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Ms Annelizé Van Wyk to ask the Minister for Safety and Security:

Whether any progress has been made with the audit of arms and ammunition of state departments and state organs that was ordered by his predecessor in 1998; if not why not; if so, (a) what progress, (b) in light of the finalisation of the Firearms Control Bill, what additional resources will be required for the completion of this audit and (c) when will (i) this audit be completed and (ii) the final report on this audit be tabled in Parliament?


(a)        Yes.

My department identified the specific need for an audit of this nature and therefore my predecessor, together with the Minister of Defence, appointed a special task group consisting of members of the South African Police Service and of the South African National Defence Force in March 1996. In July 1997 Ms Sheena Duncan was appointed as civilian facilitator to the team to assist in facilitating good relationships with the relevant MEC’s in the Provinces and their administrative structures, as well as the Local Government associations.

This task group, the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), has the mandate to investigate firearms records of state departments at all levels, including the governments of the former homelands, and local authorities; and to look for and recover firearms which are missing or have been illegally retained or hidden in arms caches by these structures.

This has turned out to be an investigation of massive proportions. The reality of the situation is that the Central Firearms Register only has records of 4% of all stock previously issued to the now SANDF. The JIT reported to the Ministry in October 1998, that proof exists that literally tens of thousands of firearms previously issued to the previous SANDF and the forces of the 11 homelands have duplicate or triplicate numbers. This means that there may be up to three firearms with exactly the same description, calibre, make, model and the same serial number thereby making it extremely difficult to establish proof of current custody of the firearms.

Excessive stock is being carried in SANDF strong rooms and positive steps are being taken to destroy surplus stock. Preparations to commence with Operation Mouflon, whereby 260 000 firearms will be destroyed, have reached a final stage with financial assistance from the Norwegian government.

The National Commissioner of the South African Police Service has instructed that all redundant and obsolete firearms in SAPS stock must be cleared from all SAPS strong rooms countrywide in order to be destroyed.

The focus of the audit at the national level has been on the SANDF, SAPS, Home Affairs and Correctional Services, but some other departments such as Land Affairs have also co-operated willingly.

The auditing of firearms in four of the nine provinces - North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng is almost finalised. These provinces were chosen to start with because the first three include former homelands which had considerable numbers of firearms in the possession of the agencies of their governments. Gauteng was included as a priority because of the very high rate of firearms- related crime in that Province.

The voluntary handing in of firearms resulted in a delay in the audit process. The following firearms and ammunition was voluntarily handed in during 1999

Gauteng Provincial Government

986 firearms

Department of Land Affairs

83 firearms & 20 000
rounds of ammunition

Government Communications (GCIS)

40 firearms

(b)        The Firearms Control Bill will not directly affect the work of JIT, except to make it desirable that the audit be completed as soon as possible. The JIT is under-staffed at the moment and requires more personnel from the SAPS. This issue is being addressed within the confines of other budgetary priorities.

(c)(i)&(ii) It is difficult to make a prediction exactly when the audit will be completed. It has been difficult to trace the firearms owned by now defunct government departments such as Bantu Administration and homeland administrations, as well as those distributed to different agencies in the past, without any proper records having being kept. Added complications have been examples of departments such as Land Affairs which is a national department, but where there are also separate departments of Land Affairs in the Provinces, as well as offices of the national department in the provinces. The new municipalities to be created following the demarcation process will also cause some difficulties in the audit due to the reallocation of responsibilities for firearms control from several local authorities to one new one.

I have also take note of the draft resolution introduced by the Honourable Member to the House in this regard on 1 March 2000. Most of the issues raised in the resolution have been dealt with in my response. I am also satisfied that the work of the JIT is being expedited, given the myriad of obstacles facing the Team as described above. Once the investigation has been completed, the JIT will be providing me with a final report, as well as making certain recommendations, which I will then consider.

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