Sakeliga welcomes new standing instruction on lapsed firearm licenses


Sakeliga welcomes the new standing instructions to the South African Police Service (SAPS) on how firearms, of which the licenses have expired, are to be dealt with. According to the instructions such firearms no longer need to be destroyed, new license applications for them must be accepted, and owners of such firearms should not be prosecuted if they wish to apply for new licenses.

The instruction restores in practice the property rights of firearm owners, who used to be subjected to destruction of their property simply because of administrative decisions. The judgment flows from the recent constitutional court case in which Fidelity Security Services prevailed and in which Sakeliga acted as amicus curiae (friend of the court) with a specific focus on property rights. Click here for more information on the case and here for the standing instructions.

According to the instructions the SAPS should also not prosecute firearm owners for expired licenses if the owners wish to apply for a new license. Designated Firearms Offices (DFOs) are instructed to accept new license applications for such firearms. Firearms with expired licenses in deceased estates also no longer need to be destroyed and are eligible for new licenses.

Had this above instruction, which is grounded in a reasonable understanding of legislation, been issued by the SAPS from the onset, millions of rand in legal fees as well as hundreds of millions of rand in administrative cost and economic harm expended in recent years would have been averted. It is nevertheless welcome that the SAPD ultimately did now issue the instruction.

Sakeliga expresses its appreciation to Fidelity, who initiated the court case and stuck to their guns through several rounds in court. We are glad to have contributed, in particular with respect to issues of property rights and economic considerations, in support of Fidelity’s case and the widest possible application thereof. The participation of several other amici speaks of the importance of the matter and the degree to which cooperation in the private sector and civil society can reverse harmful government policy.