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Soweto bombings underline need for explosives bill

30 October 2002

The ANC in KwaZulu Natal expresses it outrage at the cowardly acts of terrorism, with the detonation of ten bombs in Soweto and one in Bronkhorstspruit. We extend our deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the dead and injured. These heinous crimes underline the critical need for the Explosives Bill which is due to be passed in Parliament tomorrow.

The Explosives Bill was introduced in Parliament as a direct response to destabilising forces in South Africa which pose a dangerous threat to the safety and security of its people, and in compliance with international obligations imposed by the International Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives to which South Africa acceded to on 30 January 2000. This Bill was not aimed at victimising law-abiding Hindu people, but allows government to effectively respond to matters of international security, as well as real threats of internal anarchy by, for example, radical right-wing organisations targeting government. It is the duty of government to protect its people, and this law is just one mechanism enabling government to perform this vital function.

KwaZulu-Natal, with its history of political violence, is particularly vulnerable to anti-government forces. Illegal arms caches of the pre-1994 era, have yet to be uncovered. Today, our province is swamped with illegal weapons used in cash heists, armed robberies and hijackings. Military explosives are part of this problem, and the main object of the Explosives Bill is to ensure adequate control over their illegal use and distribution.

In addition, the increased use and unrestricted availability of fireworks in South Africa, some of them lethal, in the absence of safety controls in place, has been of growing concern to government. Every year children and animals are severely maimed as a result of domestic fireworks. It is incumbent on government to ban the handling of fireworks by underage children, and to ensure that animals are protected. These restrictions will be contained in the regulations of the Explosives Bill.

The ANC wishes to place on record that it has never been the aim of the national Explosives Bill to undermine the important religious ceremonies of the Hindu people. The ANC respects the constitutional right of all citizens to practice their religion freely and openly.

In drafting the legislation a wide variety of stakeholders were consulted. In addition the Bill was published for a 30-day period where public comment was invited. The recent concerns raised by the Hindu community in KwaZulu-Natal have been seriously considered by the ANC on Parliament`s Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, and amendments to the Bill have been made.

S`bu Ndebele on 082 553 3592