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Media Statement: International Gun Destruction Day 2018

  • July 2018
  • Posted By GunFreeSA

Government’s failure to destroy guns feeds gun violence crisis in SA

Monday, 9 July 2018: Today is International Gun Destruction Day. Today 21 people will be shot and killed in South Africa because of government’s failure to comply with its international gun control obligations.

Under the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (called the UN PoA), adopted by consensus by UN Member States in 2001 South Africa is obligated to:

  1. Destroy surplus firearms, including surrendered, confiscated and obsolete weapons held by the police, defence force and other state departments to minimise the risk that these guns will leak into communities.
  2. Submit annual reports on compliance with the UN PoA to the UN Secretary General.

South Africa has failed on both fronts, and the result is lives lost:

  • Between 2012 and 2017, South Africa submitted just one national report (in 2014) to the UN; in contrast SA’s neighbours submitted an average of three reports over this period.
  • Poor weapon stockpile management and record-keeping by the South African government has meant that thousands of guns earmarked for destruction and marked as having been destroyed have leaked into criminals hands.

Says Ronald Menoe, Gun Free SA’s Chairperson, “Destroying gun stocks stops surplus guns leaking into the illegal market, and because guns don’t expire, they can be used repeatedly to commit crimes and kill innocent people.”

The leakage of guns into communities due to government’s failure to comply with international gun destruction obligations was highlighted in 2016 when an ex SAPS colonel, Christiaan Prinsloo was sentenced to 18 years for selling guns confiscated by or surrendered to SAPS and marked for destruction to Western Cape gangsters.   – all SABC Victor Ditaba Tsotesi.

Ballistic testing has linked 888 of Prinsloo’s guns to 1,066 murders in the Western Cape, including the deaths of 89 children. Of the 2,400 guns that Prinsloo admitted to stealing as part of his plea bargain, more than 1,100 have still not been recovered.

Gun violence in South Africa is spiralling out of control: In Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape – particularly on the Cape Flats – guns have overtaken knives as the leading cause of murder.

Gun Free South Africa urgently calls on the South African Government and SAPS to build safer communities by destroying surplus guns and to put in place an auditing process to build public trust that gun stockpiles are in fact destroyed.

The recent ruling by the Constitutional Court that gun licence renewals are constitutional underscores the urgency of this call. The ConCourt judgement means that thousands of gun owners who have failed to renew their firearm licences, and who are therefore in illegal possession, must surrender their guns to the police.  SAPS must enforce this ruling by committing resources and clear instructions to gun owners and civilians regarding the procedure to surrender firearms and a plan of action for their destruction.

While we may never know the true extent and impact of South Africa’s failure to comply with its gun control obligations, if SAPS does not take urgent action to destroy surplus gun stocks under its control, and these guns leak back into communities, the scope of litigation is enormous.

Gun violence is preventable, the thousands of lives lost because of government’s failure cannot be brought back; but millions of lives can be saved when guns that are taken off our streets and out of our homes are permanently destroyed so they cannot leak back into communities.