be destroyed.

SAPS slammed over firearm destruction procedures

The notice states that members of the public have 21 days to show such good cause.

But at a meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committee on police which took place in Cape Town on Thursday, portfolio committee chairperson and ANC MP Tina Joemat-Pettersson stated that Sitole’s notice in the Government Gazette was invalid because the  intended destruction of the listed items was not agreed to by Parliament, and because the SAPS has not yet rectified the shortcomings within itself which the North Gauteng High Court listed in granting an interdict in terms of which gunowners do not have to hand in firearms of which the licences have expired to the SAPS.

MPs of the ANC, DA and EFF (the other parties were not present) agreed with Joemat-Pettersson’s interpretation.

The publication of Sitole’s notice in the Govremnent Gazette earned Deputy Minister of Police Cassel Mathale, who attended Thursday’s meeting, a scolding from Joemat-Pettersson on behalf of the committee.

“The impression is being created that the portfoloi committee is being undermined,” Joemat-Pettersson said to Mathale, who undertook to find out exactly how the notice found its way into the Government Gazette in the manner that it did.

The committee instructed that the intended destruction of the listed items was not allowed before the SAPS can prove to the Gauteng High Court that it had overcome the structural and management problems which led to the interdict being granted in July last year.

The interdict, which has not yet been rescinded and thus remains in effect, was granted to the organisation Gun Owners of South Africa against the Minister of Police and the national police commissioner, states that the police may not confiscate firearms of which the license has expired, because of the “conditions prevailing” in the SAPS, and because of inadequacies in the electronic system used by the SAPS as a record of such firearms in its care.  

The portfolio committee furthermore found that the police can only proceed with the intended destruction of the listed firearms, ammunition and firearm parts once it has been agreed to by Parliament, and that such a request will only be considered by Parliament once the inderdict is rescinded by the High Court.

The parliamentary slapdown of the SAPS follows hot on the heels of another dramatic vote of no confidence in SAPS’ abilities last month, when the relevant oversight committees in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces listed police incompetency and societal distrust in the police  as the reasons for their refusal to sanction an intended amnesty for those who want to hand in firearms in their possession.

(Due to a misunderstanding, The South African reported earlier that the Government Gazette notice which the portfolio committee overruled, dealt with the intended firearm amnesty referred to in the final paragraph of this report. It does not. It only refers to the intended destruction of the items listed on the SAPS website. The South African regrets the error and apologises for it.)