Tomorrow Gun Owners of SA (GOSA) face-off against the SAPS in the North Gauteng High Court. What is it all about this time? Well, for one it is to interdict the police from confiscating private property of people who sit with expired firearm licences, and to prevent these citizens from being criminalised. Secondly, the urgent application forms the foundation of a legal challenge against the concept of relicensing as whole. Seeing that the advertised purpose of relicensing is more than adequately covered by numerous other sections of the FCA, it serves no purpose except to create an unsurmountable administrative burden.
It would appear that the SAPS are perpetually being sued by the public. This is not an inaccurate perception. In the 2015/16 financial year civil claims against the SAPS exceeded R14.6 billion. Back in 2013 the R14 billion claim mark was first breeched, and it looks to have now become a regular occurrence.
Why are citizens suing the police to this extent? Because members of the SAPS indulge in unlawful arrest, assault, rape, robbery, and a whole smorgasbord of other illegal activities in which they victimise the public. The exact same public they are tasked with protecting. Jacques Pauw was not indulging in hyperbole when he referred to the SAPS as the most corrupt organ of state.
So, how did we get to this point? Let us do a quick refresher and recap.
The ConCourt aftermath and subsequent process
In the aftermath of the Constitutional Court ruling regarding expired firearm licences, the SAPS gave a presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Policing on 14 June. In this presentation the SAPS committed to an extensive stakeholder engagement process.
The purpose of this process was to consult with firearm owners and their representative organisations. These consultations would map a way forward to avoid the already untenable situation transforming into a complete disaster. Frankly put, the criminalisation of over 400 000 people and the confiscation of their property presents an unparalleled catastrophe.
Thus this engagement process between SAPS legal services and legal representatives of GOSA started shortly after the PPC presentation. Unfortunately the process derailed nearly completely within two weeks.
The Self-Destructo Bust and immediate response
Why did this process self-destruct?
SAPS spokespeople continued to issue daily public communications which threatened expired licence holders with arrest and confiscation of their property. They also insisted on proclaiming that those possessing a so-called “Green Card” licence would not be safe from potential prosecution. These are the exact same licences which Judge Prinsloo ordered as being valid indefinitely in his 2009 judgement. Additionally various provincial SAPS offices issued confusing and conflicting directives to pave the way for the imminent confiscation of firearms.
All of this occurred while the GOSA legal team were engaging with SAPS legal services. When GOSA queried what the intentions of the police were, and why they insisted in conducting a media campaign of threats and coercion against the public, they received no answer.
Basically, the situation had now deteriorated and become intolerable. GOSA needed to take urgent action to stop it from becoming a full-blown crisis.
GOSA served the SAPS with their papers on 6 July.
In their answering affidavit the SAPS conceded the following important points:
- Unequivocal acknowledgement that all (without any exceptions) “Green Card” and ID book licences are valid.
- Confirmation that people with expired licences will not be arrested or prosecuted.
- Confirmation that people can renew their expired licences late, “on good cause shown”.
- Details of their proposed plan forward.
It is obvious that the SAPS is completely schizophrenic. Under oath they admit that all Green Card licences are valid, yet in the media they tell the public a different story. The police also claim that they will not arrest or prosecute anybody, yet they continue to threaten and bluster from morning until night. The admission that people with expired licences can indeed renew them is also surprising: what on earth is all the fuss about then?
SAPS schizophrenia and other diseases
Adding to this bizarre bout of mental illness suffered by the police, Minister Bheki Cele this week announced his introduction of a firearm amnesty to Parliament. Apparently with the intent in solving the crisis. Despite the fact that amnesties need to go through a lengthy process of parliamentary approval, and therefore we won’t be seeing one in operation anytime soon. For some this may appear to be welcome news. The FCA after all requires that those who surrender their legally owned guns during the amnesty must be allowed the opportunity to apply for a licence.
I have never heard of this resulting in a successful application before. What I have witnessed, is thousands of firearm handed in during previous amnesties being sold to criminals by the police. And these criminals committing more than a thousand murders with these guns. Guns that were once safe and sound in civilian possession.
We are at a gun rights / civil rights crossroads
How on earth the SAPS plan on taking possession (and safeguarding) over 400 000 firearms and more than 60 million rounds of ammunition is anyone’s guess. But even if only a fraction of these weapons and ammunition end up in criminal hands it would present an unprecedented public safety crisis. The last thing responsible firearm owners can allow, is for their guns to end up in SAPS storage. Because then they may as well just hand those weapons directly to criminals. The end result will be the same.
This is why tomorrow’s court case is so important. It isn’t just about firearm rights: it is about civil rights. If we can put a dent in the authoritarian overreach by an organisation who thinks it should write laws as opposed to only enforcing them, then there is still hope for our country. The SAPS tells us they don’t want to make an enemy of the public. Everything they have thus far done to blunder through this crisis has succeeded in making an enemy of the public.
Remember one very important thing: the excuse of “I was just following orders” didn’t save a single member of the Gestapo or SS from the rope at Nuremberg. Those who stand in opposition to us must be very careful on which side of history they choose to be. Because time is running out.
Written by Gideon Joubert
Gideon is owner and editor of Paratus