South Africa ushers in the new Dangerous Weapons Act
The Dangerous Weapons Act of 2013 (Act NO.15 of 2013), a new piece of legislation that has been promulgated to address the possession of weapons during public gatherings and mass demonstrations, officially came into force on 2 January 2014.
The Act repeals the Dangerous Weapons Act that has been in force in the country as it was constituted before 27 April 1994 and as well as similar acts that had been in force in the former Transkei, Ciskei, Venda and Bophuthatswana.
In terms of the new act it is a criminal offence to possess a dangerous weapon with the intention of committing an unlawful act. If the possession of a dangerous weapon raises a reasonable suspicion that the person intends to use the dangerous weapon to commit an unlawful act, the person may be found guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three years.
As of the 2nd of January 2014 it is a criminal offence for a person to possess during a gathering or demonstration, any dangerous weapon, any airgun, firearm, imitation firearm and that is likely to be mistaken for a firearm, any harmful and sharp object or any other object capable of causing death or inflicting serious bodily harm, if it were to be used for an unlawful purpose.
Other examples of dangerous weapons include but are not limited to the following:
Knife such as gravity knife, switchblade, sword, dagger, blackjack, brass knuckles, ballistic knife, Spear, Tomahawk, Knobkerrie, Crowbar, Nunchaku and Hammer.
The Dangerous Weapons Act is wholly compliant with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, especially section 17 which guarantees the right, to peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.
The right to strike and assemble is not in question here. It aims to ensure that mass gatherings are conducted within the confines of the law and that, in line with section 12 of our constitution that entrenches the right to security and the right to be free from all forms of violence.
The mere possession of a dangerous weapon during a gathering or demonstration constitutes an offence, but possession of dangerous weapons will not necessarily lead to arrest if the circumstances for carrying are found to be due to the pursuit of any lawful employment, duty or activity, during participation in any religious or cultural activities, law sport, recreation or entertainment, and for legitimate collection, display or exhibition of weapons.
If anyone sees a person in possession of a dangerous weapon and suspects that the person intends to use it to commit an unlawful act, they are urged to call 10111 or Crime Stop/tip-off line 08600 10111.