On June 22 2021 the Democratic Alliance (DA) hosted a virtual firearm summit. The DA has previously supported private gun ownership for self defence. The summit was in response to proposed changes to the Firearms Control Amendment Bill. The Bill has come under scrutiny for the controversial suggestions. We watched the summit with morbid curiosity, and can confirm that once again the D in the DA stands for Dissonance.
The main amendments proposed are to respond to the policy principles of the distribution of firearms in South Africa and to strengthen the application procedures for firearm and ammunition licenses and its management.
The bill proposes that self-defence may not be a valid reason to own a firearm, and to limit guns only to hunters and sport shooters. The SA Police Service (SAPS) says in the socio-economic assessment accompanying the bill there is no other alternative to lower murder and crime rates without these limitations. The rise in violent crime expresses a clear need for improved firearm control, said the assessment.
Andrew Whitfield, DA member of parliament and shadow police minister posted this video in response to the bill. Whitfield cited the key proposal of removing self-defence, as a reason to own firearms as draconian with calls for the public to sign their petition against it. The bill is open for public comment until July 4 2021.
The first panel featured Helen Zille(DA Federal Council Chair), Whitfield and Reagan Allen, the DA’ spokesperson for community safety in Cape Town. The panel started off with appeals for livelihood; as the economy around guns will be affected by the bill being passed.
Zille then read from Give Us More Guns – How South Africa’s Gangs Were Armed
By Mark Shaw; which explored how illegally sold guns get into the hands of South Africa’s crime bosses. She cited the very true facts about illegal gun circulation. But why now?
We are in a pandemic with overburdened systems and are being ravaged by unemployment, and other social ills. There is a direct link between violence and poverty. Should the calls for the protection of armament not intersect with the origins of violence? It has to be especially in South Africa. Our challenges are not singular. They are varied like a packet of Quality Street sweets at Christmas time.
I am a firm believer in interrogating legislation as a democracy. We need open forums. We also need to read the room. Once we have read the room, we need to prioritise but also interrogate our arguments. Gun violence in South Africa accounts for the murders of 23 people a day in South Africa. Police Minister Bheki Cele presented the annual crime statistics last year, and stated that there were 7,351 murders committed with firearms between April 2019 and March 2020. That is 303 more murders than the previous year.
Cele did not partake in the summit but did acknowledge the DA’s invitation.The chairperson of the portfolio committee on police, Tina Joemat-Pettersson stated that Whitfield was disingenuous and misled the public by having a DA summit, as opposed to the South African Firearms Summit as the invitation stated. Joemat-Pettersson also stated that it is untrue to allege that the portfolio committee has done nothing about the Firearms Summit it committed to convening in early 2020. The pandemic forced a disruption, not a cancellation, she said.
Gun Free South Africa has an interactive map of South Africa pinning daily each death by a firearm. It reflects a tiny proportion of the gun violence in South Africans daily.
Allen spoke about the SAPS acting on laws that are already in place, and said that the DA is on the right side of history in opposing the bill. The points are valid but again glaringly overlook any larger issues. I wasn’t surprised by Allen’s scripted contribution but he repeated Zille’s sentiments. The DA seems so averse to addressing anything before 1994, which could give it some legitimacy in actually wanting to redress the past.
What followed next was a run-on sentence of bias and partiality. This was a one sided summit completely dominated by the DA and gun lobbyists. There was not one opposing group at the summit. Annette Steyn, member of parliament, compared self defence on farms with violence in Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats. Now is not the time to play murder/murder. Violence is violence and is not a yardstick on who should be protected more.
Read more: Ten times the Democratic Alliance was kak
As a Capetonian who grew up in one of the largest townships in Cape Town, I can tell the difference between a gunshot and klappertjes. I have seen maimings and one killing in my life with a gun. I am not alone in my experience.We grew up near what is called the “Hell” in Mitchell’s Plain. Currently I live in an area where the adhan competes with the ongoing gang fighting nearby. The “bilal bangs with” the gunshots. We are not strangers to the poison that is guns. We are also aware that self-defence is not a bad thing and that people kill not guns. Multiple truths exist in this and we need to address and work on everything at the same time, not convenient issues that never address systemic problems that give rise to violence.
We are also aware that in a pandemic there would have been deeper consideration than surface level outcry against the bill. If the DA is that concerned with the right to bear arms, go ahead. March on Blue! Load another round. Then start addressing the social ills that inform the violence on the Cape Flats; your holy grail of voters that you only seem to care for during election time.