Rights group AfriForum’s application for statistics about the number of state-registered firearms lost or stolen in South Africa has been referred back to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula for a decision within the next 60 days.
AfriForum asked the court to force the South African Police Service (Saps) to provide statistics for 2009-2014 after the previous police minister, Nathi Nhleko, refused to provide all of the information required.
He also failed to sign an opposing affidavit in two applications launched in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
Counsel for the police applied for a postponement, saying the state attorney was unable to get a signed opposing affidavit in time.
Judge Hennie de Vos questioned how ethical the behaviour of the state attorney was, why the applicants were not notified of the postponement application and why the attorney was not in court.
He said it happened virtually weekly that the state attorney failed to file papers in court and that default judgments were granted against the State.
“It’s no excuse to say, ‘I work for the government.’ He (the state attorney involved) must comply with the rules of the court… I don’t care if it’s government or a private individual, the law is the law,” he said.
The parties eventually reached a settlement that the request for information would be referred back to the new police minister.
AfriForum’s head of community security Ian Cameron said their application was aimed at getting enough information to refer the issue of state-issued firearms lost and stolen and the apparent lack of control over such firearms to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate for investigation.
He said it appeared from statistics already released that the state, and not private individuals, as the police claimed, were putting firearms such as R5s and AK47s into the hands of criminals while making it increasingly more difficult for private citizens to get firearms to defend themselves.
“AfriForum is of the opinion that the Saps is irresponsible in their handling of state-registered firearms, which has a direct impact on the safety of all citizens.
“This strengthens AfriForum’s initiative to help communities mobilise within the framework of the law to protect themselves and help curb crime,” Cameron said.