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Please minister explain the disconnected SAPS and the banning of guns for self defence

On 21 May, government gazetted the draft for the Firearms Amendment Bill of 2021 with an absurd amendment; the repealing of gun ownership for self defence. Simply put, were this Bill to pass, you will not be allowed to own a firearm for self defence and should you use a legally possessed firearm in self defence you can be charged for using the weapon. You will be criminally liable. This legislation is not only absurd, it is farcical. Why?

Well let’s start off by what the average South African has to go through:

On the very same day, 21 May 2021,  two top news articles published were:

1. “Police issue warning after increase in cases of criminals placing spikes on roads

2. “Hijackers are getting more desperate in South Africa – here are 30 hotspot areas

It’s worth noting that neither the authors of the articles, nor the police units who issued the warning advised motorists to call the police in the case of an attack — a subtle acknowledgement by the police themselves that calling the police to assist is likely to be unhelpful at best.

In a country where almost 9 500 women were raped between January and March 2021, how are our legally armed sisters, mothers and daughters going to protect themselves if having a registered weapon is a criminal offence? Please minister, do explain.

Or consider the fact that with almost 5 000 murders and nearly an equivalent number of home invasions between January and March, how is the father, who tries to protect his family and community from violent robbers now going to safeguard his loved ones, especially since there is no public confidence in the police? Please minister, do explain.

Or with another 5% increase in hijackings in the first quarter of 2021 why should the citizens of South Africa be disarmed and left to feel more unsafe? Please minister, do explain.

And, in a country where police stations are robbed and police officers hijacked should the ability to defend be reserved for politicians who received an increase in the VIP Protection budget of R 1.7bn? Please minister, do explain.

If you think this is the ramblings of one outraged individual I encourage you to see what other citizens have said about these proposed amendments:

Please minister, tell us, how are we to defend ourselves when it is obvious from the statistics that we need to do so ourselves because the police have earned a reputation of being neither competent nor trustworthy?

This is the disconnection, but dishonest is where the real problem sits. All you have to do is ask yourself when you see the flash of blue light while driving home at night — are you confident and relaxed or do the hairs start to tingle on your arms? When you’re stopped at the roadblock, is the experience professional, kind and legitimate or did you find yourself being extorted for “coke money”. Was the last experience at a police station pleasant or were you turned away under the excuse of “we can’t take the report at this station”.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is a massive contributor, if not the largest contributor, to the current crime pandemic. It is well established that the South African state is a significant facilitator of and contributor to corruption. Thus, many of its institutions are directly complicit in this malfeasance.

And I’m not just referring to the fact that the police lose about 700 guns a year (see the SAPS Annual report 2019/2020) or the fact that for years officers have been carrying weapons without the correct training. Training that is mandatory for ordinary citizens.

No, I’m referring to the fact that firearms handed in to the police during amnesties have made their way back to criminals.

I’m referring to the fact that the Cape gang gun problem is a direct result of criminal behaviour in the previous leadership in the SAPS. This problem is ongoing, with the very SAPS institutions (read as the Central Firearms Registry or CFR) in charge of issuing firearm licences implicated in the criminality, and has resulted in good men dying, men who served their country and communities honourably.

I’m referring to the officers who rent out their firearms to criminals for use in terrorising communities.

I’m referring to the case, after case, after case, after case, after case of arrests against police officers for everything from murder to drug dealing to extortion to hijacking. And these are only the ones who get caught.

Really, we must ask – please Police Minister Bheki Cele, do explain, who is the real threat to public safety?

While it is apparent that politicians seem to be disconnected from the lives of ordinary South Africans or intentionally ignorant about the struggles that they experience as is evidenced in many of the draft legislations that have been proposed, these amendments highlight that the top management of the SAPS, specifically the Minister of Police, are dishonest in claiming that they care about the ordinary citizen. 

This proposed legislation is nothing but a farce to cover years of incompetence, corruption and incapability in the so-called police service. South Africans face disillusionment daily and when absurd legislation in the name of the citizen is advanced, the disillusionment in the state is simply compounded.On another note: Our democracy works. Public participation works and just as we broke e-tolls we can stop such sinister legislation from passing. I urge you to voice your opposition in writing to [email protected] and join the DearSA campaign. These are meaningful and recognised actions which add weight to the many bodies fighting against this legislation coming to pass.

Author

  • Zain Yousuf is an independent arms analyst with a focus on the evolution of policy and doctrine in a rapidly evolving technological environment