JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
IT WAS a night of horror in our house at Roodepoort, Johannesburg, two weeks ago. Two armed men stormed into the house, assaulted us, and robbed us our cell phones, laptops and other possessions. It was a traumatic experience – one that left us in fear. We became victims of crime and felt violated. The incident got me thinking about a much bigger problem South Africa faces – the astonishing high rate of gun-related crime.
This country has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Millions of South Africans are victims of crime every day. It’s something that continues to taint the image of our nation. With so much potential, crime is one of the many contributors to the sluggishness of our socioeconomic progress.
We lead the African continent on the murder rate – which is one of the depressing statistics to learn about. We live in a society where a citizen is intentionally murdered with a bullet every few hours. Roughly eighteen people are killed in this country every day. These statistics are based on the reported criminal incidents. Many are unreported – which therefore means the problem is much larger than what the statistics tell us.
The robbery happened in a secured complex, with a security guard, cameras and electric fence – where we thought we were safe. We were all puzzled as to how they came through, and how they could have left so easily. If they could do this in a secured building, then how vulnerable are the citizens living in townships and poor neighbourhoods? These are places where the police pass by once in two weeks.
It’s clear we need solutions that work to quell this disturbing crime. We need a justice system that works.
But, our government thinks the appropriate way to address this problem is by tightening gun-control laws – a terrible mistake.
A week ago, the minister of police, Nathi Nhleko, told delegates to the National Dialogue on Crime and Violence in Boksburg on the East Rand that, guns were used in many serious crimes. That to fight these robberies and gun-killings, there needs to be an investigation into ways to tighten gun-control laws. He wants to amend the Firearms Control Act (FCA) to further tighten the current gun-control laws.
I wasn’t surprised by his words. Many people believe the way to quell gun-related crime is through gun-control laws. The problem with this argument is that it ignores the fact that the law-abiding citizens do and should have a right to own guns.
Even though the FCA came into effect in 2000, South Africa’s violent crime remains one of the highest in the world. Why? Because what such laws do, is disarm the law-abiding and peaceful citizens, while criminals do get hold of guns.
I doubt people who speak like the minister have ever had to go through the experience of seeing a gun or a deadly weapon aimed at them, in a matter of life and death. I doubt.
You know, it took criminals at least forty-five seconds to break into my room as I was inside. After assaulting us and taking all we had, I thought to myself, if I had a firearm, perhaps I would have protected our property from these heartless outlaws. Perhaps, our belongings would still be with us. That’s what I’ve been thinking ever since.
It wasn’t the first time this happened to me. It did happen in 2012. My computer and other stuff was taken away too. The feeling was the same – that had I had a firearm, my belongings would have never been taken away.
So I’m really baffled by people who argue for gun-control laws that deny the law-abiding citizens the right to own guns in order to protect themselves and their property. The FCA is in force, and yet, criminals do and will always have access to guns. It’s the peaceful citizens who are and will be left defenceless.
What we need is a justice system that works to protect us from criminals. That’s all that’s needed, not disarming hunters and people who want to protect themselves and their property. The police must be effective in their job. And we should stop the leniency towards criminals. They should be held accountable for their evil deeds, and we should be harsh on them. That’s the way we should fight crime while ensuring people’s liberties (including liberty to own firearms to protect themselves) are left intact.
What happened to us last week made me think this will happen again. What’s frightening, is that, as I mentioned above, South Africa ranks amongst the top countries with violent crime in the world. People die daily here.
With criminals owning guns, the inefficient justice system, and the law-abiding citizens denied the opportunity to defend themselves, I’m hopeless. And the situation is likely to deteriorate as government enacts more and more gun-control laws. How sad. PM
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI