Gun licensing is not for the weak of heart

2009-04-08 00:00

Prisoners, dressed in bright orange overalls and dragging their feet across the ground, are assembling to be given instructions for the day’s work. The surroundings are familiar to me. I have been here to the Ixopo Police Station on at least four previous occasions to renew my firearm licence. On each of these occasions, clumsy me, I had taken everything I had been told to take, but not had the required documentation. My most recent attempt, on Friday, was too late in the afternoon (2.45 pm), as it would soon be time to close the offices for the weekend. I was told to return on Tuesday because overtime had been arranged.

Having been waiting since 8 am, JJ phones his wife and tells her that he probably won’t be home for morning tea. The cosmopolitan queue is already lengthy, as people from across the midlands have to use this police station to renew their gun licences. In anticipation of a seamless process, we chat happily, comparing notes and requirements for the applications. I proudly show the checklist that I was given on my fourth visit to the police station. Drat. It is different from the others. A mad scramble follows. If I work quickly, I should be organised before I am at the front of the queue. To my relief, and dismay, the queue doesn’t move in the two hours or so it takes to get my documents completed. As we are at a police station, we initiate an investigation as to why there is this queue-jam and find that some people are being sent through the offices, straight to the head of the queue, rather than around to the back. I report my findings to the man in charge, who promises to deal with the situation.

Suddenly someone shouts something from the top of the stairs and we all scramble towards the fingerprint section. Rumour has it that if we get this requirement out of the way, while we are waiting for other departments, it will streamline the process. On arrival at the fingerprint desk, a brief, but loud, indaba is held with the powers that be. The man in charge then announces that we should return to our original places in the queue — the rumour was a malicious and dangerous one that threatened to derail the entire process, and an investigation would be launched.

JJ phones his wife and tells her that he probably won’t be home for lunch.

It is now 1.05 am and another announcement is made from the top of the stairs. The officials will be taking lunch and should return at around 2.30 pm. Something about: “You can’t drive a bus without petrol.”

JJ phones his wife: she shouldn’t expect him for afternoon tea either.

Calculations made, checked and debated in the queue indicate that it takes on average 15 minutes per person to have an individual’s details captured in the register. It was then assumed, by the same people in the queue, that it could take half this time if the identical details weren’t required to be written twice. I am now 13 people, or three and a quarter hours, away from stage one of the process.

Finally, at 5.45 pm, I arrive with my payment form at the second-to-last stage of the process. The woman is busy on her cellphone and gestures to me to come in and sit. Then she completes an sms she has to send as a result of the phone call. Once the message has been sent, I pay my R140 and the receipts start to be written out. A friend of the clerk bursts into the office and yodels a whole bunch of stuff. Then she pulls out a Lemon Twist and a polystyrene cup. Jubilation follows as they share a cup of Lemon Twist. The friend leaves. My second receipt gets written and I am able to take them to the next room to have copies made. Gratefully, I take my copies to the last stage; congratulatory comments and high fives as I squeeze past new and old friends in the narrow corridor. It becomes a blur as I have my final fingerprint taken and my photos stapled to my forms.

The brown folder that I have lovingly cared for all day is tossed onto a pile and I have an urge to hug the man in front of me. Sensibility prevails and I leave. As I climb into my car I wonder if JJ will be home for supper and whether or not it would have been easier to have been a prisoner for the day.

This story serves as proof that I have legally applied for my firearm renewal. As I was not issued with my SAP 523 form, I am sure that this account of my experience will suffice.

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