Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Gun ownership tempts more South Africans as insecurity grows

It was the first indication a crowd was expected — a coffee trailer perched itself on the lawn of the Rooikraal shooting range south of Johannesburg.

South Africa has one of the world's highest murder rates for a country not at war
South Africa has one of the world’s highest murder rates for a country not at war

Folding chairs and cooler boxes in tow, the crowd swelled as the morning gloom lifted to be gradually replaced with a red glow over the maize plantation that nestled the range.

Dozens of people, mostly women of colour weighed down by their ever-growing safety fears, gathered to practise target shooting.

Africa’s most industrialised nation is notorious for its terrifyingly high crime rate. At least 50 people are killed daily, according to police figures.

Anger at the country's inability to protect its own people is pushing many to pick up a gun
Anger at the country’s inability to protect its own people is pushing many to pick up a gun

“Is it painful to put next to your shoulders?” 21-year-old Rabina Karabo asks an instructor, pointing to a 50-calibre precision riffle.

A middle-aged woman standing behind her sipping coffee and sporting ear muffs and safety goggles exclaims: “That’s a beast of a gun!”

If the gun is not rested well on the shoulders “it is going to kick you like a donkey”, warns the instructor.

South Africa has one of the world’s highest murder rates for a country not at war.

Now, anger at the country’s inability to protect its own people is pushing many to arm themselves.

Women’s empowerment group Girls on Fire is trying to ramp up gun uptake among women.

For 47-year-old Matseko Silanda, the training has helped her shake off her nervousness and she now wants to own a gun.

“I am a woman. You know women in South Africa are not safe,” she says, showing a clip of her shooting at the range.

Brought to the range by her mother, Karabo is not sold on gun ownership yet but hopes to “learn to control” one.

“I shouldn’t be scared of it,” she says moments after firing four shots.

At least 50 people are killed daily in South Africa, according to police figures
At least 50 people are killed daily in South Africa, according to police figures

Figures for the number of guns in South Africa are sketchy and opinion is divided on carrying one.

Advocacy group Gun Free South Africa estimates there are at least 4.5 million legal guns with nearly a similar figure in shadowy hands in a country of 58.8 million people.

A six-month government amnesty period for the return of illegal guns netted only 46,714 firearms in 2020, but was extended to the end of January after being hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

A six-month government amnesty period for the return of illegal guns netted only 46,714 firearms in 2020
A six-month government amnesty period for the return of illegal guns netted only 46,714 firearms in 2020

Trainer Michelle Van Der Merwe says owning a gun has “liberated” her and she has managed to help people caught in attempted hijackings.

“When one takes their first shot, the fear disappears in them,” making them “courageous, like warriors”, she says. AFP

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