MPs want the police to modernise its firearm registry.
- MPs say they want a modernised electronic Central Firearm Registry.
- FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald also suggested a legislative amendment.
- The Portfolio Committee on Police visited the CFR on Saturday and was not impressed by the chaos it found.
MPs want a modernised Central Firearm Registry (CFR) and legislative changes after the Portfolio Committee on Police visited the facility over the weekend.
SAPS top brass, including national commissioner General Khehla Sitole, briefed the committee about huge backlogs in processing firearm licence applications and amnesties at the registry.
“The committee was not impressed by the backlogs and proposed a fully-digitised application system, instead of the current system which was found to be laborious and inefficient,” reads a statement from committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
“According to SAPS, there is a process of modernisation which is underway and that a bid has already been advertised to computerise the firearm licence application system to make it possible for citizens to renew their licences online.”
DA MP Andrew Whitfield said in a statement that the oversight visit had made it clear that the CFR was dysfunctional and could not fulfil its mandate as set out in the Firearms Control Act of 2000. It needed to “move into the 21st century with urgency and take the entire firearms application process online”, he said.
Whitfield told the committee:
Files piled up in corridors on every floor due to a lack of space, the poor use of IT systems, staff shortages, and a building which has been declared unsafe, are all contributing factors to the chaos we saw at the CFR. Staff morale is at an all-time low under these conditions, resulting in rock bottom levels of productivity.
He said police had revealed that amnesty applications were placed on top of one another on the floor as they arrived.
“This results in amnesty applications submitted at the beginning of an amnesty, sitting at the bottom of thousands of pieces of paper. Therefore, if you were one of the first amnesty applicants, your application is likely to be one of the last to be processed.”
He recalled that the police had informed the committee in February 2021 that only 4% – or 2 059 – of the 50 962 applications received during the 2019–2020 amnesty period had been finalised. Of those received during the 2020-2021 amnesty, only 0.92% – or 280 – of the 30 356 had been completed.
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“Thousands of South Africans waiting for their firearm licences are left vulnerable by the failures of the CFR. This is unacceptable,” Whitfield said.
He said he would write to Joemat-Pettersson, asking for the CFR to present its turnaround plan to Parliament as a matter of urgency.
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald described the CFR as “chaotic and disorderly”, adding this was why progress in finalising firearm licence applications and competency certificates had ground to a halt.
“There does not seem to be enough space to keep the large number of forms, and there is no sign of any functional filing system either. Should an individual lodge a query about his or her documentation, it would be a tedious, if not impossible, task to locate the forms in question,” he said in a statement.
“The problem is exacerbated by the facility as well. It is unsafe and inadequate. There is a lack of proper maintenance, and there seems to be a structural problem with the building as the walls are cracking, which poses a serious safety risk. Truth be told, the building should be evacuated.”
Groenewald added that, when the new firearms legislation was implemented, he had warned that it would place a heavy administrative burden on the police.
He said the legislation should be amended.
“At present, there is too much administrative red tape related to firearm licensing. Firearms should be licensed only once, and there is no need to renew the said licence every five years. The same applies to competency certificates.”
He, too, called for a proper electronic system.
Another possible solution would be to privatise the whole system, Groenewald said.
“The matter calls for urgent attention. The police service is letting all firearm owners and traders down, seeing as an essential service that must be provided to the public is currently not being provided.”