| 28 September 2011
MEDIA RELEASE BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN HUNTERS AND GAME CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION
DATE: 28 SEPTEMBER 2011
Dangerous Weapons Bill can widen rift between law abiding public and SAPS
The Draft Dangerous Weapons Bill is flawed and rife with ambiguities and confusing definitions. It also seems to contradict important aspects regarding an individual’s rights as entrenched in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.
These are some of the conclusions made by the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SAHGCA) after studying the Draft Dangerous Weapons Bill published for comment in the Government Gazette on 2 September.
SAHGCA’s Manager, Hunting and Conservation , Dr Herman Els, said the Association examined the Draft Bill carefully, but remained puzzled by the need for additional legislation when the current Firearms Control Act (Act 60 of 2000) and existing common law and criminal procedures seem more than adequate to deal with cases where dangerous weapons have been used in any threatening manner.
`In principle we support the need for legislation regarding the threatening use of dangerous weapons, but the proposed legislation that claims to be all inclusive, seems to be unconstitutional and very difficult to police. The Draft Dangerous Weapons Bill, if passed in its current format, has the potential to cause serious misunderstandings that may bring about an even wider rift between the law abiding public and the SAPS,’ Els warned.
SAHGCA is particularly disappointed that certain political parties supported this Bill, which has the potential of rendering a person that is caught carrying a can of pepper spray in his/her pocket for self-defence purposes, guilty of a criminal offence. Self-defence is not regarded as an acceptable reason for carrying an object that falls within the scope of this Bill.
`If the intention of this Bill is to address violent crime in South Africa realistically and practically, then the discretion given to the Minister to declare “...any object belonging to a class, type, kind or category or object which, in the opinion of the Minister, is a dangerous weapon and which is specified in such notice”, is too wide and needs clearer description as to which object(s) may constitute such a dangerous weapon,’ Els said.
The SA Hunters’ submission on the Draft Bill raises the following concerns:
- Disregard for a person’s right to remain silent when accosted by a police officer for alleged criminal activity:
- Contradiction of constitutional rights such as the rights of privacy (Section 14), rights of assembly (Sections 17 and 18), political rights (Section 19), and access to courts and rights for arrested, detained and accused persons (Sections 34 and 35);
- Undefined discretion and the absence of clear guidelines for police officers to determine if the item in question is dangerous and if the person has any intent to use it, and;
- Complicated and confusing wording of the Bill which makes it very difficult to understand; and
- Inconsistency or ambiguity in definitions in the Draft Bill that contradicts definitions included in the Firearms Control Act (Act 60 of 2000).
One of the many confusing descriptions in the Draft Bill is the reference to an airgun as a dangerous weapon. A person who does not really understand airguns and calibre differences of airguns, will not be able to make a correct distinction between the airguns that are categorised as firearms and those that are not. Therefore, police officials can easily make the wrong deductions with disastrous consequences.
Els says it is difficult to comment on any form of proposed legislation without knowing what the Regulations in terms of that legislation stipulate. `The comments that are made in respect of the Draft Dangerous Weapons Bill (2011) sound very familiar. It can be directly related to the comments made on the content of Notice 158 of 2008, published in Government Gazette 30717 on 1 February 2008 (Proposed Notice under Sections 2 and 3 of the Dangerous Weapons Act, 1968 [Act no. 71 of 1968]).
` It appears that the contents of the 2008 proposed notice were never implemented. Therefore, we question the SAPS’ disregard for the Constitutional Court’s request made at that time, namely to rationalise the various versions of dangerous weapons legislation of the former Republics of South Africa, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, and Ciskei. ‘
Els said it would seem that the public is requested over and over again to comment on the same aspects of proposed legislation without these comments been taken into account in the implementation thereof.
SAHGCA in cooperation with several other concerned organisations will submit its comments on and objections to the Draft Dangerous Weapons Bill (2011) to the SAPS, The Minister of Police, and the Portfolio Committee for Policing by the 3 October deadline.
EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: Dr Herman Els 083 294 7503 or
ISSUED BY THE SOUTH AFRICAN HUNTERS AND GAME CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION.