South Africa’s deadly love affair with guns


South Africa’s Increasing Reliance on Firearms for Personal Security

In Johannesburg, Penson Mlotshwa has made it a habit to carry a gun wherever he goes. Whether it’s a trip to the store, a restaurant outing, or even a gym session, his firearm has become a constant companion. For him, it’s a necessary precaution in a country grappling with soaring crime rates.

“I can’t predict when I might be targeted,” says the YouTube content creator, reflecting on his multiple encounters with danger. One night, after dinner, a would-be mugger brandished a knife, demanding Mlotshwa’s wallet. Drawing his gun, he managed to disarm the assailant without firing a shot.

Mlotshwa, who declined to disclose the number of firearms he owns, emphasizes that his weapons are solely for self-defense—an area where he feels the government and law enforcement have fallen short.

Lynette Oxley, a Johannesburg resident, echoes this sentiment, advocating for women’s empowerment through gun ownership. Through her initiative, Girls on Fire, Oxley trains women to protect themselves in a country plagued by high rates of sexual violence and crime.

In South Africa, where the murder rate has reached a two-decade high, firearms have become the weapon of choice. With over 2.7 million legal gun owners—approximately 8% of the adult population—the prevalence of firearms underscores a growing sense of insecurity.

Adele Kirsten, director of Gun Free South Africa, expresses concern over the proliferation of guns, especially as crime evolves, with mass shootings and assassinations becoming more frequent occurrences.

The issue of illegal firearms exacerbates the problem, with corruption within law enforcement contributing to the circulation of illicit weapons. In a notable case, former police officer Christiaan Prinsloo was implicated in selling thousands of guns to criminal gangs.

In response to rising crime and a perceived lack of security, more South Africans are taking personal safety into their own hands. However, Kirsten advocates for stricter gun control measures, emphasizing the correlation between gun availability and gun-related deaths.

Yet, for many, owning a gun is seen as a fundamental right and a means of self-preservation. Gideon Joubert, a firearms consultant, views firearms ownership as a symbol of individual autonomy and responsibility.

South Africa’s complex relationship with guns traces back to its history of colonization and apartheid, where firearms played a significant role. While the face of gun ownership may be changing, vestiges of colonial-era mentalities persist, particularly among older white males.

As South Africa navigates its future, marked by political shifts and socioeconomic challenges, the debate over gun ownership underscores broader issues of security, identity, and empowerment in a nation grappling with its past and present realities.


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