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Police system for the destruction of confiscated guns i...

Defend Truth

Opinionista

Police system for the destruction of confiscated guns is leaky, inefficient and fuels Cape murders

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Reagen Allen is Western Cape Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety.

Confiscated firearms from hundreds of police stations across the country have to be transported to one central point in Pretoria. This creates challenges with the safeguarding of these weapons in terms of transportation and within a suitable time frame, as the destruction of illegal guns only occurs twice a year.

The murder rate in the Western Cape is nothing to politicise. Innocent residents die at the hands of organised criminals and gangs, worsened by the South African Police Service being in a state of free fall. It is unacceptable that communities live in fear because police resources are both inadequately allocated and managed.

Along with the general inefficient use of resources, the increase in murder and attempted murder rates in the Western Cape, as revealed again in the fourth quarter statistics, may be linked to the reckless and illegal use of firearms as well as the ineffective safeguarding of confiscated firearms and the processing of their destruction. Not much is discussed in the public space around the destruction of illegal firearms, yet it remains central to reducing the murder rate.

An investigation over the period of 2016-2018 showed that 261 children were killed or wounded by guns smuggled from the police to gangs, and for the same period these guns were used to murder more than 1,000 residents. This again emphasises the importance of overhauling the illegal firearm destruction process, which must include strong leadership, checks and balances, and adequate, on-time resourcing.

This is, however, very different from the current draconian Firearms Amendment Bill, which would remove legal firearms from responsible owners. In the absence of adequate policing, residents may quite rightly seek to defend themselves and their families, and this can — and should — include a legitimate right to responsibly bear arms.

Taking away guns entirely will not stop corrupt elements and officials from dealing in illegal guns with criminals and organised gangs. This is because several inefficiencies have been detected at the Central Firearm Registry — from the transportation of guns at station level, where they have been confiscated, to the premises for destruction. We also have to consider the outdated system to keep track of the particulars of these illegal weapons.

A SAPS reply to a parliamentary question clearly states that one of the main obstacles to the destruction of confiscated illegal firearms is that police lack additional suitable premises to store them. The revelation is quite startling: all firearms confiscated in the Western Cape need to be destroyed in Gauteng. Such gaps in the system exacerbate the problem of gangsterism, criminals’ reliance on illegal guns and the already high murder and attempted murder rates in the province.  

The process for the destruction of firearms (these are both legally surrendered firearms and those confiscated) is set out in the Firearms Control Act, Section 104 (1), where the state is obliged to destroy firearms and ammunition in adherence with requirements of the Central Firearms Registry. The registry ensures proper identification thereof in ensuring the correct firearms are indeed destroyed, under supervision with an evaluation to follow.

Moreover, the section provides that firearms are collected and surrendered at local police stations. In light of the parliamentary reply, this means that firearms need to be transported to one central point in Pretoria, from hundreds of police stations across the country. This creates challenges with the safeguarding of these guns in terms of transportation and within a suitable time frame, as the destruction of illegal guns only occurs bi-annually. 

The murder of top detective Charl Kinnear and the link made to his investigation of alleged corruption and a gun racket within the operation of the registry in Pretoria sparks greater need for intervention.  

On 1 April 2021, the SAPS celebrated the confiscation of illegal firearms, drugs and ammunition in Bishop Lavis, under Operation Lockdown II (2021). This operation involves members from other provinces temporarily deployed to clamp down on organised violent crime. The successful confiscations took place in an area where criminal activity has been festering for years, but with no meaningful change. Such change is thus possible when intervention is deliberate. Similarly, we need a deliberate intervention in the inefficiencies in the illegal firearm market, or else lockdowns like these (albeit temporary) mean very little.    

Under Operation Lockdown I (2019/20), which aimed to clamp down on violent crime in the initial problematic areas, 196 rounds of ammunition and 100 illegal firearms were confiscated in the first three months. The province at this time recorded a decrease in its murder rate. This operation lasted close to one year, when it was abruptly stopped and the murder rate has since soared.

We can thus argue that when SAPS fulfils its mandate, we do note a difference in the levels of crime. Another way which we can extend such success is to do away with the flooding of illegal guns by rectifying a clear error in the system: first, decentralise to provinces and capable sub-national governments the process to destroy illegal firearms; second, empower oversight bodies, such as provincial legislatures and councils, to monitor this process effectively; and last, ensure that such destruction takes place timeously — not just twice a year. 

As an existing intervention in this regard, and to supplement national efforts, the Western Cape government deploys law enforcement officers who have also made several successes with the confiscation of illegal firearms and ammunition. But these firearms too are subject to the unreliable destruction process. The provincial government through its safety plan builds on violence prevention measures and showcases readiness to target interventions where it matters most: to the people who have been suffering at the hands of a few notoriously well-connected criminal leaders and as a result of highly concerning errors in the system.   

If we can destroy the guns that are landing in the hands of criminals, we can move a step closer to making meaningful change. DM

Reagen Allen MPP is the DA’s Western Cape Spokesperson for Community Safety.

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  • Very well put,we have to think out the box.Putting up a play park for kids in Hanover Park is useless if the gangs take it over to sell there drugs from there the tik addicts saw the metal off to sell to scrap yards.The elephant in the room is GANGS.They have become entrenched on the cape flats and surrounding areas,forever increasing their turf ,invading south african citizens life’s with misery of drug addiction ,murders, holding whole communities hostage.A really concerted effort is needed,to break the stranglehold of these gangs,otherwise they will take over more and more territory. Will the pitiful will surface to do this,police officers with integrity need to tackle this HUGE problem, with specialized prosecutors ,courts etc.With harsh sentences.Pussyfooting this problem will not help.All the big gang leaders assets need to be confiscated.Sars must help ,specific laws must be promulgated to make it easier to stop this scourge on the western cape.Sentences must be severe.

  • The cANCer has always had a criminal connection. Pre and post 1994 they have been koeksistered with the criminals selling all kinds of dope to our children. That is why the police are instructed to co-operate with gangsters. Anything for money. To hell with the well-being of our children. cANCer continually speaks of “our people”. Stalin showed the same carelessness to his people as agent Mantashe and his Communist ilk are showing to “our people” here!

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