Vol 1: Issue 20
17 February 2023
REMOVE ALL GUNS FROM CITIZENS
Gun violence has reached catastrophic levels in South Africa, our Azania. Yet nobody seems to raise any eyebrows. Like commercial media, the social network journalist is interested in being the first to record and post the dead bodies lying in a pool of blood. No thought is spared for the family and relatives of the deceased. Where there is a celebrity death that will attract some TV cameras, the man with the hat will be there regurgitating his official template that “the police will make sure that the culprits are brought to book”.
What kind of a nation that kills its leaders, artists and icons? There was a time when we could understand when the agents of the white settler-colonial regime were killing the political and cultural activists. On Sunday night hip-hop artist Kierman AKA Forbes was shot and killed in eThekwini in what appeared to be a hit. Before him, many more artists and athletes were gunned down. We count Gito Baloi (musician), Lucky Dube (musician), Senzo Meyiwa (footballer), Marc Batchelor (footballer), Oupa John Sefoka known as DJ Sumbody (musician), Dumi Masilela (actor), Sandile Nkululeko Mkhize better known as DJ Citi Lyts (musician), Charles Yohane (footballer), Chesley Japhta (footballer) and a host of others.
Other gun killings take place within the political space where political activists are killed by their fellow comrades, only they are deemed to be threats in the spaces for positions in their political parties. The killing of a councilor is such a normal occurrence in South Africa that some media don’t even report about it. It happens in the taxi industry and during labour strikes when some workers are suspected of going to work behind the strike. The gun killings have swiftly engulfed the Mafia-style politics of this country where “amaphara”, “amagintsa” or “izinkabi” are hired to kill political rivals. It prompts one to wonder where were these gunslingers pre-1994 when we were facing an armed enemy with stones and dustbin lids?
There is no doubt in my mind that you already know that this state of siege exclusively affects Black people. In a sense, Blacks are suicidal. Who needs an enemy when we have Black people like these? We conduct politics, business, religion, work or family life with violent killings. This is the kind of self-hatred about which the Black Consciousness philosophy warns us. This self-hatred is indicative of the lack of psychological liberation in the Black person who now has the vote and office from which to govern. Unfortunately, they are ruled on how to govern, which is why we are condemned to misgovernance.
If the government cares about its citizens and Black life, they will heed the old AZAPO call for the removal of guns from private citizens. During the Presidency of Cde Mosibudi Mangena, AZAPO launched the Gun-Free Campaign in April 2007 in Kagiso in the West Rand. Incidentally, that was the same month and year in which musician Gito Baloi was gunned down. AZAPO addressed churches and visited the communities conscientising them about the need for a law banning ownership of guns by private citizens. AZAPO held the position that only the army and the police were to be in possession of guns while on duty. Even then, there would be no operational need for them to handle guns and weapons of war like R5s when conducting crowd control at protest actions by the citizens. Representations were made to the State for the enactment of a law that would ban the selling of guns to the private citizens. A window would be opened for citizens to return their guns to the State in return for some compensation. This window would be extended even to illegal gun possessors, who would be indemnified against arrest during such window. Beyond the window period, any private citizen found in possession of a firearm would face a minimum of 15 years in custody.
Without any instruction by AZAPO, Cde Mangena handed over his gun to the police in the second semester of 2007. AZAPO was concerned about that individual move without the necessary legislative and policy environment. That notwithstanding, AZAPO welcomed the gesture by its leader.
To appreciate AZAPO’s Gun-Free Campaign, you need to know that the gun violence kills 30 people a day, and injures 180 more, and this costs the country billions of rands in direct and indirect costs. That is according to latest statistics by Gun Free South Africa (GFSA). GFSA shows that in 2014 an estimated R6 billion, or 4% of the country’s National Health Budget, went to the treatment of gun-shot patients at the State hospitals. GFSA reasoned that if you accounted for inflation, that figure would translate in the region of R9 billion in October 2022. Further, the GFSA report shows that gun violence is the leading cause of murders in South Africa with the number of people murdered by gunshots having increased from 5,417 in 2016 to 8,388 in 2021. That represents a 54.8% increase.
Consider that crimes like femicide, cash heists, car hijacking, Mall and house robberies are carried out with guns. The police officers are also victims of gun violence. It stands to reason that these crimes would not be that easy without guns. For citizens, the illusion is that you are safer if you possess a gun. Not at all. It is the planning of the crime and the element of surprise that disarms the law-abiding citizen. Even the cash guards that are trained and armed to the teeth, are often helpless to the military-style ambush by the criminals.
According to the Firearms Control Act 60 of 2000, a South African citizen over the age of 21 may apply to obtain a firearm licence. Such a citizen may possess a maximum of 4 firearms. Mind you, the age restriction may be removed if the citizen is able to convince the authorities of the need to possess a firearm. However, the GFSA report tells us that more than 9,000 guns are reported stolen or missing every year, while 24 guns enter the illegal market every day. In other words, the illegal gun was once a legal gun. Put bluntly, the source of illegality is legality. That is one of the reasons that AZAPO pushes very strongly for total ban and criminalisation of gun possession by private citizens.
Here are some of the countries that have banned gun ownership by citizens: Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Seychelles, North Korea, Vatican City. In Central African Republic, Djibouti, China and Japan, gun ownership is severely restricted. For instance, Japan allows gun ownership only for hunting and sport shooting. China has similar gun laws, which also allow a few ethnic minorities to own guns. Djibouti has a total ban on private citizens ownership of guns, except where the Head of State grants an exception.
South Africa, our Azania, has to stop mimicking everything the western countries do. The opening and liberalisation of the South African society has come too soon for a country that is still occupied with “nation-building” programmes in the context of a fledgling democracy with weak controls. The liberal gun controls have opened loopholes for the tavern shootings where Black people die like flies. The Constitution has promised the citizens a right to life and security. We don’t want to be compelled to wonder what would the government do if the gun killers were on rampage in the white communities.