The South African Arms and Ammunition Dealers Association (SAAADA) has once again turned to the court so that fire can be made among the police to finally have its central firearms register (SVR) digitised.
The process, design and implementation of a database that electronically connects all registered arms dealers, manufacturers, gunsmiths and importers and exporters with the police’s register should have been completed a year ago in terms of a court order. However, little progress has yet been made.
This despite the fact that the Minister of Police and the National Police Commissioner had almost four years to do this.
Jonathan Fouche, chairman of SAAADA, says their latest court application has been submitted so that the minister and chief of police can be forced to hand over all the necessary documents so that a hearing date can be set for the high court to deliver a verdict again on when the electronic system is operational. must be set.
“In every case, the minister and chief of police delayed submitting the necessary affidavits and supporting documents,” he says.
SAAADA, which campaigns for the rights of the arms trade industry, took the Minister of Police, the National Police Commissioner, the Chairman of the Firearms Appeal Board, the Appeal Board and the President to court for the first time in 2018 to force them to address the problems at delete the central firearms register.
The High Court in Pretoria ordered in 2019 that the register must be fixed within 48 months so that it can be integrated with the industry.
SAAADA has been saying since 2020 that the police are not complying with the order and at the time already submitted an application for contempt of court against the minister and police chief. The application is still pending.
The minister’s and police chief’s legal representatives applied in December last year for an extension of the deadline to have the system digitized. However, no supporting documents have been submitted indicating how much time is required to complete the process, design and implementation of the database.
“This application has not yet been pursued further by the minister’s and police chief’s legal representatives, and is therefore still pending, which further delays the implementation of the original court application.”
The services of a company that can design and install the system should have been finalized in 2020, but was only done earlier this year.
“The tender to digitize the system was only awarded in February or March this year to a company called Providence Software Solutions,” says Fouche.
It is unclear whether this tender was granted in February or March, as the tender document contains two different dates.
The tender document also does not state when the digitization process will start or be completed, simply that the tender is valid for three years at an amount of almost R300 million.
The company in question also told SAAADA that it did not know what was expected of it in terms of the successful tender.
“It is clear to SAAADA that the minister and chief of police do not want to have the central firearms register digitised, for reasons only the relevant officials know about,” says Fouche.
“Therefore, the decline in the control of weapons in the country and the registry, as well as the rampant crime that resulted from it, can be laid at the feet of the minister and police chief.”
SVR fuels gun violence
The African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (Apcof) says allegations of corruption at the central firearms register and the police unit responsible for firearms management and record keeping may be the reason why South Africa may be facing an “epidemic of violence”.
Should change not take place quickly, the country could fall into anarchy.
One of the most prominent examples where corruption prevailed in the system was when Chris Prinsloo, at the time a senior police officer in charge of firearms licenses in Gauteng, removed around 2,000 firearms from a police store that were to be destroyed.
The firearms, ammunition and licenses were sold to criminal gangs, and the weapons are linked to the murder of 1,100 people, of whom 187 are children in the Western Cape.
“Although most gun crimes are committed with illegal weapons, almost all of these weapons were once legal. This means we need to turn off the taps from which these legal weapons are leaking into the illegal pool, and this requires stricter control of legal gun stocks through effective record keeping,” says Claire Taylor, researcher at Gun Free South Africa.
Apcof agrees with Taylor’s position and says that taking into account the historical and systemic problems with the functioning of the central firearms register, the way in which firearms are managed must change.
Annelize van Wyk, vice-chairman of Apcof’s board, says South Africa is a signatory to several international and firearms-related institutions in the region. “This places a legal, political and moral obligation on the state to introduce systems to mark and track legal firearm stocks to prevent their diversion.
“There are global initiatives to support arms and ammunition management initiatives, which our government needs to explore.”
Gun Free South Africa says it is keen to meet with the police to share its research into the failure in the police service’s firearms and ammunition management system and how to tackle it, as it has meant for years people like Prinsloo have been passing off firearms undetected police stores smuggle.