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Outdoor Investment Holdings — the country’s largest importer, wholesaler and retailer of firearms and ammunition — welcomes the decision taken by government to hold back the Firearms Control Amendment Bill and pursue other legislative priorities instead. This commendable decision was proposed by the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police in a meeting yesterday.
However, it must be recognised that the Bill has not yet been withdrawn, We call on Minister of Police Bheki Cele to go one step further, and formally remove the Bill from Parliament.
The Bill's deletion of sections 13 and 14 of the Firearms Control Act will make it illegal to possess a firearm for self-defence. Its amendment to s 91(2) of the Act, imposing severe limitations on private security providers’ ability to possess ammunition, will render the private security industry effectively unable to use force to fight violent crime. It also imposes dramatic limitations on hunting and sports shooting licences, which would bring the entire South African hunting industry to an end.
The Committee recognised that the Bill had created significant public controversy. Over 118 000 comments were received on the Bill during the public participation period, the majority of which opposed the Bill’s enactment. The Committee also recognised that portions of the Bill were potentially constitutionally problematic, referring large swathes of the legislation to the State Law Advisor for legal investigation.
It has been our view from the outset that the Bill’s provisions would unjustifiably infringe on South Africans’ fundamental rights to life and security of the person. Moreover, it would have dire consequences for the economy through the loss of the hunting industry, which pumps R12 billion into the South African economy per year, mostly from foreign tourists. This would lead to the loss of 176 000 jobs, and eliminate the economic driving forces of wildlife conservation in South Africa.
We would like to thank the various parties who were unrelentless in their opposition to the Bill, including diverse stakeholders in civil society, conservation, industry, the hunting and shooting fraternity, and safety and security activism. This concerted effort, we believe, has helped government to make the right decision in this case. We hope that they will continue to be vocal in their opposition to the Bill, and join us in calling for its withdrawal.
Minister Cele must act responsibly and abandon this legislation, before South Africans are left powerless to protect themselves against the rising tide of murder, rape, robbery, and violent unrest.
According to statistics published by the Minister last week, 6 163 people were murdered in South Africa between July and September this year, at a rate of 68 people per day. This included 897 women and 287 children. 9 556 people were raped in the same period, an increase in 7.1% on the previous quarter. A staggering 72 762 cases of common assault and assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm were opened with SAPS in those three months, not to mention the thousands of cases that went unreported.
National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole told the South African Human Rights Commission this week that SAPS’s human capital is severely strained. According to him, the SAPS’s Public Order Policing is understaffed, with only 5 005 members nationwide out of an ideal 12 000. Not only do similar shortcomings exist throughout the departments and units of the police service, but they are likely to intensify with billions in budget cuts planned for the next three years.
Such is SAPS’s incapacity to prevent and investigate crime that South Africans (rich and poor) have become heavily reliant on private security for safety and security. Data published last week shows that actively employed private security officers now outnumber SAPS officers by 4:1. Even those who don’t personally employ private security indirectly rely on their services, which include guarding banks, shopping centres and hospitals, escorting goods and cash, and assisting the police with arrests. Without private security, South Africa’s crime situation would be even worse than it currently is — a possibility that should concern every South African.
The Bill will leave South Africans solely reliant on an ailing police service which has no clear plan to improve, without the ability to protect themselves with firearms or contract with private security to do so. In the face of rampant violent crime statistics, taking away South Africans’ only effective form of protection is unconscionable.
A responsible government would withdraw the Bill immediately and focus its attention on increasing — instead of destroying — safety and security for vulnerable South Africans.
Issued by Outdoor Investment Holdings