The South African Government cannot account for literally thousands of weapons that were issued to state departments and homelands before the 1994 elections.

In an answer to a written question put to the Minister of Safety and Security, Steve Tshwete, revealed that only 4 % (4% of an unknown figure?) of the SANDF firearms are registered in the Central Firearms Register. (Answer attached).  He further continues to say that proof exists that literally tens of thousands of firearms issued to the previous SANDF and the forces of the 11 homelands have duplicate or triplicate numbers.  The Minister states: "This means that there may be up to three firearms with exactly the same description, calibre, make, model and the same serial number..."

In simple terms that means that literally thousands of state owned firearms can be roaming the streets, used in acts of crime and the police will have no way to trace it.  In fact, it increases the possibility of undetected theft of firearms as well as making it virtually impossible to investigate. With this in mind, the weapon thefts that occur at various SANDF bases must be seen in a far more serious light than what we were led to belief.

The Auditing process has primarily focussed on the SANDF, SAPS, Home Affairs and Correctional Services.  North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng are the Provinces that were focused on.  This leaves a vast number of Government organs as well as Provinces yet un-audited.

The absence of reference to the National Intelligence Agency and detail regarding the state of affairs in the SAPS as well as the other five Provinces are of great concern.

There is no indication of the state of Local Government firearms, merely a reference to the complications envisaged with this process after the demarcation process.  It has been a Constitutionally known fact that Municipal boundaries will change - Why did the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) not plan, prioritises and scheduled their actions accordingly.

From the little progress that was made by the JIT, it is clear that the whole process needs a rethink.  The little that was achieved to date and the low number of voluntary handing in of weapons makes it obvious to any observer that the current strategy is not working, that it needs a rethink and some serious effort, including more human and financial resources.

The Minister claims that the work of the JIT and the new Firearms Control Bill is not directly linked.  The UDM argues otherwise; if illegal firearms are a serious concern to the Government then they should do whatever is necessary to rectify this situation.  Its own house should first be put in order, with the current situation Government becomes directly responsible for the influx of "illegal firearms", not from across our borders, but from
within our own State Departments.  If the JIT does not get the required co-operation from State Departments and Provincial governments then the President needs to step in and issue a directive ordering Departments to co-operate.

The existing state of affairs clearly adds to the perception that Government is clamping down unreasonably on legal gun owners, whilst it is itself a far more irresponsible gun owner.  The UDM supports fight against the proliferation of firearms in South and Southern Africa but, we have said so before and we say so again: Government should lead by example.

Annelizé van Wyk
Acting Secretary General, UDM

28 March 2000