Lihle Tshabalala
Lihle Tshabalala

Senzo: Let’s get rid of the guns

It was in 2007 when my bother first told me that there would be someone calling me regarding the confirmation of his gun licence. I knew he had a gun because my mother always grumbled saying she didn’t understand why he had it in the first place, but I had never had to deal with the gun issue. I picked up the call with utmost nervousness because I had been expecting deep questions about his character, perhaps some explicit “do you think he should have a gun or not” type questions. To the latter, I would have said no, but such a question was not asked. I was asked a set of simple questions, similar to those we ask for brand dipstick in market research. I must have made all the favourable selections because my brother, until this day, has his firearm.

I cannot, in all honesty, say for sure that at the time I had an opinion on guns. On whether people should be allowed to have them. By then neither I nor anyone I knew personally had been mugged at gunpoint, almost forcibly taken from a friend’s party at gunpoint or even experienced the brashness of a fellow taxi commuter whose confidence was fuelled by his possession of a firearm.

But then I did, all the above happed. In came my real exposure to guns, and the many questions started.

Too many gun-related stories go unattended and we should revisit our response and attitude to them. I believe the recent gun-pulling incident between Cassper Nyovest and AKA, two of South Africa’s influential hip-hop artists, should have gotten more attention. Perhaps not from a rivalry or hip-hop perspective but from the perspective that one side’s clique member pulled a gun on the other.

I think that guns (unless to be used by the police, even then with caution) should be banned in South Africa. Or rather the way that people attain these firearms needs to be stricter, maybe then they will not land in the wrong hands.

Fast forward to July this year, another brother of mine is found in a government mortuary with a bullet in his head after he had been missing for two days. He had dared to cross a “nyaope boy” infested veld instead of taking a taxi home on his way back from work as he didn’t have enough taxi fare. His shoes, jeans and R180-worth cellphone were taken from him. Sure, none of us know what really happened that night but it is known that those “nyaope boys” are trigger-happy and people “stay out of their way”. Why are known criminals who have illegal guns in their possession allowed to live among us and have marked territories in places that are daily routes to and from home?

Where do all these petty criminals get all these guns from? Are they acquired in the homes of the upright citizens they break into daily? And why is it that those upright citizens do not store their legally obtained firearms with more care?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not dismiss the need for people to put forward measures to protect themselves, families and their possessions. It is just concerning that these guns are working less to protect ordinary citizens from these criminals and more to take the lives of people such as Senzo Meyiwa and many other unarmed and unthreatening people. It is not enough for us to wait for people like Meyiwa, Reeva Steenkamp, Lucky Dube, Corrie Sanders and many others to die from these guns before we are aware of what is at stake.

It is not of obvious knowledge to me what the procedure of attaining guns in our country is but I do know that that licence renewal survey I did on my brother’s behalf was not, in retrospect, rigorous enough. If that is all it takes for gun licensing then the statistics of gun violence is likely to rise.

I have had my share of incidents with guns. In all of them there have fortunately been other people with me, that makes me the lucky one right, because none ended in death? Yes, my friends and I are lucky to have not been forcefully taken away by that small-time, ex-convict gunman, but it could have gone otherwise. If anyone in that taxi (especially the taxi driver) had contested the boastful “greatness” of that passenger we would not have lived to tell the tale.

It’s a catch-22 really, with the rise of violent firearm-related crimes more people are applying for a gun licence. We need to think carefully about the future of guns in our country and how we can contribute to their eradication.

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    • Gideon Joubert

      Your attempted correlation between legal gun ownership and rising violent crime rates is incorrect. There have been numerous peer-reviewed studies that have thoroughly debunked this claim, and proved that there is no relationship between legal gun ownership and rising crime.

      In fact, in certain cases the opposite held true: with an inverse relationship between the two variables illustrated. Thus to simplify, more gun ownership lead to less crime.

      It also begs the question why would you call for a ban on legal guns, when it is criminals and not legal owners who are the problem? The incidents pertaining to legal gun owners doing stupid things are so few as to be statistically negligible when compared to the overall levels and rates of violent crime in South Africa.

      We have a people problem, not a gun problem.

    • Sizwe

      “I think that guns (unless to be used by the police, even then with caution) should be banned in South Africa. Or rather the way that people attain these firearms needs to be stricter, maybe then they will not land in the wrong hands.”

      Lihle Tshabalala, I’m 100% with you. The Pistorius case and all the other fire-arm related cases call for exactly that what you propose.

      I ask myself what is it that makes people believe the possession of fire-arms makes them live safer and more secure, if the contrary is the case? Is it the widespread belief that the use of violence is seen as a pre-condition and guarantee for success? Maybe the answer to that question can be found in the 350 years experience of violent land robbery and suppression in this country. The European land grabbers and suppressors of the Africans did what they did by force, at gun point – and they were successful. Even to that point that they now can expect market value for what their forefathers violently took away from the indigenous people. Land, by the way, to which the cheap labour of the very same indigenous people added value.

    • Haiwa Tigere

      Lihle, this is a most heartfelt post.
      A few things have to be made clear though. Most guns that kill in south africa (lets put Reeva aside for a minute) are illegal and untraceable.South Africa has porous borders.

      Taking guns from people makes them even more vulnerable and at the mercy of the thugs. Now my proposal is put a gun into every willing South Africans hand and train them how to use and store them. Any body wanting a gun and is over 18 should be able to carry so thugs have to be careful what they do because any witness could potentially put lead into his or her heart or head.
      The case of the Canadian parliament cop comes to mind. He had a gun in his office and stopped the rampaging killer dead. Thats a good gun. When I was in Southern Africa I always carried It gave me a lot of comfort I was trained and I was ready. I could have died if a fight arose but hey I would have died like a man.

      You are asking “nyaopes” to steal and not be violent. Lets face it most of these guys cant or wont read so you effort is wasted on them.
      Its a cliche but I think the NRA(in America is right . Guns dont kill people people kill people.
      Life is cheap in SA we know that.Killed for a cellphone, Tongo set up a murder by his own confession for 1000 rands.
      If everyone had guns at least at each robbery one robber has a good chance of…

    • Julian Frost

      “Where do all these petty criminals get all these guns from?”
      Tens of thousands of guns have “gone missing” from SAP and SANDF armouries and can’t be accounted for. Large numbers of AK-47’s exist here. Your desire to ban guns or tighten our already overly tight gun laws is understandable but naive. Criminals don’t respect the law. What we need is better enforcement and control, not laws that are unenforceable, impractical and ignored anyway.

    • Para Pace

      Well intentioned, but I think naive. The vast majority of firearms used by criminals come from sources such as the police, or are bought illegally, smuggled from Mozambique, or taken from state sources. Legal gun owners are not the problem. As many have noted, an armed citizenry can defend itself from criminals. A disarmed citizenry gives criminals a huge advantage. Criminals will always have firearms, no matter what laws are passed.

    • zoo keeper

      Our gun law is already far too tight and invasive of civil liberties.

      A lot of what is written about guns comes from emotional views which suggest that if there was no gun, no-one would get hurt.

      This is obviously false. If there magically no guns, three men would still have stormed Khumalo’s house armed with other things, like pangas. Our Bafana captain may still be dead because he wouldn’t stand a chance against them.

      Likewise the author’s nyaope story – those are people beyond reason or caring. They will destroy their victim no matter what.

      However, instead of proposing how to make us more resistant to violent crime, the author proposes to make us more vulnerable, and then rely on the police.

      To do that will mean more violent crime, and then more and more.

    • ian shaw

      Gun owners must be trained not only to handle the guns, but also psychologically to use it when confronted by a criminal who is not hesitant to use his. It is untrained gun owners who make fatal mistakes.

    • The Praetor

      I am caught between the two arguments here.

      I am a gun owner and have been for over twenty years. I however have reached a stage where I have no urge to carry a gun around, as I have no desire to shoot anyone, and it stays locked in a safe. But I also do not have the urge to get rid of it…just in case it may be needed one day.

      I feel that I might need it one day, because we live in a violent society, and news from the USA, where a certain state mandates that all citizens own a legal firearm, there is actually an absence of any significant crime. In this instance it would be a good thing.

      On the other hand I also believe that if there werent any firearms allowed to private citizens, less firearms would be in the hands of criminals. But then we find instances where police officers sell their firearms to criminals. You can also look at countries where private firearms are not allowed, but yet they have a significant amounts of guns being in the hands of criminals. Also that there will always be violent people in the world, and there are a myriad of other weapons available to them, ie, a kitchen knife or brick. You will also be hard-pressed to persuade criminals to the fact that private gun ownership is no longer allowed, and they need to hand their guns in.

      So I would rather err on the side of caution, and have the firearm lying in my safe…just in case!

      The Praetor

    • Momma Cyndi

      The good news is that you were not the only one interviewed when your brother got his gun. Your neighbours got a more in depth questioning – family isn’t really considered the best character witnesses. The bad new is that, even I know where to get an illegal gun.

      If you look at how many R5s are used, it is obvious that we would have to take the guns away from the police if we wanted to get illegal guns off the street. That would make law enforcement a tad difficult.

      People have mentioned our sieve like borders. A ballistics expert has told me that a gun, used in a crime in America, is being used in Cape Town. How do we legislate to control that?

      My (legally registered) tiny little Baby Browning has saved me from being hijacked. Luckily I did not have to shoot anyone but I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have it with me. My wonderful neighbours, and their willingness to bring their guns outside at the first sign of trouble, have brought our crime rate down to levels that the police are not able to do.

      The police have always been happy to investigate any legal gun owner who misuses a firearm. They can’t investigate, revoke the licence or confiscate the gun if the public don’t open a case. If you know people who wave guns around, for no reason, then it is your civic duty to report them BEFORE something goes wrong

    • The Praetor


      Just an interesting video on the subject

      The Praetor

    • Gun Control Works

      Research around the world proves stricter gun laws reduce murder rates and gun related killings. But the gun industry make money from selling more guns and the gun lobby followers are fanatics. They cannot handle that truth and its no good arguing with a fanatic. No matter how much good scientific research you produce they can produce propaganda and pseudo-science to justify their position.

    • possum

      It is extremely difficult to get a gun license in South Africa today. You have to produce volumes of paperwork, purchase a suitable safe and are required to do a training course to ensure you know what you’re doing. News reports say that the license register is in a huge mess. Here is the problem, not legal gun owners who have to jump through infinite loops to get that piece of paper.

    • Matt

      The overwhelming majority of illegal guns being appropriated by criminals are obtained from the SAPS or Defense Force. Some of the guns being used by syndicates are not even legal to own in this country. Guns handed in to the police for destruction have in turn later been seized from criminals. With this in mind, can you explain your assertion that banning guns would have a positive impact on the state of violent crime in South Africa?

    • John Smithy

      “I think that guns (unless to be used by the police, even then with caution) should be banned in South Africa.”


      Published January 2012 …….. “The statistics that were released suggest that 18,196 police firearms have been lost or stolen during the 5 year period beginning 1 April 2005 and ending on 31 March 2011.” (that’s EIGHTEEN THOUSAND !)

      Published March 2014 ……… “Die polisie het die afgelope vyf jaar meer as 10 000 vuurwapens verloor” (is that ANOTHER 10 000 on top of the previous 18 000?)

    • zoo keeper

      @Gun Control Works

      You must be from Gun Free South Africa. How do you reach your keyboard with an ever-growing nose?

    • Momma Cyndi

      Gun Control Works,

      A ‘fanatic’ is someone who refuses to listen to different opinion and who closes their mind to any idea that differs from their own doctrine. I think it is ironic that you chose that word to describe others – especially as there is no statistical evidence to back your own claims