THIS year marks the fifth consecutive year of an increase in the homicide rate.
The capability of the SAPS as a competent and effective force has been on a decline since the mid-2000s already, but today we are starting to see what rock bottom really looks like. Contrary to Gun Free South Africa’s (GFSA) rhetoric, guns are not the cause of our woes and ills. Getting rid of them, as proven internationally, does not have an effect on crime, particularly homicide.
We regard it as an unfortunate attempt at fearmongering that GFSA attributes the steady decrease in homicide between 2000 and 2010 due to stronger gun laws, as the gun laws were not strengthened until the Firearms Control Act (FCA) became law only in July 2004. If anything, homicide showed its steepest decline from its peak in 1994, until 2004 when the FCA came into force, therefore suggesting that lax gun laws were more beneficial in that it afforded an easy to access tool for civilians to use as a deterrent.
The root cause of the increasingly deteriorating situation in South Africa is not difficult to identify: unemployment and lack of opportunity is driving desperate citizens into the arms of criminal syndicates, gangs and enterprises. Firearms, just as sharp and blunt objects, are but a tool of the various criminal trades.
Compounding this, is the increasingly declining capability of the SAPS in its mandate, and the Minister is not incorrect to say that this stems from turmoil in senior SAPS management structures, and even at a political level. Corruption is rampant, morale is rock bottom, and trust and faith in senior management and government from lower ranks is almost utterly non-existent.
It is extremely unfortunate that hard-working and dedicated officers are subjected to this emotional abuse by their own organisation and government in the service of their country. The number of reservists within the SAPS, people who work as police officers for free part-time and out of sheer love for their country and community, has plunged to almost zero.
Rather than disaggregating homicide methods as GFSA has suggested, the SAPS must disaggregate homicide in general. Current data only shows deaths inflicted by another person, rather than legitimate reasons such as self-defence or law enforcement. Understanding this is likely to paint a very interesting picture. Until then, we stand alongside the brave men and women in blue and the people of South Africa, hoping for action by the responsible officials, that will drastically turn this downward spiral around.
Gun Owners South Africa (GOSA)
By Jonathan Wright, GOSA researcher and writer