Feedback on Meeting with Head of FLASH Unit - Maj Gen Jaco Bothma 20 July 2016
Dear HF Members
The meeting which was arranged at the last SAPS/Hunters Consultative Forum of 5 Jul with Gen Bothma took place yesterday.
Present for the HF were:
Andre vd Westhuizen
Present for SAPS were:
Maj Gen. Jaco Bothma
The HF delegation had decided beforehand on a few points to focus on. This proved useful as it was clear from the start that Gen Bothma is focussed on short, sharp actions from brief meetings. We were incredibly well received from reception to the participants, and there is a real sense of purpose and energy! The Gen had a spreadsheet on screen display which indicated an Action List format of dealing with issues, each issue having a responsible person and target date attached. He also stressed that the process will be in terms of the SAPS National “Back to Basics” strategy.
The Gen invited me to set the scene by detailing the origin of this meeting. This was useful as I could refer to the SAPS/Hunter meeting of 5 Jul as the catalyst of a smaller, “issue focussed, workshop-type” meeting as an extension of an existing, recognised stakeholder process. In effect, that we appreciated his attendance on the 5th, but recognised that barely 4 days into the post we could not deal with specifics, but that today’s meeting could start to achieve that. This enabled me to flow into our points:
The first of these was to establish from SAPS where they saw our role as accredited associations and the forum itself. In essence “How do WE help, and what responsibilities do you feel we carry?” In this, we were able to establish that accredited associations must be seen to PARTNER SAPS in enabling firearm legislation. We also stressed the communication function of all parties. This included; associations to our members and even the broader public; SAPS Management down to station level; Associations (from issues identified by their members at stations) back to SAPS Management, etc.
From this, the matter of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Forum arose. The Gen considers the current version to be far too simple and lacking. There is a need for a more clear understanding of the roles and the partnerships and the conventions of the forum. The action item to draft this was offered by Dr Els and accepted by all with a target date of submitting back to the group by Fri 29 Jul.
In the conversation regarding communication I brought the next major point in; Contradictory, ambiguous and technically incorrect (illegal?) directives. Also, a resultant lack of standards across stations, provinces etc. A complete review of ALL problematic situations in this regard is required. To this end I later also stressed that new, corrective directives should be signed off at the highest level to over-arch subordinate directives whether from provincial commissioners, station commanders et al. The action is to create a list of problematic issues of all sorts, again with responsible person, suggested solutions etc. Again, Dr Els has undertaken to copile the initial draft. Obviously, the existing so-called “basket item” list from the defunct stakeholder process of last year will serve as precedent here.
Next we broached the big issue; Renewals and “Late Renewers”. We expressed concern that many folk were now simply reverting to their protection under the Old Act (Green) licences. This Juan described as a “pressure cooker” building up. It is clear that SAPS are very concerned, and my feeling is that if a fully legal solution was easily within their grasp, they’d take it. A big concern however, is that if some form of leniency were to be offered (such as an amnesty) still only a small percentage of the public would take it up. What would the result be when, again, a huge number of people remain in breach at the end? We suggested the possibility of an administrative fine and other mechanisms to handle things where the person has no criminal intent, but currently is criminalised. Obviously no clear commitment could be given by them, but our sense is that the Gen is in favour of an appropriate amnesty, but this would rest ultimately with the minister. He would not state his official position on validity of green licences for those who had entered the new act, but was very willing to receive the legal opinion obtained by NHSA from senior council. This Herman has already sent, and the General’s acknowledgment thereof this morning was in a very positive tone.
We then touched on the actual requirements for a renewal application. We proposed that, in the case of members of accredited associations, a certificate of membership in good standing should suffice. We did not over-workshop the subject, but the aim is to allow Sec 16 (and perhaps even Sec 15) licences to be renewed on the strength of membership. We also queried the constant requirement to re-submit training certificates and do fingerprints. Our internal processes were a matter of interest to him in this regard, and although he wants a bit more info, he seemed satisfied with the current scenario as described by us.
We then dealt with the spate of refusals for meaningless or technically incorrect reasons. I had printed off the various case specific matters as sent by some HF members and handed up these for them to peruse in their own time. We stressed that there are vast numbers of these. Discussions around this included the requirement for a rifle competency from applicants for semi-auto rifles, spurious refusal reasons, printer problems etc. Again, there was a sense that he accepted things could be done far better in this regard. Let’s see…
At a point early on he expressed his frustration with applicants who complain across every platform, from station level to province & national, send lawyers letters and generally make “too much noise”. I explained that a little used mechanism, the “Nodal Point Enquiry”, was in fact set up in 2012 to deal with our member’s queries with the quid-quo-pro being that once escalated by an association to the relevant level, the member is required to back off all other avenues. I shall arrange the original document gets sent to him.
We dealt then with the barrel change & custom build issue. Our proposal is that a SAPS271 form be used for these in order to ensure capture and traceability. Brig Mabule was
vague & questioning” of the law in this regard, but at least it seems that it will receive attention…
Too my mind, one of the bigger issues we raised was the fact that the pending legislative amendments have “disappeared off the radar” and that there has NOT been stakeholder engagement on them since 2011. The version released for written comment (in 2012 or 13?) was vastly different in many respects to what stakeholders had engaged on. I expressed concern that we’d again land up with ambiguities, un-workable elements and problems if we did not re-open a stakeholder process before they get tabled. He indicated that he’d liaise with Gen Jacobs in this regard.
Brig Mabule raised (again) his concern that our “good faith” discussions in meetings get used later in court papers against them. Gen Bothma echoed this sentiment. I suggested that discussion should be without such “risk” but that the minutes should be the reflection of meeting outcomes and these cannot be precluded from any litigation process. Therefore, all parties must pay due attention before approving minutes. Also, most litigation in fact achieves clarity on matters that are problematic to all sides, and should not be construed as a personal attack. The Gen acknowledged this, but commented that he “struggles to comprehend” an accredited association and forum partner litigating against them.
In closing, I am cautiously optimistic that many of the more petty matters may be resolved quite soon and that the bigger issues will start to receive properly considered attention. It was agreed that this same group would meet again in due course to further the action items, prior to the next SAPS/Hunters meeting in October.
HF Chairman and
CEO at www.chasa.co.za
082 905 7400