In the late evening hours of 14 May Mandla Hlatshwayo, a South African actor and JoziFM DJ, was shot and killed by armed robbers whilst attempting to help two women who were being held-up. His actions were brave, selfless, and admirable. It is a rare quality in today’s world for anyone to willingly run head-on into danger in the hope of saving someone else, and I think that if Mr. Hlatshwayo is remembered for anything, it should be that his final actions marked him to be a brave and principled gentleman.
It is therefore nothing short of disgraceful that the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, would use the death of this man as a platform from which to launch another disingenuous initiative for more catastrophic gun control.
Minister Fikile Mbalula is highly concerned about the number of guns that are circulating in South Africa. The Minister plans to speed processes of the The Firearms Control Act which provides the legal framework for the registration and control of firearms. Minister Fikile Mbalula will push for the Bill to control the impact of firearms as well as the limitation of firearms licences in our society.
“We need the reduction of firearms in circulation and the non-proliferation of both legal and illegal firearms.” Minister Fikile Mbalula said.
At least the Minister appears to be following very faithfully in the footsteps of his anti-gun predecessor, Nathi Nhleko.
I would like to point out to the Minister that his claim that somehow restricting legal firearm ownership will have any influence on our murder rate is wrong.
In 1994 our national homicide rate was approximately 66,9 per 100 000. This figure declined steadily over the next decade, reaching 42,7 per 100 000 in 2004, just before the Firearms Control Act of 2000 came into effect as a law. It then continued declining at a slower rate, and actually increased back up to 40,5 in 2007. The homicide rate bottomed out in 2011 at just under 30,0…bringing to an end a decline that has been ongoing since 1990. It has spiked upwards sharply to 33,0 as of 2014.
It is obvious to see (from the graph above, courtesy of the UCT Centre of Criminology) that our national homicide rate had been in steady decline for at least 14 years before the FCA of 2000 even came into effect, and that the law’s introduction actually coincided with an arrest in the decline of the murder rate. There is clearly no correlation between stricter gun control in South Africa and the homicide rate, regardless of what the Minister thinks.
Seeing as lawful firearm owners have never been part of the problem, this is hardly a surprising result.
Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that by far the vast majority of homicides in this country are perpetrated by use of sharp objects, not firearms. Yet the Minister is not particularly upset after every stabbing death, and the government reserves moral outrage purely for incidents involving a firearm. A case of unadulterated hypocrisy if ever there was any.
I would next like to draw attention to an excerpt from the Minister’s media briefing on 25 April this year. Around the 57:00 mark he says the following:
“There is a lot of AK47 here in this country. I don’t know where does it come from. Whether it was left by us, I don’t know. But is lot of AK47. Everybody has got a AK47.”
As the Minister of Police, I would expect the office holder to be at the very least fully versed in the intricacies of any piece of legislation that falls within their portfolio before making wide and bold claims regarding it. No citizen, bar the miniscule handful of Category A collectors, can legally own a fully automatic firearm. It is obvious that these AK47-wielding criminals that so perturb the Minister never obtained these weapons from legal sources. Any attempts to strengthen gun control legislation would obviously have zero effect on them.
The Minister does hint that he has an idea where these weapons originate from: struggle-era arms caches, cross-border smuggling, and stolen from Government armouries and personnel.
These are themselves topics I have extensively covered previously in the following articles, which you can read for your own information:
- Police Minister is Wrong about Guns
- A letter to Msholozi
- GFSA and the State play Lord of War
- More Guns Stolen from Government Sources
- The SANDF’s Depot Disaster
- The State Arms Criminals…Again
The State is so woefully inept at looking after its own weapons, that it is completely laughable to think that targeting citizens who own guns by tightening a stupid law would make any difference to the illicitly-owned firearms in circulation. It is impossible to say how many weapons are stolen out of military bases and police stations every year, but the cases that make it into the news are numerous enough to illustrate that it is a very serious problem.
If the Minister was genuinely concerned with reducing our levels of violent crime, he would ensure that the SAPS has proper leadership. He would ensure that its members are looked after, properly paid, properly trained, and properly equipped. He would ensure the borders are secured and thoroughly patrolled.
Instead, we pay our police officers a pittance and the SAPS face budget cuts that will result in it shedding 3000 members over the next 3 years.
It is obvious to me that the Minister cannot possibly be under any illusions that the draconian gun control legislation South Africans have been oppressed by for over a decade has had absolutely zero impact in reducing violent crime. These meaningless and empty overtures smack of the same nonsensical dramatizing that followed in the wake of the Senzo Meyiwa murder.
You are not fooling anyone, Minister: this renewed call for more restrictive firearm legislation is clearly driven by an ill-disguised political agenda to remove firearms from the hands of ordinary citizens. It will have no effect on criminals whatsoever, but succeed in leaving law-abiding citizens completely defenceless.
It is despicable, it is unconscionable, and it is criminal.
And the gun owners of South Africa will be there to fight it every single step of the way.