The SA Police Service (Saps) has seemingly shot itself in the foot by failing to implement the electronic firearms registry, with the backlog in firearm licence applications estimated at over a million.
In fact the police, according to the South African Gunowners’ Association (Saga), was never capable of performing the administrative functions the Firearms Control Act (FCA) mandates them to.
The police admitted on Monday that firearm licence applications have been delayed, with Covid-19 being the leading cause, and have increased the turnaround for the finalisation of applications from 90 to 120 working days.
“Applications for licences in respect of surrendered firearms requires an entirely different process to that of a normal renewal of licences, which inevitably prolongs the turnaround time for their finalisation,” spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said in a statement.
ALSO READ: Police department requests extension on firearm amnesty period from parliament
He said the situation had been compounded by applications for licences for firearms surrendered during the amnesty period, with the total number of firearm licence applications increased by more than 80% for the duration of the amnesty period.
“This situation has resulted in unexpected consequences on the service delivery front,” he said.
But Saga chair Paul Oxley said the police have refused to implement the electronic connectivity upon which the FCA was based back in 2004.
“The chickens have been coming home to roost regularly ever since… To attempt to blame this all on Covid-19 is merely the latest in a long litany of Saps incompetence,” he said.
According to Oxley, in 2009, the Saps had about 950 000 firearm licence application backlog which led to the court order, still in force, deeming all previous holders of licences, permits and authorisations to still be valid.
READMORE: Expired gun licences in breach of law – Supreme Court rules
He said in 2016, the then acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane had issued an unlawful internal memo instructing designated firearms officers (DFO) to cease processing late renewal applications to attempt to forestall the growing backlog.
According to Oxley, there were about 350,000 backlog in “green licences”, that in 2018, by Saps’ own estimates, there were 416,000 expired white licences at stake.
“My best guess would be a backlog of more than a million… and growing by the day. This train is out of any control and hurtling down the track,” he said.
National Coordinator of Safe Citizen Jonathan Deal echoed Oxley’s sentiments, saying long before coronavirus or the gun amnesties, turnaround on competent licence applications took up to 18 months, with the 90-day turnaround being the exception.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.