Against a background of soaring crime statistics, with an average of 19 500 firearms reported stolen or misplaced each year in South Africa, including numerous service pistols being taken from police officers and break-ins at some military bases – government is mooting amendments to the Firearms Control Act.
The draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill of 2021, still due to go through a process of public comment before being passed by Parliament, proposed key amendments contained in the Government Gazette including the:
- Widening of powers of Police Minister Bheki Cele to prescribe matters pertaining to the processing of applications for firearm licences, competency certificates and the functioning of the appeal board.
- Non-issuing of firearms for self-defence.
- Compelling reasons to issue competency certificates to persons between 18 and 21 years old.
- Period of validity of all competency certificates to be set at five years after verification of applications by accredited bodies.
- Suspension by the registrar in the issuing of firearms to offenders of the Domestic Violence Act or Protection from Harassment Act.
- Deletion in the current legislation, providing permits for private collectors to possess firearms and ammunition.
Concerned about the proposed clause repealing possession of a firearm for self defence, Gun Owners South Africa (Gosa) spokesman Tshepo Mmekwa, whose relatives had been robbed at gunpoint, said she was “utterly dismayed” by the new Bill.
“By taking away our rights to defend ourselves, our children and our families, government is being a paternalistic toxic enabler and promoter of gender-based violence against the most vulnerable members of society – women.
“During his budget vote speech in parliament, the minister of police talked about visible policing – at the same time increasing VIP [very important person] protection for ministers and government officials.
“If these proposed changes are adopted, it will be a huge step back for women empowerment in South Africa,” said Mmekwa.
Outraged by the proposed changes, Gosa national chair Paul Oxley said the draft amendment Bill “has reappeared like a rotting corpse floating to the surface of a cesspool”.
Said Oxley: “It is sheer madness, shocking and disturbing, but not unexpected…
“The constitution recognises our right to life, which is hollow and meaningless without access to the most effective means to protect that life.”