A substantial number of farmers in South Africa will not hand in their firearms in time before 31 January as a result of the current amnesty conditions and COVID-19 related challenges, even if they wanted to.
With the deadline for amnesty for firearm licences fast approaching, the pressure on firearm licencing offices was frequently unmanageable big this week. Due to the requirement that firearm owners need to hand in their weapons at police stations, farmers waited until the last moment before making use of the amnesty concession. In a weakening safety environment with farm attacks increasing, farmers want to restrict the period that they are left defenceless without a weapon to the bare minimum.
Farmers are grateful to police stations that already made provision to also stay open on Saturday and Sunday for amnesty applications, and they foresee that rural firearm offices will be swamped over the course of the weekend.
Saai is however still sceptical regarding the ability of the SAPS to process the applications within a reasonable period of time, conclude ballistics testing and hand back the correct firearms to firearm owners in the same condition that it was initially handed in. That is why Saai is advising applicants to take photos of firearms before handing it in.
The disruptive effect of COVID-19 and COVID-19 regulations on the amnesty process cannot be denied. Firearm licencing offices and payment offices in police stations were and are still closed regularly and police officials and applicants are often absent or in isolation as a result of COVID-19 related reasons. Too many police offices do not have enough prescribed forms, or complain that they are frequently offline or are unable to service an applicant due to load shedding.
“Even though the amnesty period has previously been extended due to COVID-19, the same reasons are still currently relevant for a further extension. The particular aim of the amnesty is to get firearm owners on the right side of the law again, and the current circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are hampering that aim,” says Dr Theo de Jager, Saai’s Chairperson of the Board of Directors.
Farmers experiencing problems with the amnesty process can send details thereof via WhatsApp to 066 071 6094, after which Saai will submit a file of all the individual problems to the SAPS.