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Volunteers carrying paintball guns protect stores following days of looting, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, July 15 2021. Picture: REUTERSROGAN WARD
Volunteers carrying paintball guns protect stores following days of looting, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, July 15 2021. Picture: REUTERSROGAN WARD

It is the grandchildren of Edgar Brookes, a founder and president of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), who dishonour their grandfather’s proud legacy in their rancorous mischaracterisation of the IRR’s present-day position (“IRR not continuing the legacy of its founders”, July 14).

Suggesting that the IRR advocates “the personal use of force as a solution to social ills” is preposterous. The most pressing social ills of SA — including poverty, joblessness and poor education — form a key focus of the IRR’s work and are obviously not amenable to remediation through the “personal use of force”. Instead, they require wide-ranging, evidence-based economic, labour market and governance reforms of the kind the IRR consistently advocates for, backed up by its extensive research.

The social ills described above formed a powder keg most recently ignited by the arrest and incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma. Today, a situation of violent anarchy prevails in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. It comes on top of persistently high levels of violent crime and a patent inability on the part of the law enforcement authorities to address it.

It is in this context that the IRR supports responsible, strictly regulated gun ownership for the purposes of self-defence. This does not equate to support for vigilantism, nor does it negate the need for police reform, which the IRR has long supported and continues to advocate for. But that is a distant and uncertain prospect, while South Africans’ lives and livelihoods are under immediate threat today.

The authors further suggest that the IRR advocates “the removal of the state from regulating the economy and society”. How they square this with the IRR’s support for social grants, government-funded education and health care, land reform, not to mention an effective, impartial and honest judiciary and police force, is hard to comprehend.

The IRR does indeed support a reduced role for the state and an expanded role for the private sector, but that is hardly a controversial position in the face of pervasive state failure across departments and state-owned enterprises.

In their letter the authors present a grotesque caricature of the IRR. It would behove them to familiarise themselves with its work before offering ill-informed opinions that impugn the organisation’s reputation without evidence.

John Endres 
CEO-elect, IRR

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