Pallament. Bothma; "rush for accreditation" LOL.

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Pallament. Bothma; "rush for accreditation" LOL.

Postby Martin_tu » Sun, 2006-03-12 15:11

SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE 8 September 2004
IMPLEMENTATION OF FIREARMS CONTROL ACT: SAPS REGIONAL COMMISSIONERS' BRIEFING

Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)

Relevant document
Firearms Control Amendment Act of 2003
Firearms Control Act Regulations of 2004
Presentation on Firearms Strategy
Presentation on National Implementation Status of Firearms Act - Part 1
Presentation on National Implementation Status of Firearms Act - Part 2
Presentation on Communication of Firearms Act

SUMMARY

The SAPS presentation on the implementation of the Firearms Control Act outlined the SAPS firearm strategy, the mandate for the implementation, implementation principles and structure and the phases of implementation. The seven provincial briefings on the implementation of the Act were presented by the Provincial Commissioners. Each outlined the provincial profile, an overview of firearm ownership in each province, the impact of the legislation, the resources allocated to the implementation process and the training provided to SAPS members.

During the discussion, the SAPS had to provide answers to the following matters raised by Members:
· exact number of firearm licence applications that were refused, the main reasons for the refusals and how this was communicated to the applicant.
· whether the provinces had sufficient vehicles available for the implementation of the Act,
· a gender, demographic and hierarchical breakdown of each of the provinces' personnel component,
· how communication flowed between the province and the national department and between the station and the provincial and national departments,
· how many stations have been trained on the implementation of the Act and whether the training has enabled each province to implement the legislation more effectively.
· total number of licenced firearm owners and licenced firearms,
· whether the problems with the policing of the Lesotho/Eastern Cape border for drug trafficking and theft of stock had been resolved,
· whether the racism incident in the Northern Cape province has since been resolved and
· the shootings that took place in the Free State province this week.

The SAPS concluded with a national implementation status overview. This provided statistics on firearm ownership and firearm applications, resources allocated to the implementation of the Act, training provided to SAPS members, requirements and procedure to be followed in receiving a firearm licence, the transitional provisions, the aims and successes of Operation Sethunya and the communication strategy for the Act.

During the discussion on the presentation Members asked the national Department to fill in the gaps left by the provinces with regard to the accredited training institutions and shooting ranges, reasons were sought as to massive numbers of licences have been refused, whether the appeal board was functional at the moment, the role of POLSEC Sector Education and Training Authority in the issue the competency certificate, its efforts to ensure that police stations under its jurisdiction lived up to Batho Pele principles and clarity was sought on the supporting documentation needed to apply for a firearm licence.

MINUTES
Introduction by Chairperson
The Chair stated that she hoped that the Provincial Commissioner structure within SAPS would become more gender representative in the near future, as the current structure was all male. The Gauteng and Western Cape provinces will not be presenting today because the Committee has just returned from an oversight visit to those two provinces to assess the implementation of the Firearms Control Act (the Act).

Introduction by Divisional Commissioner
Divisional Commissioner Mr M Makhubela stated that the briefing by Director J Bothma, SAPS Head: Central Firearms Register, from the national Department would deal with the strategic overview of the implementation plan, the legal mandate of the implementation, the implementation concept and overview, the national implementation status and the communication of the Act and its implementation. The seven Provincial Commissioners would then provide their feedback. The Chair agreed.

Presentation on Implementation of Firearms Control Legislation
Dir Bothma conducted the presentation (document attached) which outlined the SAPS firearm strategy, the mandate for the implementation, implementation principles and structure and the phases of implementation.

The Chair stated that the seven provinces present today had a slight advantage over the two provinces visited by the Committee because those present today were informed of exactly what the Committee wanted to discuss today, whereas the Gauteng and Western Cape provinces had to prepare themselves for any matters Members chose to discuss. The presentations produced today did not cover all matters the Committee wished to raise, but Members will pose questions to the provincial commissioners present today which they noted during their oversight visit to the two provinces.

Dir Bothma replied that all the considerations of the applications took place at a national level in terms of the Arms and Ammunitions Act, and not at the provinces. Applicants would submit documentation was to the Central Firearms Registry (CFR). He stated that all the figures per province could be provided to the Committee at the end of the meeting.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked Provincial Commissioner Ngidi to elaborate on the 9574 re-issued firearm licences over the last 6 years.

Dir Bothma responded that "re-issue" here referred to the card licences, and cases in which the licence itself was lost or stolen.

Mr M Booi (ANC) stated that the expectation was that the presentation would provide accurate and detailed figures on the state of things in Kwazulu-Natal, yet it was surprising that the Kwazulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner himself could not provide these figures. He questioned whether this meant that the Provincial Commissioner did not know what was going on in his own province.

Dir Bothma responded that the figures for the number of licences approved in 2001 amounted to 156 191.

The Chair stated that the exact figures could be provided by the national department at the end of the meeting during its presentation.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) asked whether the previous Act allowed for the renewal of firearm licences.

Dir Bothma replied that in the past under the Arms and Ammunition Act people would apply once-off and they would then be the owner of the firearm for a lifetime, unless the firearm was destroyed or exported. The new Act introduced a renewal process every 2, 5 and 10 years.

Mr Maziya stated that the presentation did not reflect the structure at station level, as Members were more interested in that breakdown.

Mr R Jankielsohn (DA) asked whether the 60 vehicles available for the implementation of the Act were sufficient to deal with the 120 832 renewals.

Provincial Commissioner Ngidi replied that they were not sufficient at the moment. Police stations have been clustered into groups and the vehicles have been allocated to those clusters, and not to each station. The exact breakdown of figures could be provided to Members.

Mr Jankielsohn stated that a Special Assignment report indicated that many of the illegal firearms in South Africa entered via its borders, and asked the Provincial Commissioners to explain the measures in place to prevent this influx.

Provincial Commissioner Ngidi responded that Dir Bothma alluded to Operation Sethunya in his presentation, which was divided into two phases: the first was the collection of illegal firearms, which related specifically to firearms that entered the province and which circulated within the province. Kwazulu-Natal has recovered in excess of 9 000 illegal firearms since the implementation of Operation Sethunya. Most of the firearms entered the province through the borders.

Mr Jankielsohn stated that this dealt with the symptoms but not the case of the problem, which was that South African borders were porous at the moment. The SAPS was conducting border-line control and those firearms were thus crossing the border into South Africa.

Ms Nhlengethwa stated that it was reported that firearms were entering South Africa via the Kwazulu-Natal/Lesotho border by trading them for marijuana

The Chair stated that this was a broader issue and perhaps those responsible for border security should be called to address this Committee at some stage.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela responded to these questions by stating that the border line was currently being patrolled by the Divisional Commissioner: Operational Response, and would be able to provide exact figures.

The Chair stated that Provincial Commissioner Ngidi appeared to contradict statements made by the national department about the establishment of the implementation infrastructure, and it was for this reason that the Committee was able to paint a more accurate picture of the situation when they conducted oversight visits.

Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) stated that it was reported that Kwazulu-Natal was in possession of many man-made firearms, and asked Provincial Commissioner Ngidi to indicate how made of those have been confiscated.

Provincial Commissioner Ngidi replied that 490 man-made firearms have been confiscated.

Ms Nhlengethwa stated that the presentation indicated that 209 483 firearm owners had renewed their licences yet there were 355 234 firearms in circulation in Kwazulu-Natal. She sought clarity on the 145 751 firearms which could not allocated to a specific owner.

Provincial Commissioner Ngidi replied that it must be noted that few people have more than one licence to possess firearms, and thus the 355 234 would not tie in with the number 209 483 firearm owners. There would always be more licences than the people who actually hold the licences.

Mr O Monareng (ANC) questioned the intention of this exercise because the figures provided by the presentation did not address the extent to which the new legislation was implemented. The presentation merely provided the average number of licences over the last 6 years, but gave no indication of the situation since the implementation of the Act on 1 July 2004.

Secondly, Mr Monareng stated that the data was centralised at the national department and, as suggested earlier by Mr Booi, could result in provincial commissioners not knowing what was happening in their provinces.

The Chair disagreed. The new Act was implemented in 3 phases, as indicated in the presentation by Dir Bothma, and the presentations provided information on that exactly. The only difference was that the Committee went to individual police stations during its oversight visits to the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces, and did not end its enquiry at the provincial level. She reiterated that Members were free to pose any questions to the Provincial Commissioner

Mr Booi requested Provincial Commissioner Ngidi to indicate the exact number of appeals against refusal to grant firearm licences that have taken place in Kwazulu-Natal, the station at which it was lodged and what the status of those appeals were.

Provincial Commissioner Ngodi replied that the applications were done at station level, were then punched into the system and the decision would be taken at national level. Kwazulu-Natal experienced problems with people whose applications had been refusal and who then bypass the station and proceeded to lodge the appeal at national level. The station commissioner would then be pushed to issue the licence to that person despite his objections to recommending the approval of the licence in the first place. This was however cured by the Act which required the station to be informed when an appeal was lodged. He stated that he unfortunately did not have the figures on the exact amount of people who have appealed.

Mr Ndlovu requested Provincial Commissioner Ngidi to provide a gender, demographic and hierarchical breakdown of the 17 081 personnel.

Provincial Commissioner Ngidi responded that 6 of the 7 areas within Kwazulu-Natal were headed by male incumbents, and one area was currently vacant. He stated that his office had 4 deputies all of whom were male, 15 component heads 2 of which were female. The number of officers in the province amounted to approximately 250 of which 60 were female, and there were a total of about 1 400 female officers out of the total 17 081 Kwazulu-Natal personnel.

Ms Nhlengethwa sought clarity on the 2 licence printers used by the Kwazulu-Natal province, as she was under the impression that all applications were dealt with at national level.

Provincial Commissioner Ngodi replied that he was informed by the national department that one printer was capable of generating more than one million licences, and thus the two printers were sufficient to service a province such as Kwazulu-Natal. The printers were used to print licences, but for now the licences were being issued at national level as that competence has not been delegated to the provincial level.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela replied that under the old Act all licences were printed from the national office. Yet the new Act stipulated that only new applications licences would be printed only at national levels, and all the renewals would be printed at provincial levels. This structure was aimed both at expediting the process and at improving service delivery.

The Chair stated that it was thus clear that the printers at provincial level were being used.

Mr Ndlovu stated that the seven Provicial presentations were identical (therefore deleted from this article -M-tu) and questioned whether this exercise was not a waste of time because Members were not really getting the information they needed.

The Chair agreed that the presentations were identical. The only blunder was inviting the national department to be part of this meeting (Only blunder?! M-tu) because they consulted the seven provinces and told them what to do. It was for this reason that the Committee got exactly what it wanted when it visited the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces, because the national department was not involved. The result was the Members would today be asking the same questions to each of the seven provinces. The only way forward would be to skip the individual presentations by the remaining five provinces, and to delve directly into questions which Members would then pose to specific provinces.

Mr Ndlovu requested Provincial Commissioner Beetha to provide a gender, demographic and hierarchical breakdown of the 7 666 personnel.

Provincial Commissioner Beetha replied that the provincial office consisted of 3 deputies who were all males. One of the 3 area commissioners was female, one of the provincial heads of components was female, one of the deputy area commissioners was female and at station level one director was female. He stated that he did not have the figures on the Superintendents and Captains.

Mr Maziya stated that the presentation indicated that the North West has 27 firearm work stations but also has 33 vehicles allocated to those stations, and asked how each vehicle would be distributed. He also sought clarity on the composition of the station structure.

Provincial Commissioner Beetha responded that each station has been allocated a vehicle, vehicles were allocated both at area and provincial level. A vehicle was also allocation to stations at which more than one person has been trained.

Mr Maziya asked whether Provincial Commissioner Beetha stated that each station has only 1 person to deal with firearms.

Provincial Commissioner Beetha replied that more than one person at a station was trained in this regard.

Mr Maziya stated that the Gauteng and Western Cape provinces informed the Committee that each station was supposed to have more than 3 vehicles and even indicated how each vehicle was allocated, and thus Provincial Commissioner Beetha's response was not adequate.

Mr Ndlovu asked whether the North West had sufficient personnel and vehicles, wherever they were posted.

Mr Booi sought clarity on how communication flowed between the province and the national department, and between the station and the provincial and national departments.

Provincial Commissioner Beetha replied that an instruction was usually issued by the national or provincial office, which would in turn be communicated to the areas and then to the stations. The communication chain would then work in reverse should the station structure wish to communicate.

Mr Booi asked Provincial Commissioner Beetha to indicate how the licence refusals were dealt with, and how they were communicated to the applicant.

Provincial Commissioner Beetha responded that he did not have the exact numbers on the number of appeals received by his province. Appeals were sent through the station which were then channelled to the national office and, as stated earlier by Provincial Commissioner Ngidi, there were cases in which applicant appealed directly to the national office, but he did not have exact figures on this.

Mr Jankielsohn stated that the accredited training institutions and the shooting ranges within each province were very important to the implementation of the Act, yet he received information last month that most of the provinces did not have accredited training institutions. He requested each province to provide details on this.

The Chair agreed that this information was critical.

Provincial Commissioner Beetha replied that there was no accredited shooting range to date in the North West province, there was only one accredited trainer which was located in Brits.

Mr Booi stated that the Chairperson allowed the Provincial Commissioners to be protected by the national officials present today, and on occasion by the Chairperson herself. The Provincial Commissioners should be allowed to answer the questions because Members want to gauge the capacity of the service which was reflected in the manner in which they answered the questions posed. Indications given by the Provincial Commissioners suggested that the situation was the same in each of the provinces, but surely this cannot be the case.

The Chair responded that Members were wrong if they thought she sought to protect SAPS, it did not fall within her duties. Her responsibility was to act as chairperson of the Committee and as such she would do what was expected of her, and she will not be told what line to take. Members must pose their questions to the SAPS members present today and not to the Chairperson.

Mr Xolo sought clarity on the figures on the total number of licenced firearm owners and the figure on the total number of licenced firearms, as indicated in the presentation.

National Overview

The presentation on the national overview (document attached) outlined the national profile, the overview of firearm ownership in South Africa, the impact of the new Act, the resources allocated to the implementation of the Act, training provided to SAPS members, requirements and procedure to be followed in receiving a firearm licence, the transitional provisions, the aims and successes of Operation Sethunya and the communication strategy for the Act.

Discussion
Mr Maziya stated that the statistics on dealers, gunsmiths and manufacturers provided by the provincial presentations did not accord with the figures in the national overview presentation. He asked where the 19 manufacturers indicated in the national overview presentation were situated, because none of the provincial presentations indicated that they had manufacturers.

Dir Bothma replied that the 19 was the total figure inclusive of Gauteng and the Western Cape. There were 171 dealers in Gauteng and 82 in the Western Cape, and the majority of the manufacturers were situated in Gauteng. .

Mr Maziya stated that the presentation indicated that 40 competency certificates were received during July 2004 yet only 3 were approved, and sought clarity on the status of the remaining 37 certificates. Furthermore 88 certificates were received during August 2004 yet not one was refused nor approved.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela responded that "approved" here meant that only 3 applications were approved and all the rest were still being considered.

Mr Jankielsohn asked the national Department to fill in the gaps left by the provinces with regard to the accredited training institutions and shooting ranges.

Dir Bothma replied that it was of utmost importance to SAPS that it performed proper accreditation exercises. The reason for this was that accreditation was a once-off exercise, and was not a regular or continuous exercise like the periodic renewal of firearm licences. The presentation indicated that national Department has already received 67 applications for accreditation of shooting ranges. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABC) first had to certify the range before SAPS could approve it, and the same applied to the training providers who first had to be accredited by the POLSEC SITA. This was aimed at fast-tracking the entire process.

Training providers were established in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and the Western Cape. The Act allows an individual to approach any training provider to obtain a training certificate, and they were not limited to a specific area.

Mr Jankielsohn asked the national Department to explain what was different this year from previous years with regard to the motivation given for refusal of firearm licenses, and why masses amounts of licences have been refused.

Dir Bothma replied that there was an increase in the refusal of licences because, in the Hamilton case, SAPS was clearly told of the need to be very strict and must make certain before issuing a licence or it would be held civilly liable. Since the beginning of 2003 SAPS has thus run background evaluations on all firearm licence applicants. In the past a single superintendent considered the applications, but now consideration boards have been established. It was impossible for SAPS to indicate how many were refused and what the exact reasons were because it focused on the merits of each case, and the reasons differed from case to case.

Mr Jankielsohn expressed his disagreement with Dir Bothma's statement that reasons could not be provided for refusals

Dir Bothma replied that Regulation 89 obliged SAPS to provide reasons. The refusal reasons were submitted to the applicant himself and not to the police at the firearm station, and the station would merely be informed of the refusal.

Mt Jankielsohn sought clarity on the rationale behind the requirements imposed for hunting licences, especially the "occasional hunter".

Dir Bothma responded that the Act was clear in defining it as a person who from time to time participated in hunting or sports shooting. That person would thus have to provide supporting documentation as motivation.

Mr Jankielsohn asked whether the appeal board was functional at the moment.

Dir Bothma responded that if a person appealed to the appeal board in terms of the Act and the Firearms and Ammunitions Act, the administrative processes contained in Regulations 90 and 91. It stated clearly that a person appealed to the appeal board and not to SAPS. The Provincial Commissioners assisted applicants at the nearest firearm station and then posted the appeal to the appeal board.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela added that the delay was due to the inability to find the proper person to head the appeal board, and it was currently in operation.

Mr Jankielsohn sought clarity on the role of POLSEC SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) in the process, and whether it would issue the competency certificate.

Mr Hennie Richards, CEO: POLSEC SETA, replied that it was a public entity registered under the Skills Development Act, acted as an education and training quality assurer in terms of the South African Qualifications Authority Act and acted in support of SAPS in the roll out of the Act. He stated that POLSEC SETA did not have a problem with its software. It took a decision to eliminate the number of number of individuals that had to deal with the application for certificates of proficiency. The decision was taken to follow the electronic route and a new software programme was funded which would be made available to all training providers free of charge who were accredited with POLSEC SETA. The data would be inputed at the source, it would show up on the database in Johannesburg and the certificate would then be provided electronically.

With regard to the accreditation of training providers, POLSEC SETA has experienced the same problem in that very few training providers came forward to POLSEC SETA for accreditation from Oct 2003 to June 2004. Over 30 workshops were held nationwide in every province, together with SAPS, and the numbers varied from the lowest of 12 to a maximum of 210. Despite this communication there was a very slow response. It was only after 1 July that they came forward. POLSEC SETA was currently accrediting at a rate of about 10 every fortnight, and has accredited a total of 63 firearm training providers. The accreditation criteria were completely different to the SAPS criteria as POLSEC SETA did not look at fingerprints or criminal records but merely assessed the ability to act as a proper training provider and whether they complied with the SAQA requirements to actually train and declare a person competent.

POLSEC SETA was co-operating with SAPS in the ongoing training of DFO's, and the training material currently being written by one of their colleges was being accredited by POLSEC SETA. It was also funding the funding of the registration of over 30 assessors that would assess whether the instructors were competent to provide the training to the DFO's.

Mr Xolo asked national office to explain the steps it has taken to assist the Provincial Commissioner to stamp out racism in the provincial structures.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela replied that the Department would investigate the case docket, continue with the Departmental trial which could lead to suspension or even dismissal, this would all take place before the criminal case was instituted.

Mr Xolo stated that Divisional Commissioner Makhubela was being evasive, as he sought precise information on what has happened to those who have not been promoted, efforts to protect those who need protection and to fire those who were supposed to be fired.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela responded that this matter would be referred to the career management and training unit, which would be able to better answer the matter.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) stated that the communities were of the view that the new Act was taking guns away from licenced owners, but did not affect the illegal firearm owners. He asked national Department to explain how this reflected the principles of Batho Pele because government's actual intention behind this practice was not made clear.

The Chair stated that the national Department did not have to reply to this question, but first had to follow up and reply at a later date.

Mr Ntuli sought clarity on the national Department's efforts to ensure that police stations under its jurisdiction lived up to Batho Pele principles.

Divisional Commissioner Makhubela responded that a task team consisting of different divisional commissioners were tasked with checking the level of service delivery in terms of the Batho Pele document. This was thus being monitored.

Mr Booi sought clarity on the extent of the communication between the national and provincial structures.

Dir Bothma replied that the national and provincial structures were linked via network connectivity, but this was a learning process.

Director M Mbambalala, Head: Communications of Firearm Legislation, referred Members to the the portion of the presentation that dealt with the communication of the Act. She added that communication of the Act extended down to grassroots level. All communication efforts that took place at national level also took place at provincial level, and this ensured a uniform approach.

Mr Booi asked whether the provincial departments had sufficient resources to properly implement the Act.

Dir Bothma responded that Regulation 92 stipulated that each individual could apply for compensation and each case would be considered, but each case would be investigated on its own merits.

Mr Booi sought clarity on the national Department's impact study, especially the figures on the refusals and renewals of licences in each province.

Dir Bothma replied that in the past licences were not renewed in South Africa, with the result that there were over 200 000 firearms that belonged to deceased persons. The Act introduced a renewal process which assessed whether the individual needed the firearm and, secondly, whether they were fit and proper to operate the firearm. The renewal process would take place entirely at provincial level. SAPS used the 6 year period and set that target to devise a planning and implementation strategy in place, and utilised the statistics over the last 6 years.

Mr Booi sought clarity on the meaning of the category "additional licences" in the presentation, as that category did not exist in the Act.

Dir Bothma added that this was stipulated in Section 12 of the Act.

Mr Mahote asked how many vehicles were supposed to be allocated to firearm stations, because there was great inconsistency in the provincial presentations.

Secondly, Mr Mahote asked whether people have come forward voluntarily to hand over their firearms, and what the incentives were to do so.

Dir Bothma responded that there was a positive response from the community with regard to the voluntary surrender of firearms, and the information can be provided after the meeting.

Mr Maziya sought clarity on the supporting documentation needed to apply for a firearm licence.

Secondly, Mr Maziya stated that the presentation indicated that there were many pending cases in the application statistics, yet there were many zero's under the refusal statistics. This created a problem because the community viewed the pace at which the licences were finalised was far too slow.

Dir Bothma replied to these two questions by stating that in the past documentation was submitted to the Central Firearms Registry (CFR) which would then work through the documentation. The current dispensation required the capturing of this information to take place ad police station level, thereafter the Designated Firearms Officer (DFO) would be responsible for conducting a background evaluation. Thus the figures indicated in the presentation were those applications that were already in the process of being considered. There was a rush for accreditation after 1 July 2004 and thus the majority of the applications were lodged after that date. The same applied to the competency certificates.

The meeting was adjourned.
"I'd rather have a gun and not need it than vice versa."
Martin_tu
 
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