The opposition Democratic Alliance party says the draft Dangerous Weapons Bill was drawn up in response to a Constitutional Court ruling “and is a necessary piece of legislation.”
But in its current unamended form, the Bill leaves a great deal open to interpretation, party police sado Diane Kohler Barnard says. “Despite the various statements that have been made about the proposed new Bill, it must be remembered that it is still in its draft form. This draft legislation has been made available for public comment before being submitted for approval to Cabinet. Only then will it go through the Parliamentary legislative processes.
“When this Bill comes before the Police Portfolio Committee, where we read through every submission, and incorporate as many suggestions as is possible within the legal framework, the Democratic Alliance will ensure that the clauses which raise questions about the public’s right to carry or own weapons for self-defence will be appropriately worded to ensure that they will not infringe upon existing rights.
“This Bill is necessary because two separate pieces of legislation still exist: one Act for South Africa and one for the former Transkei. This is a legal anomaly left over from the Apartheid history of Bantustan states, which obviously became defunct in 1994.
“The stated intention of this Bill is to protect South Africans from any criminal who intends to use an object as a weapon to commit an unlawful act. We intend to ensure that this intention is carried through to the final legislation, and that no unintended consequences result which would limit people’s ability defend themselves.
“Toy or replica firearms, or gaming ‘guns’ are certainly not ‘likely to be mistaken for a real firearm and without any distinguishing colour or feature to indicate that it is not a real firearm’. They are thus rightly excluded from the provisions of the Bill. Other self-defence weaponry is only considered to be dangerous ‘when they may pose a real danger or threat to any other person at or in a public place’. It’s a question of context,” adds Kohler Barnard.
“The right to self-defence and protection of property cannot be removed by such a Bill. The Bill is intended to protect the right of the public to be safe from criminals. We will make sure that it achieves the right balance.”
The police earlier this month asked for public comment on the draft Bill following the Constitutional Court’s verdict in S v Thunzi and S v Mlonzi (Case CCT/81/09). It said comments can be emailed to Major General PC Jacobs at [email protected] by no later than October 3.