Guns Are Everywhere in South Africa. But South Africans Don’t Feel Safer Because of It

Justin Peters, Slate, February 14, 2013

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{snip} While the country’s [South Africa’s] gun-related violent crime rate has dropped in the wake of 2000’s Firearms Control Act, The Guardian reports that “many people say they live in fear of crime in South Africa, with Johannesburg still listed as one of the five most dangerous cities in the word, along with Mogadishu and New Orleans.” In a Globe and Mail article today, Geoffrey York reported:

South African airports and casinos have prominent signs directing people to storage rooms to deposit their weapons. Criminals assume that their victims have guns. When they break into a house, their first step is to search for the owner’s gun.

Guns are widely used in the most common crimes here: they are used in 77 per cent of house robberies and 87 per cent of business robberies, and they are the cause of death in more than half of all murders, reports say.

Fear of guns is why South Africa’s middle classes are hidden behind three-metre-high electrified fences and walls, in compounds with motion detectors and metal-barred doors. They hire security companies with gun-toting guards, who promise “immediate armed response” to every activated alarm.

As that last paragraph suggests, many South Africans don’t trust the police to protect them. GlobalPost has noted ”growing frustration over this country’s corrupt and incompetent police at seemingly every level of the system, from traffic cops soliciting a bribe for a “cold drink” to the controversial appointments of some of the country’s highest-ranking police officials.” {snip}

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Police corruption and venality breed lawlessness, and it also prompts citizens to start taking protection into their own hands. The Guardian reported that “six out of 10 South Africans feared burglary more than any other crime,” and that many people relied on private security services to pick up the police department’s slack. {snip}

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