The proposed amendments to the FCA of 2000 that seek to abolish firearm ownership for self-defence purposes is an unjustifiable overreach by an increasingly authoritarian state that has miserably failed its citizens.
National Commissioner Kehla Sitole in October 2018 admitted to Parliament that the SAPS is “overstretched” and that it is “impossible” for the police to fulfil its constitutional mandate. Matters have significantly worsened since. Our murder rate has increased every year since 2011, and South Africa is the 6th most homicidal nation on Earth.
Equally our rate of rape and sexual violence is among the highest, if not the highest, in the world – with a staggering 50 000 sexual assaults reported annually. It is also a generally-accepted fact that rape is significantly underreported, so the true figures are likely much higher.
The problem of violence against women is in fact so rife in South Africa, that President Ramaphosa referred to it as a “second pandemic” of GBV. Yet, in spite of this, Minister Cele and the SAPS have failed to pay vital service providers which resulted in the PCEM system, which processes forensic evidence, being switched off since June last year.
This has delayed the processing of over 6 million pieces of forensic evidence connected to 180 000 criminal cases, and means that potentially thousands of rapists and murderers will get away with their crimes.
It is to this backdrop that Minister Cele now seeks to remove from women their last resort to private self-defence and personal safety – their right and ability to lawfully keep and bear arms with which to protect themselves from abusers, rapists, and murderers.
Adding further insult to injury, Minister Cele has the audacity to refer to these proposals as necessary to curtail the so-called “proliferation of firearms” in order to create a safer society. Yet under Minister Cele’s stewardship the SAPS failed to maintain their own Firearm Permit System (FPS) which has resulted in 500 000 police firearms not being tracked since June last year. During the first three months of 2021 a total of 84 SAPS firearms have been lost or stolen in Gauteng alone.
This continues the established tradition of the SAPS being irresponsible and negligent custodians of their own firearms, as evident from the fact that the police lose on average 8 times more firearms per capita than civilians do, and recover their lost firearms at a rate 15 times lower.
Persistent cases of police officers implicated and convicted of selling firearms to criminals and gangs is an additional damning indictment, and the minister would be well-served in first getting his own disarrayed house in perfect order before indulging in thinly-veiled attempts at shifting the blame to law-abiding, responsible, and safe civilian firearm owners.
This goes beyond cynical politics, and is tantamount to an open assault against not only women’s ability to safeguard themselves in a society where the state has completely failed them – and continues to fail them every day – but to leave all citizens who choose to shoulder the responsibility of being their own first responders as defenceless victims for violent criminals, and entirely reliant on the dysfunctional organs of state who chronically fail to uphold their mandates.
Millions of South Africans rely on firearms for their personal protection. They are a national security asset, not a liability requiring yet more heavy-handed and incompetent attempts at overregulation.
The proposed amendments are a disgrace. The entire bill should be withdrawn and discarded as a whole, and the real stakeholders engaged with before any further attempts at amending the FCA are made.
Written by Gideon Joubert.
Gideon is the owner and editor of Paratus.