News24

Security firm gets gun permits

2010-03-10 22:19

Pretoria - The country's largest private security company obtained an urgent court order on Wednesday against the Central Firearms Registry to obtain 600 temporary firearm permits in time for the upcoming FIFA World Cup.

This followed a late afternoon settlement after Fidelity Security Services approached the North Gauteng High Court for an urgent order about their firearm permits.

These permits were refused shortly before Christmas last year.

In terms of the settlement, which was made an order of court by Judge Bill Prinsloo, the Registry will issue 600 temporary firearm permits, valid for a year under strict conditions, to Fidelity.

Fidelity applied for the temporary permits in November last year when it appeared that there was no response to their more than 4 000 firearm licence applications and more than 2 000 applications for competency certificates.

The security company last year launched an urgent application when even their temporary permit applications - which have to be considered within seven days - appeared to be ignored.

The Firearms Registry thereafter turned down the temporary permit applications, forcing them to approach the court again, although their attempt to have the matter heard in January this year failed on technical grounds.

Incompetence

Fidelity advocate Mervyn Ripp, SC, told the court it would be a futile exercise to appeal internally against the Registry's decision, as there was a "history of unwillingness and incompetence", with the Firearms Appeal Board only hearing about 100 appeals in the past seven months.

Fidelity stated it did not have sufficient firearms to carry out its normal contractual obligations and to accommodate the increased demand for extra security services during the world cup.

It predicted a substantial increase in the use of auto teller machines and the amount of cash that would have to be transported to banks during the world cup as well as the need for more security guards at shopping centres.

This was apart from an increased need by important individuals and groups for private protection.

Fidelity said it needed an absolute minimum of 600 extra firearms, or faced having its contracts cancelled and seeing an increase in cash-in-transit heists and armed robberies in the country.

Massive delays

Several other security companies supported Fidelity's application, saying there had been a phenomenal increase in the number of enquiries and offers of contracts for their services.

The companies all confirmed massive delays in obtaining firearm licences, competency certificates and temporary permits, with some already waiting years for any response from the authorities.

Counsel for the Registry argued that Fidelity should have applied for more firearms years ago and was creating its own urgency, but Prinsloo ruled that the matter was urgent.

"It is a matter of some importance not only from the point of view of the applicant and respondents, but also from the point of view of the public and especially the long suffering firearm owning public who have at various times applied for firearm licences," the judge said.