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The Fidelity Security Group will not be drawn into discussing the whereabouts of its 700 or so guns handed in to the police after the expiry of licences, which police have insisted they did not have.
In November, The Citizen reported that the SA Police Services’ Advocate Gift Shakoane told the Constitutional Court that his instructions were that the police did not have the guns.
According to Gun Owners SA, the police “miraculously” found the guns but the security company would neither confirm, nor deny this.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele lost his highest bid to overturn a lower court judgment in favour of Fidelity Security Group’s application to apply for licences for the 700 guns handed in to police.
The security group turned to the court and won after police refused to accept licence applications in respect of the firearms as the 90-day period during which they should have renewed had lapsed.
Cele lobbied the Constitutional Court in a bid to stop thousands of gun owners whose licences had expired from relicensing their guns, but lost. This means the security group can lodge applications to license the firearms handed in to the police due to the licences having expired as they remained the property of the security company.
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Fidelity’s spokesperson Charnel Hattingh said they welcomed the judgment, adding that in 2016 the SA Police Service (Saps) had blocked people from renewing or applying for a new firearm licence if their licence had expired.
She said Fidelity elected to challenge this policy in the High Court in Johannesburg and after an initial dismissal of its case, succeeded in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
The judges held that any firearm licence holder, be it a member of the security industry or a private individual, may, after handing their firearm to the Saps for safekeeping, submit a new licence application for that firearm as they remained the owner of it.
“This court judgment does not only apply to Fidelity, but to all persons who have expired firearm licences. Fidelity elected to challenge the policy of the SA Police Services to not allow new applications for expired licences because it believed such policy to be in contravention of the Firearms Control Act and contrary to the constitutional right to own property as set out in Section 25 of the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has now confirmed that Fidelity was correct,” she said.
Gun Owners SA’s Paul Oxley emphasised that the judgment did not automatically grant a gun owner a licence, but that the application was subject for approval by the registrar in consideration of the material facts before them.
He said part of this was the reason given by the applicant for not renewing their licence within the mandated period.
Oxley said if a gun owner has documented proof they tried to renew their licence within the 90-day mandated period but could not, these reasons form part of the application.
“Whether you were, out of the country, on sick leave or because of Covid lockdown, you were unable to access the police or the police station was closed. Any one of those things, and you have documentary evidence of that, is part of the reason why you could not renew your licence when you should have,” he explained.
In September 2020, Dear SA, a non-profit organisation, argued that one did not need a firearm licence to lawfully operate a firearm in SA as the current Firearm Control Act licences the firearm, not the person.
The organisation submitted that it would make more sense to treat firearms the same as cars; thus once you have proven you are fit to own a vehicle and demonstrate you can operate it, you are issued a licence.
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