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THE largest hunting association in South Africa, SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to pay urgent attention to the lack of proper implementation and administration of the Firearms Control Act (FCA) with regard to the issuing and renewal of firearm licences.

In an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the CEO of SA Hunters, Fred Camphor, appeals to President Ramaphosa to listen and to act on this serious problem, as part of the Thuma Mina (send me) campaign which the President launched in his manifesto in 2018.

Camphor’s letter follows on a growing inability of SAPS to apply firearms legislation consistently and correctly. Any meaningful discussions and dialogue that had existed between accredited associations representing legal firearm owners and the SAPS have almost broken down completely. Ongoing attempts and requests to meet with the SAPS to resolve the matter have been ignored.

This has now escalated into a situation where law-abiding firearm-owners could face criminal charges because on the inability of the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) to process and issue licence applications according to the conditions described in the Act.

In his letter, Camphor provided the following background that includes facts and figures about an untenable situation dating back to 2009:

The new Firearms Control Act (No 60 of 2000 as amended) was implemented from 2006 with a requirement that all privately owned firearms are to be re-licensed over a period of four years.

The intention was to terminate and cancel all licences issued in terms of the previous Act by June 2009.The CFR just could not deal with the new application process in time. At that stage, nearly one million firearm owners were affected. To avoid these citizens from being criminalised overnight, SA Hunters requested the High Court to declare the old ‘green’ licences valid. That interdict is still valid today because SAPS failed to respond to the High Court’s ruling. Ten years later, it is estimated that 760 000 firearm owners still own their firearms legally in terms of the old Act, while two different firearm licencing regimes prevail.

Meanwhile, the slow processing of licence applications, errors by SAPS/CFR and a general inability to properly administer and implement the FCA continue unabated.

In March 2015, nine years after promulgation of the Act, a firearms summit was called by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police where the then Deputy Minister of Police M Sotyu was quoted as follows in the Portfolio Committee Report to Parliament published on 16 July 2015: “On 13 March 2015, the Deputy Minister undertook a monitoring/inspection visit to the CFR and found that the CFR has not been a priority for a long time. Infrastructure is falling apart; it has outdated IT systems; there is a high vacancy rate; many personnel who had been fired due to corruption were not replaced; and, there is a lack of command and control. Another major challenge is the fact that the Appeals Board is located in the same CFR building, and of course there would be blurring of mandates and collusion or rubber-stamping.

The Deputy Minister of Police stated that the state of readiness to implement the proposed amendments to the FAC is thus non-existent.”

Since this statement by the Deputy Minister in March 2015, nothing has changed. The Act as promulgated from 2006 provides in section 41 that a dealer must make available and maintain a workstation to maintain electronic access to the CFR database. This electronic access for dealers to the CFR database does not exist yet, despite millions of Rands spent on IT development for the CFR. More than 13 years after the Act was promulgated (in 2006) the CFR still does not have the electronic access system available to dealers, as required by the Act.

The first legally issued new firearm licences started lapsing in 2011. Since that date, licences were renewed as long as five years after the date on which it had lapsed. This was done despite the fact that the Act requires applications for firearms licence renewals to be submitted “at least 90 days” prior to the date on which it expires. In 2016, the then Acting Commissioner of Police summarily instructed that no application for renewal of a licence should be accepted after it had lapsed. Yet, the same instruction stated that during the 90-day period before a licence expired, renewal applications for such licence would be acceptable.

This unilateral change in practice to the detriment of citizens resulted in at least two High Court applications being brought against the Police for unilateral interpretation of legislation.

In July 2018 Gunowners of South Africa obtained an interdict against the SAPS that states the SAPS “...... are prohibited from implementing any plans of action or from accepting any firearms for which the license expired at its police stations or at any place for the sole reason that the license of the firearm expired and:

That the SAPS 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.” (Verbatim extract from the Court Order dated 27 July 2018.)

Although SAPS requested and was granted leave to appeal, they failed to file any application for appeal against the interdict. Once again, the same uncertainty continues on what must happen to those firearms of which the licences lapsed.

It is common knowledge that the review and amendments to the FCA are long overdue. Possible amendments to the Act have been discussed between the then Secretary of Police and representatives of different groups of firearm owners since 2010. In a sworn statement made in a court application in 2016, the then Minister stated under oath that an Amendment Bill would be submitted to Parliament by September 2016. The exact words were: It is my intention to present the Amendment Bill to Parliament in September 2016”. This has not happened yet.

As a matter of fact, a draft Amendment Bill was leaked to the press during 2018. The content of this “bill” was described as draconian to say the least, e.g.: it made provision for self-defence as a reason for owning a firearm to be scrapped. In South Africa where serious crime levels are rampant and an average of 55 people are murdered per day, such an amendment would create a huge outcry from law-abiding citizens.

On 17 April 2019, when SAPS destroyed 30 300 firearms, the Minister of Police stated that one day it would be better if private citizens had no guns at all. However, in the same statement the Minister also admitted that firearms stored by the Police were not safe at all. He said: “.... even those guns that have been surrendered here, usually they all come as legal guns, then they get stolen and converted into illegal firearms”.

In 2009, there were an estimated three million firearm licences issued to two million individuals. By now there are most likely many more. Nobody really knows how many firearms are licensed to how many owners, because the CFR and the SAPS do not want this information to be made known. Once can conservatively assume that there are approximately 2,5 million legally licensed firearm owners.

In view of the election less than two weeks away (8 May), Camphor pointed out that all of these firearm owners are voters that represent 50 seats in Parliament. Surely this represents a reasonable sample of the voters in the country that should somehow be heard. It would not be unreasonable to expect such a considerable sample of voters to be given an opportunity to be heard. The majority of legally licensed firearm owners are reasonable citizens that want meaningful firearms control. They want the Act to work successfully and allow them to own and use their firearms. They pay taxes and they want to obey the laws of the country.

None of us want to see any unlicensed firearm in the hands of robbers, murderers, rapists and gangsters. We just want the ability as reasonable and law-abiding citizens to use our legally licensed firearms to hunt and to participate in sport shooting. We want to be allowed to relicense our firearms, expect to be issued a licence within a reasonable time, and comply with the legislation.

In March 2016, it was estimated that there were 470 000 firearms of which the new licences had lapsed and where the owners did not apply for renewal within the time frame specified in the Act. By now, that figure has escalated to more than half a million firearms with lapsed licenses. The SAPS does not want to provide the exact number.

The owners of these firearms are represented throughout all race groups. By far, most of them are law-abiding citizens that merely forgot to renew their licences: just like dozens of citizens forget to renew their drivers’ licences or motor vehicle licences.

Yet, each of these firearms is regarded to be in illegal possession. Should the Police have its way, owners will have to surrender these firearms for destruction, even though the Minister of Police does not trust his own Police to store these firearms safely until they can be destroyed.

It will be an impossible task to trace all these firearm owners, and to charge, convict and sentence them - most likely send them to jail. South Africa does not have the resources to add another half a million criminal case files to the already overburdened legal system. It is not practical.

Similarly, an ordinary amnesty, where more than half a million firearms are to be surrendered to the Police, is also not the answer if even the Minister of Police does not trust his own Police to store these firearms safely.

South Africa has had two previous amnesty periods where firearms were surrendered to the Police. It is a fact that a significant number of these firearms were (after they were surrendered) stolen and sold to the gangs in the Cape Flats by police officers that were trusted to keep these firearms in safe custody.

Both amnesties were aimed at removing illegal firearms off the streets. Yet, the then Deputy Commissioner of Police confirmed that not a single firearm surrendered during these two amnesties could be linked to any crime. IT would appear that such amnesties have become e the source of more illegal firearms getting into the hands of criminals on our streets.

The representatives of legal firearm owners’ associations are willing and prepared to assist. There are several proposals to improve the system; eliminate problems; amend the Act; and eventually implement a meaningful functional firearms control system that does not feed firearms to criminals and gangsters.

We are even prepared to spend large amounts of time and money to make this work. But then, Mr. President, somebody needs to listen to us and talk to us. Somebody needs to trust us to the extent to sit down and do the work required to create meaningful solutions to some of the problems. Please allow us that opportunity and allow us to be part of the solution.

“Should we not be able to take hands and get to a meaningful solution to these matters, I am afraid that we will see civil disobedience like this country has never seen before. Similar to the e-toll fiasco, where citizens merely said they would not pay, we might see a situation where legal firearm owners will express non-compliance. Please help us to avoid that point.

The collective representatives of legal firearm owners have the ability to solve most of the problems experienced. By allowing us the opportunity to bring some of the solutions in a relatively easy way, we could end up at a point where we have a single firearms administration system in RSA and where the problem of firearms with lapsed licenses is solved and illegal firearms removed from the streets. To achieve this, Mr. President, somebody with the necessary authority needs to sit down and listen to us and allow us to work with him or them to solve these matters.

“Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to say “mina thuma wena”. Please see this as a constructive attempt to play a role to make South Africa a better country for all its citizens.”

Issued by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters)

Editorial enquiries: Fred Camphor on 082 445 0498 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

General queries: Magda Naude on 082 4525 878 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.