September 26, 2018

Briefs that show it all: Police Committee approves new Bill that smacks of old-style apartheid

The controversial Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill was adopted by the Portfolio Committee on Police last week, despite a protracted public consultation process which had civil society denouncing the Bill as the apartheid-era National Key Point Act of 1980 masquerading under a new name.

The Committee started processing the Bill at the end of 2017, and held several consultations with stakeholders, civil society and government departments who warned that it was unconstitutional.

While that remains to be seen, Francois Beukman, Committee Chairperson welcomed the Bill as providing for “the protection, safeguarding and resilience of critical infrastructure” and enforcing the powers and duties of those in control of it. This can only alarm those old enough to remember the days when what is now known as “critical infrastructure” were state strongholds that were kept swathed in secrecy.

In a nod to democracy, the Bill introduces the Critical Infrastructure Council which will include five members from the private sector and civil society, after the shortlist has been approved by the Minister of Police.

Gwede wipes out question about FNB Stadium safety

The Mine Health and Safety Council is currently developing a new standard for sealing off unused mining shafts that will minimise the risk of them being re-opened by illegal miners. This emerged in a reply by Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe to a parliamentary question.

He was actually responding to Tsepo Mhlongo (DA) who asked about the dangers of explosives being used for illegal mining alongside the FNB Stadium. The Minister’s reply made no mention of the popular stadium. Instead he took the opportunity to announce that law enforcement agencies, including the Hawks, are being used to arrest and prosecute illegal miners and syndicate leaders and that there is also a Gauteng Illegal Mining Stakeholder Forum which consists of SAPS, crime intelligence, the State Security Agency, mining companies and organised labour.

This is probably comforting to all in Gauteng who like to make use of the FNB stadium, except of course those illegal miners who enjoy a bit of soccer in their spare time. However, it fails to answer the big question: is there illegal blasting going on in the vicinity of a popular public arena?

The only other interesting information the Minister released was to inform us that some of the stolen explosives are used in blasting Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs).

Wish list or waiting list?

In response to a question by Ntokozo Hlonyana (EFF) asking how many people were on the waiting list for housing in South Africa, the Minister of Human Settlements put the total number of households registered on the National Household Needs Register (NHNR) at 2,234,308.

The NHNR is broken down into municipalities and further broken down into those who need a housing subsidy over and above their need for shelter, or to be more specific those whose housing subsidy application forms have been captured on the system.

Here’s what it says: “The introduction of the NHNR was to provide support and assistance to Provinces and Municipalities in order to ensure that there is compliance with the principle of just and fair administrative action by the state in its process of allocation of funding and subsidies, as read with Section 26 of the Constitution.”

The greatest need for housing by far is felt in Gauteng, with at 1.1 million applicants on the provincial NHNR, followed by the Eastern Cape with 521,907 and then the Western Cape with 297,907 households without houses. Apparently the province with the lowest number in need of housing is KwaZulu-Natal, with only 8,240 household on the NHNR, most of whom don’t need housing subsidies.

What exactly is this NHNR actually measuring? Is it the numbers of households who have friends in high places, the number of household who are aware of the NHNR, know to apply for, and have the resources and means to do so, or simply the size of the population of each province, or does it just show which province is best at keeping track of how many people are in need of housing?

And where are the rest of the people who need houses?

Trump, listen and learn

If we thought the US was slack about controlling its gun sales, this is no time to feel complacent. With democracy came the introduction of a firearm licencing process called the Firearm Register System. Most information on registered gun ownership however submitted to it was contained in a spreadsheet, called a "data dump". In other words between 1994 and 2002, before the introduction of the current Enhanced Firearm Register System (EFRS), there were no reliable records or systematic registration of firearms.

In an answer addressed to the Minister of Police by Zakhele Mbhele (DA), who simply wanted to know how many guns are currently registered in SA, we learn that “prior to 1994, South Africa was divided into different states, namely South Africa, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei. All these territories had their own separate firearm registration systems. In South Africa, the firearm licencing process was the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs, until 1994.”

Yet it’s only in 2004 that we get our first stats on licensed firearms, at which point it could be established that there were 3,237,987 legal guns in the country. The total number of firearms that are currently registered is 5,567,706.

Does that mean that legally registered guns have increased in 14 years by just over 2,000 or 58%? Given our propensity to shoot wildly and frequently in SA, I would guess that means there are many, many unlicensed firearms out there.

Tripartite Free Trade Area agreed

 While most of Parliament was away on recess, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) was putting in some extra hours. One of the things it did was agree to establish a Tripartite Free Trade Area comprising the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the East African Community and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It was signed on 8 August 2018.

We don’t often hear about what the NCOP gets up to, in the shadow of big brother, the National Assembly.

Last modified on Monday, 20 August 2018 22:00

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