Remarks by Minister of Police, E N Mthethwa to members of the National Press Club on Firearms Amnesty 2010, Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria
12 Apr 2010
National Police Commissioner, General Bheki Cele;
Secretary of Police, Ms Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane;
Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer;
Chairperson of the National Press Club, Yusuf Abramjee;
Executive Members of the National Press Club;
Members of the media;
Three months back, at this platform we made a call to South Africans to surrender legal and illegal firearms as part of the Firearms Amnesty, under the theme: “Together We Can Do More Against Crime. Awulethe Umshini Wakho �" Surrender Your Firearm.”
We are here today to provide an update to the public, on how the process unfolded, where we recorded successes, the challenges we encountered and further share some our approaches going forward.
But most importantly, to express our appreciation to our members, communities, businesses, various religious and traditional fraternities, youth formations, other government departments, civil society structures, community policing forums �" for their continued partnering with the police, in fighting the scourge of crime.
In fighting crime, we also take our cue from the President’s call during this year’s State of the Nation Address; that working together with all South Africans we will intensify the fight against crime and corruption. Our aim is a transformed, integrated, modernised, properly resourced and well managed criminal justice system.
Together we must do more to fight crime. We all have a role to play in this war against crime. We must actively participate in community policing forums. We must stop buying stolen goods, which encourages crime. We must report crime and assist the police with information to catch wrongdoers. In this way, we will move forward towards a crime-free society. This work has started in earnest, and will be undertaken with new energy and vigour.
Our departure point in relation to the Firearms Amnesty, we began by putting in place an all-inclusive monitoring mechanism to monitor the implementation of the whole process. The monitoring teams did not solely comprise of police members, but involved various social partners, business and communities.
We adopted this approach because from the onset, we wanted to maintain transparency and public confidence in the process. We further wanted to ensure that we consistently provide the public with figures and where we encountered challenges, be open enough to highlight these while finding corrective measures to fix.
The monitoring teams established under the amnesty process assessed more than 240 police stations nationally and where possible, stations were visited more than once to ensure follow up on problems that had been identified during the initial visits. Both the national and provincial teams received complaints from members of the public and these complaints were addressed on a case by case basis.
Some of these unannounced visits by the monitoring teams also served in some cases as an important means of ensuring challenges were addressed. This was because stations visited were often stations that had been identified as problem stations, thus the visits served as a ‘wake-up call’ for such stations. We are also pleased to announce that this approach will continue post the amnesty period.
At the close of the Firearms Amnesty by midnight yesterday (11 April 2010), a total of 32 169 firearms had been captured in our systems at the local police stations, nationally. Of the total, 27% were illegal firearms that were surrendered. In the main, this is encouraging to note that during the amnesty period we were able to remove a large number of illegal firearms out of circulation. This augurs very well with our objective to curb the proliferation of illegal firearms in the country.
When we announced the Amnesty, certain sections within society were sceptical that illegal firearms will be surrendered, more so as we openly indicated that all legal and illegal firearms surrendered will be subjected to ballistic tests to determine whether or not they were utilised in any form of crime.
Our figures of the number of firearms voluntarily surrendered clearly point to ill-information of such statements. Our figures indicate that 53% of these were voluntary surrendered. This is most pleasing because, prior to the launch of the Amnesty, there were already doubts on whether people will surrender legal firearms.
The strategy adopted by the police was further to ensure the amnesty process was accompanied by intensified and focused police operations in the form of roadblocks and searches and seizures. Of the total firearms figure, 21% that were confiscated by the police was as a result of such operations during the amnesty period.
One of the areas largely overlooked by commentators and crime analysts during the amnesty process was the amount of ammunition recovered. By close of the amnesty last night, a total of approximately 348 083 rounds of ammunition were recovered and surrendered. These rounds are broken down as follows: 24% illegal ammunition surrendered, 52% voluntary surrendered and 24% of ammunition confiscated.
In relation to the provincial breakdown of firearms recovered during the amnesty period, Gauteng led the rest of the provinces with regard to the number of firearms recovered during the Amnesty period. This province was followed closely by the KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
These figures are encouraging given that it is these three provinces that experience the highest levels of violent crime much of which is firearm related. In addition both Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal need to be commended for the number of firearms confiscated by police operations during the amnesty. The recovery of these ammunitions is highly significant because for a firearm to become a threat it needs to be accompanied by ammunition. Therefore the amount of ammunition recovered will significantly contribute in rendering these illegal firearms still in circulation less dangerous.
We have on a number of occasions reiterated that it is not government’s stance to criminalise law-abiding citizens. That is precisely why one aspect of the amnesty was to encourage people who had missed the cut off date for the renewal of their firearms under the requirements of the Firearms Control Act an opportunity to license their firearms in compliance with this Act.
Furthermore, provision was made to accommodate people who still had licences under the old Act and assist them with licensing their firearms under the new Act. As a result of this call, almost 2 500 firearm owners utilised the Amnesty period to license their firearms under the Firearms Control Act.
Nationally the majority of firearms surrendered during the Amnesty were from licensed firearm owners who chose to voluntarily surrender their firearms. One of the provisions of the Amnesty declaration was that all illegal firearms surrendered during the Amnesty be destroyed within six months. Between January and April 2010 a number of public firearms destructions occurred and more than 109 582 firearms were destroyed.
While these firearms were not collected during this Amnesty, their public destruction indicated government’s intention to destroy firearms handed in during the amnesty. These destructions also contributed to building public confidence in that that firearms handed during the amnesty, would be dealt with effectively by the State.
We are encouraged by the contribution of our partners in the amnesty’s success: Gun Free South Africa, Crime Line, South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association and Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA) who have supported this process from inception. In particular, it was through tip-offs via Crime Line, police recovered scores of illegal firearms.
Late last year, thanks to a detailed tip-off from a member of the public, nine guns were seized and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were recovered in Heidelberg, south of Johannesburg.
We are further gratified by BACSA’s support for their participation in both national and provincial task teams responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of the flow of firearms surrendered and seized within the amnesty period. They also played a part in this important effort from the perspective of a concerted approach to reduce crime by addressing the increased availability of firearms and ammunition.
Equally, our appreciation to Gun Free South Africa who have been advocating publicly a call for a gun-free South Africa. We believe these partnerships represent a major victory in the fight against crime and take us one step closer to gun-free, fear-free South Africa.
Three months ago we made a call to the public join our war. This is a people’s war against crime. Today, we further urge and promote the spirit of commitment, partnership and zeal to succeed together. Today does not mark a final wrap of our crime-fighting operations but a reflection of what we have achieved; and a revitalisation of our energies going forward.
I thank you.
Issued by: Ministry of Police
12 April 2010
Issued by: Ministry of Police
12 Apr 2010
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