Mpumalanga traffic officials in contravention of Firearms Act?

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Allegations are emerging that the decision by Premier David Mabuza to relocate the Mpumalanga Traffic Management Unit from the department of Public Works, Roads and Transport, has rendered hundreds of Mpumalanga Traffic officers in contravention of the Firearms Control Act.

According to DA information, the firearms carried by most Mpumalanga traffic officers are licensed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport, and have not been carried over to the Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison.

If true, the implications of this situation are severe. Firstly officers are carrying weapons licensed to a department for which they don’t work, and secondly, the HOD for the Department of Public Works, Mr Kgopane Mohlasedi is legally accountable for weapons over which he holds no command.

According to the Act, the head of a government institution must be registered with the Designated Firearms Officer (DFO) allocated to the area, and that he/she has the right to issue firearm use permits to officials of that institution. The Act further states that the responsible official must be in full control of all firearms and ammunition of that institution, and that a detailed Firearms Stock Register must be maintained.

In the case of the Mpumalanga Traffic Management unit, that responsibility formerly rested with Public Works, Roads and Transport HOD, Mr Kgopane Mohlasedi, and was supposed to be carried over with the unit’s transfer to Community Safety, Security and Liaison on 1 June 2011 – apparently it did not.

As far as can be established, Mpumalanga traffic officers do not carry firearm permits issued by Community Safety, Security and Liaison HOD, Mr Thulani Sibuyi, nor is he registered with the South African Police as the person responsible for all firearms and ammunition in the possession of traffic officials. Permits seen by the DA still bear the name of the former department.

The possible legal ramifications of this oversight are immense, as traffic officials are potentially carrying firearms and ammunition illegally, and are liable for arrest. Should any be involved in a shooting incident, specific attention will be paid to the necessary permits to carry those weapons, and the consequences will be severe.

Mpumalanga’s politicians who made this ill-considered decision, and in particular MEC Vusi Shongwe must give account of this mess, and address it immediately.

The DA will submit formal parliamentary questions asking MEC Shongwe to provide us with the full details of who the responsible person is for the Traffic Management Unit’s firearms, and when that person received the proper accreditation. We will also ask MEC Shongwe whether that person has applied for new firearm permits from the SAPS (as specified by the Act), when this was done, and when the new permits were issued.

In addition we will ask MEC Shongwe to provide us with the details of when and where each traffic official was trained in the practical and legal use of firearms, and whether they have been undergoing regular practical training sessions in the use of firearms and ammunition, as the Act stipulates.

Considering that many officers also have invalid appointment certificates for similar reasons, it is becoming clear that Premier Mabuza has no option but to relocate this unit back to Public Works, Roads and Transport – even if only to ensure legal compliance.

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