Minister Bheki Cele
Another day, another new Minister of Police. A lot of people hoped that Bheki Cele would be a breath of fresh air. Instead he turned out to be more of the same. Just like Fikile Mbalula, the previous Min of Pol who came out strongly against civilian firearm ownership, Minister Cele has decided to nail his colours to the mast early;
“Nobody wants to see the American situation, where children are killed in classrooms because firearms are allowed to be carried like toys. We’ll have to work very hard to make sure that South Africa is disarmed.”
Now, I am personally grateful that Minister Bheki “Shoot-to-Kill” Cele (I don’t care if he denies it: he said it) didn’t waste any time in clarifying his anti-gun stance. There is a lot wrong with everything the Minister said. For one, South Africa is not America. We have an entirely different legal, political, social, and cultural landscape. We also have 7 times more murder than the USA. It is patently ridiculous to even compare us with America.
Yet, because it suits the Minister’s civilian disarmament agenda, he chooses to do so.
For this man, who is escorted and protected 24-hours a day by armed security, to deny ordinary South Africans the right to protect themselves against violent criminals is the highest form of hypocrisy. His predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, was just as much of a hypocrite since he owned a private firearm himself. Naturally it is nothing new for politicians to pursue the disarmament of civilians while they themselves are protected with guns. But for it to come from the Minister of Police is a blatant outrage.
The SAPS has repeatedly failed the people of South Africa. Our townships and inner cities are dens of villainy, where ordinary people are daily subjected to extremely violent crime. When the people need the police, it takes them hours to respond. If they even ever arrive. Those who live in rural areas frequently have no police presence what so ever. But if Minister Cele has his way, ordinary citizens will have no choice but to be disarmed victims.
I would like to point out to the Minister that we live in the eighth most homicidal nation on earth. Our murder rate has been increasing year-on-year since 2011. However, from 1994 to 2004 our murder rate dropped by 50%. At the same time over 150 000 new firearm licences were issued every year. Most of these licences were for handguns, and their owners were people from previously disadvantaged communities. With the death of Apartheid, all South Africans could suddenly access legal firearms for their protection. As civilian gun ownership increased, murder and violent crime went down.
It doesn’t take much brain power to understand that criminals don’t like going up against armed victims. Their risk of getting shot increases substantially.
However, Minister Cele would clearly prefer that only the police have access to guns.
The same police that lose on average 8 times more firearms than civilians do, and who through corruption and ineptitude armed thousands of criminals.
The same police who last year, in trigger-happy moments of gross criminal incompetence, gunned down fast food workers from Nando’s and McDonalds in two separate incidents. And then left the scene. (How’s that “shoot to kill” shtick working out for you?)
The same police who takes hours to respond to an emergency, if they arrive at all.
It seems Minister Cele is blissfully unaware of how out of order his house his.
The SAPS are frequently in hot water due to their conduct and flagrant disregard for the law. The situation is so dire that Parliament has repeatedly expressed concern about the amount of civil cases against the SAPS. Additionally, the SAPS often act in complete contempt of court. As a recent example, on 21 February the North Gauteng High Court issue warrants for arrest for the Minister of Police, the National Commissioner, a Brigadier Mabule and Colonel Ndukula. Why? Because they were in contempt of Judge Tolmay’s court order of 4 July last year.
From where I am standing, it looks like Minister Cele has a lot of work to do. When the police behave like criminals, as opposed to being the guardians and enforcers of the law, it becomes impossible for citizens to trust them. Instead of fixing the SAPS the Minister wants to take our guns.
Let me be clear on something, as controversial as it is: if only the SAPS have guns, there will be a Marikana Massacre in this country every single day. The last thing we need is for the Minister of Police to encourage cops to go out there and shoot everything they think is a threat. Trigger-happy police officers have killed and wounded enough innocent civilians. But it doesn’t appear as if Minister Cele has any problem with this.
Meanwhile, citizens have to fend for themselves against violent criminals. Most cannot afford private security, electric fences, high walls, and bodyguards. In fact, most people live in a shack or other informal housing arrangement. An old .38 Special revolver is sometimes all that they have to protect themselves and their families from violent criminals. Taking that firearm away from people, and leaving citizens defenceless, is an injustice. Lawful gun owners are the most law-abiding segment of society. They are clearly not the problem. Yet they, instead of hardened criminals, are now the target of Minister Cele.
I remind Minister Cele that the British once tried to take guns from our various tribes and Boer republics. They failed. The National Party government then tried to implement restrictive firearm policies. They failed too. Our democracy is hard-won. The people won’t readily sacrifice rights that they took so long to gain.
We will do the same thing we did with Fikile Mbalula: we will stand together and we will fight for our rights.
If this is truly what Minister Cele desires, then that is what he shall receive.
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