SA police destroy arms


Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa says the destruction of illegal firearms helps the fight against crime by ensuring that only law-abiding citizens possess guns. He was commenting as workers at the Arcelor Mittal steelworks in Vereeniging melted down some 80 000 confiscated weapons.

Mthethwa added that the 80 611 joined 517 252 firearms destroyed between 2005 and 2009.

The minister noted that of the arms melted down, 67 286 were confiscated in Gauteng, 1424 in the Free State, 5200 in Limpopo, 2606 in Mpumalanga and 4095 in the North West Province.

Speaking at a media event on Friday, Mthethwa said he held “a firm view that responsible gun ownership does not cause crime. It is the merciless scoundrels who rob and kill innocent citizens; in the process disarm the law-abiding citizens of their legal firearms. These however, instantly become illegal once they are in the hands of criminals as they have neither rightful ownership nor mandate to utilise them.
“We are here today to convey and emphasize the message that, only law-abiding citizens can be in possession of firearms. Equally, Government is intent on ensuring that we disarm criminals of firearms. There is neither Constitutional right nor privilege that guarantees criminals to possess firearms,” he added.
“Today South Africa will be safer because the Force has removed from circulation some of the illegal firearms, which would have been in the hands of criminals.
“Today our businesses have been spared from another robbery. Today our homes have been spared from break-ins. Today our schools have been spared from intimidation by criminal elements intent on disrupting normal schooling. And today, another innocent life has been spared.”

Speaking about the sources of illegal arms, Mthethwa said a “comprehensive strategy to deal with the [cross-border] flow of … illegal firearms [across SA’s land borders] is being developed” in light of the “government decision to deploy the Army into the borderlines.”
“We will further capacitate members of the [police] through re-skilling, to ensure that they are not easily disarmed and robbed by criminals. Equally, we will ensure that our storage facilities at police stations are properly monitored and protected,” the minister added.

Democratic Alliance shadow police minister Dianne Kohler Barnard last April noted that 14 117 weapons have been lost or stolen from police stations since 2001, 2507 in 2008 alone.

The SA Press Association meanwhile reported that gun control campaigners welcomed the destruction of the firearms.

IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms) Africa said the destruction sent a positive signal that a firearms amnesty that came into effect last Monday and will run to April 11 will genuinely protect people’s lives and safety, by permanently draining the pool of illegal weapons in society.
“It also sets a target for SADC member states. Since guns can be easily smuggled across borders, this means that similar gun destruction is needed across the sub-region, in order to promote public security.”
“This is an important first step, but as the recent Angola football shooting showed, there are a lot of illegal guns in the Southern African region. Other countries in our sub-region should seek to match the target of guns melted today by South Africa, so that we can all enjoy a safer World Cup,” said Joseph Dube, IANSA Africa co-ordinator.

Business Against Crime SA CE Graham Wright urged gun-owners and citizens to be responsible and comply with the full requirements of the Firearms Control Act of 2000 and to make use of the opportunity of the amnesty period where it applied.
“The surrender of any obsolete, redundant and/or surplus firearms would valuably contribute to the efforts of the police,” he said.
“Bacsa views the amnesty process as an important aspect within a broader, more holistic approach to crime and encourages all to do their part to stem the proliferation of illegal and stolen firearms particularly,” Wright said.