How Would Amending The Firearms Control Act Help South Africa?

Recent gun-related incidents - one of which resulted in a prominent death - have forced South Africa to fiercely shine the spotlight on gun control.

The shooting at an ATM in Mpumalanga of ANC MP Jackson Mthembu, the fatal shooting of Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates Captain Senzo Meyiwa and a helicopter-led high-speed chase on the N1 led to a shooting as well - incidents that have forced South Africa to have frank conversations about the state of gun ownership in this country.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko has since called for the amendment of the Firearms Control Act, 2000.

The Director of Ndifuna Ukwazi, Zackie Achmat has weighed in on an IT company that was awarded a multi-million rand contract by the Police Ministry in 2003 to develop the Central Firearms Registry - a facility which would be a comprehensive database of legal gunfire owners in South Africa. Now 10 years - and R350 million later according to Achmat - this facility still doesn't exist:

The first thing to remember is that under Commissioner Jackie Selebi at the time, a register was commissioned and the company that won that tender was Waymark. The tender was meant to cost R92 million – we ended up paying more than R350 million, but they were going to charge us R450 million. They got the tender in 2003 and it was meant to be completed in 2006 – by the time the Auditor-General released the report in January last year, more than R350 million had been paid and nothing had been handed over, the project wasn’t complete. What the Auditor-General didn’t do was name the people who are responsible.

Speaking to 702's John Robbie, Achmat further named the winning IT company - Waymark Infotech - as one that's also responsible for other violations elsewhere on the continent:

Waymark has a very interesting history. Not only has it not given back the money – and I would go as far as saying I believe they’ve taken public money and run away with it – they are also on the UN ban list for companies not to do business with because they’ve rigged elections in 5 African countries.

Contract disputes notwithstanding, the much-needed database still doesn't exist. Achmat expresses his frustrations:

This contract (for the development of the Central Firearms Registry) has been under 3 police commissioners – Selebi, Cele and now Phiyega. Finally, the Commissioner (Phiyega) tells us the contract has been cancelled and that Waymark are taking them to court.

One of Waymark Infotech's directors, Hennie Meeding, later refuted Achmats claims, stating:

It’s absolutely not true, there is no UN black list for so-called vote-rigging or whatever the term is that’s generally used. We’ve read some allegations on Wikipedia that we’re blacklisted. We don’t have an direct communication from the UN or any party indicating this information.

What does Meeding make of the contract for the firearm registry?:

You are correct, we had the contract, but the SAPS suspended the contract we had. We only confirmed about a year ago that we had a contract. We are also a bit confused with that whole situation. The system is not in place, 10 years later, because the police service saw fit not to deploy parts of the system that were ready to be rolled out. A lot of changes were made in terms of the original specifications.

On the issue of the voluntary handing in of firearms, Redi Tlhabi had this to say before opening the lines:

Where do the criminals get their guns from? If you haven’t identified the source, how do you come up with a policy? If the criminals are stealing the guns from law-abiding citizens and the source is the law-abiding citizen, then sure, you’re on to something. There’d be logic in saying ‘let’s disarm the nation’, because that’s where the criminals are getting the guns. But if there’s some sophisticated cartel somewhere, some nefarious source, that has not been identified – disarming law abiding citizens is not going to close supply from that source.

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