Corruption Watch’s work in the field of police accountability and anti-corruption is well known. For many years we’ve advocated for the appointment of ethical leaders through a thorough process that involves public participation. We’ve held discussions and consultations with Diepsloot, KwaMashu and Cape Flats communities affected by police violence and criminality. We’ve created Veza, an app which allows anyone to rate their local police station, report police corruption or conversely, report efficiency and professionalism. We’ve held webinars, released reports and public education material, and engaged with Parliament on police corruption.

In keeping with our commitment to work towards a corruption-free – and consequently, a violence-free – society, last week we submitted comments on the Firearms Control Amendment Bill 2020. However, we cautioned that legislative amendments in relation to the control of firearms alone will not be effective in reducing violent crime, if we continue to have a weak, infiltrated, and ineffective policing service.

As public safety is a constitutional right, the amendment bill cannot stand alone but must be accompanied by decisive, ethical, and bona fide cleaning up of the police service. The government and South African Police Service (Saps) must demonstrate a commitment to anti-corruption, to restoring public trust in the institution, and to dealing decisively with crime in South Africa. This, we believe, will diminish the perceived need for privately owned guns, and prevent the unlawful sale of guns to criminals.

Our comments focus on four issues:

The repeal of firearm ownership for the purpose of self-defence
The lack of public trust in the police service to effectively fight crime has generated a perception that it is necessary to possess a personal firearm for protection. This would not exist if the public felt safe, so the perception that guns are needed for self-defence must first be addressed.

Accountability in relation to firearm ownership
Corruption Watch advocates for accountability in all forms possible, and that extends to the ownership of firearms and ammunition. Therefore, we support clauses in the bill that improve the accountability and tracing of ownership of firearms and ammunition.

Accountability of police and official institutions
A,n unacceptable number of firearms are lost or stolen each year. We therefore support any measures that the bill would introduce to improve accountability in the Saps and other official institutions, as defined in the bill, for firearms in their possession. We propose two further amendments for enhanced accountability – a specific offence for the negligent loss or theft of firearms by members of those bodies, and public availability of all reports on firearm loss and theft.

Firearms Appeal Board
We welcome amendments to improve the calibre of members of the Firearms Appeal Board, which should be unbiased and impervious to corruption. We recommend further measures to achieve this – the participation of the public in appointment processes, selection criteria that include relevant skills, knowledge or experience, and applicants’ demonstrable integrity and commitment to principles of transparency, accountability and anti-corruption.

Download our full submission.