Police Bheki Cele has lamented gun violence in South Africa following a spate of mass shootings across the country in recent months.
Cele delivered South Africa’s third quarter crime statistics on Friday.
‘Heart of violent crime’
The latest crime statistics revealed that more than 7 500 people were murdered between October and December 2022 across the country.
Approximately 3 144 of the people murdered were killed with firearms.
Cele said it was clear that gun violence was “problematic” and posed “a serious threat to lives and livelihoods”.
“A broader conversation must be had about what is at the heart of violent crime in the country,” he said during a media briefing on Friday.
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The minister said South Africans needed to have an honest conversation about the causes of violence in order for it to be addressed properly.
“With the analysis of the current and previous statistics, it is quite evident that firearms are only part of a bigger problem. At the core of the matter is the human behaviour.”
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi this week called for stricter gun laws following the death of rapper Kiernan “AKA” Forbes.
AKA was gunned down outside a restaurant in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), on 10 February.
Mass shooting incidents
With mass shootings having drawn consistent media attention and police resources in 2022, Cele welcomed the arrest of suspects behind the incidents in Bityi and KwaNobuhle in the Eastern Cape, Nomzamo in Gauteng, and Pietermaritzburg in KZN.
“Mass shootings are a worry, but we do have good results in arresting people. One of the highly publicised [incidents] was Nomzamo so we are responding, but it is a pity that lives were lost. It’s not true that police aren’t doing anything. We will continue working with the communities in dealing with [mass shootings],” he said.
At least 16 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on patrons of Mdlalose’s Tavern in Nomzamo Park in the east of Soweto in July 2022.
The six suspects are facing a string of charges in connection to the shooting and are set to return to court on 20 February.
Watch the briefing below:
Meanwhile, Cele said the proliferation of guns was being addressed.
“Police are on the pulse in removing illegal weapons off our streets,” he said.
According to the minister, police have permanently removed and destroyed more than 65 500 firearms in the past 12 months.
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“The Saps will continue to intensify operations to detect and remove illegal firearms and ammunition, whilst legislation intervention in the Amendment to the Firearms Control Act, to address the availability of guns in our communities, is underway,” the minister said.
In addition, there was increase in illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
“This implies that the police have removed more illegal firearms from the communities increasing that particular crime count by 545,” Major General Thulare Sekhukhune said.
Cape Town bust
Cele further revealed that an ex-German citizen – a suspected “former military man” – found in illegal possession of firearms and ammunition was nabbed by police in Cape Town on Thursday.
“There is an operation that started last night in Malmesbury, where this naturalised former German citizen was found in a house with 42 guns [and] two vans full of bullets. [We found] powder [he used to] refill the bullets. We are still working on opening other safes.
“He stays alone in this warehouse that is full of all these weapons. He is around here in Cape Town so maybe these guns cross the borders [and] are stolen from the police or households,” he said.
The minister said it appeared that this could be linked to drug-related crimes in the Western Cape.
“People are beginning to produce their own drugs around here and maybe it does answer who supplies these so many bullets [to dealers].”
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