Experts warn mass killings could continue if illegal gun trade is not addressed
The government needs to fulfil its promises of enhancing the crime-fighting capacity of law enforcement agencies made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his January 8 ANC statement
More lives could be lost in mass shootings if the SA Police Service’s capacity and efforts to eliminate the illegal gun trade are not strengthened.
This is according to a policing analyst and an anti-crime non-governmental organisation who shed light on the growing phenomenon of mass shootings in the country.
Gun Free SA director Adèle Kirsten said the 18 people killed recently in the Eastern Cape in two mass shootings and the 16 killed with rifles in a tavern in Soweto last July would not be the last because of the growing illegal gun trade.
“It is clear government did not use the 2021 massacres to develop a plan to deal with gun violence or mass shootings because we have not seen changes. If there is a strategy, it is not effective,” Kirsten said.
She said in many cases when perpetrators of gun violence-related crimes are arrested, the weapons are not recovered.
“That gun continues to circulate and is used to kill more people. The pressure must be on the police to arrest and recover the guns. Police need to reduce the number of guns in our society. This was done before, in the early 2000s.”
Kirsten said most guns used by criminals are stolen from licensed owners. According to the organisation around 9,855 weapons are reported stolen every year.
“Guns are stolen from police stock, some come from cross border trade, and others are attained through corruption in law enforcement entities.”
Police commissioner Gen Fannie Masemola said killing police officers for their service pistols undermined the authority of the state.
Policing expert Dr Johan Burger said more mass shootings would happen if the capacity of the criminal justice system is not strengthened.
He said groups such as zama zamas fighting over illegal mining territory, taxi industry killings and “construction mafias” that demand protection fees from businesses could worsen the death toll. Recent crime statistics showed murder increased by 13.6% by September last year.
“SA faces a serious threat in terms of transnational organised crime. Our crime levels have been on the increase for more than a decade. ,” Burger said.
A syndicate demanding protection fees from businesses terrorised Mamelodi last year. The group, called Boko Haram, tormented the township. In 2021, eight people allegedly linked to the gang were killed, some shot dead in full view of their families and the public. No arrests were made.
Burger said police officers were understaffed and under-resourced and battled from corruption within the department.
“There is a growing gap between the number of officers we have for safety and security purposes and the size of the population. Recently they decreased the number of police officers by 13,000.”
Burger said the same problems affect the National Prosecuting Authority.
“The criminal justice system is under tremendous pressure because of the rise in crime and this is added to by the high rise in corruption exposed by the Zondo commission.
“With what remains of the capacity, is it sufficient to deal with the rise in crime, including mass shootings? The ANC acknowledges the criminal justice system does not have the capacity to fight the breakdown in security,” he said.
He said corruption in the police service weakened the department.
“Criminals saw the gaps within the justice system. They do not fear police. They believe they can get away with crime and that’s why there are high levels .”
Burger said to turn things around government needed to fulfil its promises of enhancing the crime-fighting capacity of law enforcement agencies made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his January 8 ANC statement.
“The criminal justice system needs to rebuild its capacity, get rid of internal corruption, strengthen specialised police units and give them resources because there are units that do a good job.
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