Committee passes Weapons Bill

A bill giving police more power against the carrying of dangerous weapons in public was adopted by Parliament's portfolio committee on police on Tuesday.

However, the committee was not happy with elements of an implementation plan for the Dangerous Weapons Bill, which was presented by the secretariat and visible policing component of the SA Police Service (SAPS).

MPs criticised the police for presenting an incomplete implementation plan. It should have included timeframes for training officers on the new legislation and the consequences if deadlines were not met.

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald told the police to get their act together, as the plan was "not very professional".

"If I walk into a police station and ask a member... 'what do you know about the dangerous weapons bill?' that member must be able to brief me on that, and that is what the public is expecting," said Groenewald.

Democratic Alliance MP Diane Kohler-Barnard was also critical.

"We've seen the absolute failure of the SAPS to implement the legislation we pass, which has now led us to go the kindergarten route of overseeing every single step of the implementation plan," she told police officials at the briefing.

"[You should] come and tell us: Did you do it? How much did it cost? Did you meet your deadline? If you met it, congratulations, if you didn't you need a bloody good reason."

The Dangerous Weapons Bill was tweaked after it first came to the committee for consideration last month.

Sporting bodies and collectors complained they would be arrested while travelling to and from events, and could be prosecuted for having paintguns, airguns or antique rifles, guns, and swords in their possession.

As the bill now stands, the act will not apply to the:

-- Possession of dangerous weapons in pursuit of any lawful employment, duty or activity;

-- Possession of dangerous weapons during participation in any religious or cultural activities, or lawful sport, recreation, or entertainments; and;

-- Legitimate collection, display or exhibition of weapons.

Police officers will be given the discretion to decide whether there is a reasonable suspicion a weapon could be used for unlawful purposes.

It was hoped the proposed law would bolster the Regulation of Gatherings Act.

Police would be able to crack down on protesters brandishing firearms, bricks, glass bottles, spears, or any object which could be used to harm someone or damage property.

Last month, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the bill would be key to helping the police in their duties, while policing the increasing number of violent protests which had plagued the country in recent years.