Guns are killing our children, it is time to remove them 

Several years ago, my brother was shot and killed, early one Monday morning, as he stepped out of the yard of our home in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, for whatever business ideas brewed in his head. 

His assailants have yet to face the music, which means the family, his spouse and his children, have not got justice while his killers continue to roam the streets of South Africa without having had their comeuppance. 

We have moved on with our lives, and healed, so that we can do what needs to be done, yet not forgetting the tragic end to an innocent life that was prematurely ended by gunfire owned by evil men who are prepared to kill and escape culpability. 

I begin this column in the way I have done to illustrate how cheap life is taken by those who are allowed by the weak security systems to use their firearms to decimate life and limb, and to render the country an unsafe space for innocent people. 

In a country of about 60-million people, it is estimated there are at least eight-million illegal small arms in circulation. Added to that, there are four million licensed small arms. All told, it means there are 12-million small arms in the country. 

An argument is often advanced that guns offer protection for self-defence in an event of emergency, when confronted with the need to defend ourselves against intruders. 

This argument should not be easily rejected, yet in a country where at least 34 innocent people are shot dead daily, a figure if computed on a yearly basis, and if everything remained constant, this translates into 12 410 dead people yearly from gunmen whose sense of empathy has been dulled by a warped sense of judgment. 

The latest crime statistics reveals that more than 7 500 people died at the hands of criminals, of this figure 3 000 were gunned down. 

The killing by hired assassins of a well-known rapper AKA or Kierman Forbes in February last year sent shock waves in the entertainment world as it did to millions of South Africans who may wonder if they too may fall victim to deranged gunmen in the same way AKA lost his life. 

About two years ago, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) South Africa reported that at least 352 children had been gunned down, and their little lives cut short. 

This translates to four children killed through the barrel of a gun daily.  

This is appalling in a country founded on democratic principles and he Constitution. 

Section 11 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to life. 

In section 28(d), the Constitution provides that children must be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. 

Says Unicef: “We cannot and should not accept such high levels of child murders every day.” 

A noble call by Unicef, but: Is anybody listening? 

But more concerning is that as we enter a new dispensation of the Government of National Unity (GNU), in almost all-party political campaigns preceding the elections of May 29, not a single party was specific on what ought to be done to protect children from being killed by guns in the hands of callous men. 

We must hope President -Cyril Ramaphosa, in the new government of NGU, will, among many challenges facing the nation, place his focus on what ought to be done to stop the scourge. 

Part of the huge problem the new administration must tackle is to remove guns proliferating the streets of our country. 

The Central Firearms Registry is said to have rotten apples manning it – with corrupt police officers playing a role to flooding the streets with firearms finding their way to criminal syndicates. 

If it true that the police are corrupt and are given to the temptation of arming gang–syndicates, war against crime will be lost. 

Global trends demand safe keeping of firearms in state custody be paramount. This requires people whose moral rectitude is not corruptible. 

Ramaphosa and his new cabinet for the next coming years, must turn the corner. Collectively they must commit to protecting the citizens and children from marauding criminals walking the streets of South Africa armed to the teeth. 


  • Mdhlela is freelance journalist, an Anglican priest, and ex-trade unionist and former editor of the South African Human Rights Commission journals

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