OPINIONISTA

Tim Flack and Ludwig Churr: Hands off my police, they need support for the work they do

We have a people problem, an unemployment problem and a problem in our financial ability to combat crime effectively. Police are badly paid, overworked and face unspeakable violence daily, and most do the best they can. And you, Mr Cees de Rover, want to blame a rifle?

Mr Cees de Rover, we get it, guns bad, guns kill people. So do cars, boats aeroplanes, sticks and stones and even knives and scissors (See De Rover’s column here).

So we must get rid of only guns. This sentiment has been echoed throughout the world and in South Africa by a minority that loves to throw its weight around and force its opinion on a world full of dangerous criminals and terrorists who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Everyone demonises the police and SANDF in this country without thinking. No one takes into account the absolute violence the police face on a daily basis.

Cash-in-transit heist gangsters use fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles and explosives. You suggest the SAPS must fight cash-in-transit gangs with rubber bullets? If a crowd armed with petrol bombs attack SAPS members in vehicles, you suggest that SAPS must defend themselves with rubber bullets? Your suggestion will lead to fewer criminals being killed and more SAPS officers dying while performing their lawful tasks.

Do you agree that part of the lawful mandate of police is to protect South African citizens’ lives and properties? And that they have the right to defend themselves when attacked? And that rubber bullets are not a match for AK-47 fire?

Interpol reported that some 1.5 million AK-47s and handguns had been distributed to the civilian population during the course of the war in Mozambique. It is well documented that some of these weapons found their way into the hands of South African criminals. You can now hire one for as little as R100.

A 5.56x45 Nato (used in an R5) round has a diameter of 5.70mm.

A 7.62x39 (used in an AK-47 or equivalent) round has a diameter of 7.92mm.

This being said, the police in South Africa face being shot by criminals with fully automatic weapons firing 7.62 x39 rounds.

Ak-47 rifles use a larger round than the 5.56mm rounds used in the R5, and often they use armour piercing ammunition. Meaning a police bulletproof jacket is rendered useless. Sadly, Ixopo police officer Constable Virginia Ndlovu was shot and killed by one such round while involved in a shootout with the boxer bandits in KwaZulu-Natal. They used fully automatic AK-47s.

The problem faced in South Africa today is not the legally armed, but rather the illegally armed. It is for this reason some feel a need to be armed. The SAPS, particularly, have R5 rifles for this specific purpose, and while the Marikana incident was tragic, and possibly could have been avoided, one cannot simply use one example to say the SAPS need to have their R5s removed.

This, sir, is misleading. We understand that you were involved in the Marikana commission of inquiry and have seen images that disturbed you, and yes, there were officers that were acting in a manner that was criminal.

However, this proves that, because you’re human, your argument is an emotional one. Seeing anyone that has been shot is not natural and images and footage like this will have a devastating effect on the person that has seen this level of violence.

Imagine the effect on police personnel that see this daily? They know all too well what violent criminals do to people, and they are trained to deal with these violent criminals. We hope that you are receiving counselling for what has clearly affected you.

Gun Free South Africa and AmandlaMobi has had an online petition running since 2014, calling for the banning of the SAPS using R5 rifles. In five years the petition has garnered only 2,300 votes. Hardly the overwhelming groundswell of support that you claim to have for this notion of removing R5 weapons from the SAPS. Out of a total population of 55 million, 2,300 votes is not overwhelming support for disabling SAPS members from continuing to fulfill their legally sanctioned duty to protect South African citizens, which interestingly include all the 2,300 voters as well.

Recently News24 held a one-day survey asking about gun ownership. Look at the results for yourself. I stopped checking at 9.35pm and in less than 24 hours 10,357 people said they believed firearms were crucial to defending themselves.

We agree that the R5 in the hands of SAPS and the SANDF means that they are inadequately armed — we believe this. Our officers should not be using an outdated platform and should upgrade to using optics and Picatinny rails that make the rifle more accurate, effective and stable. They need better training in dealing with what are organised and seemingly well-trained criminals that use both AK-47 and R5s against the police.

The police in South Africa must have the means to defend themselves from criminals, and it is totally unacceptable that you say “I think it is criminally negligent as well as irresponsible, of SAPS as an organisation”.

Sir, our police are not criminals. Branding the SAPS, the hard-working, unappreciated law enforcers criminally negligent for carrying a means to protect themselves from violent criminals that want to kill them, warrants an apology from you. As with every organisation a few bad apples, who are prosecuted often when caught doing wrong, does not make the entire organisation criminally negligent.

This is an insult and defamatory. The heading of your article is a slap in the face to the police and you should feel ashamed of yourself : “making a murderer” — what a disgusting inference.

Wake up and smell reality. Violent crime is a massive problem in South Africa There were 20,336 murders in South Africa between April 2017 and March 2018. A murder rate of 36 people murdered per 100,000. Fifty-seven people are being murdered each day. Let that sink in. We have a people problem, an unemployment problem and a problem in our financial ability to combat crime effectively. Police are badly paid, overworked and face unspeakable violence on a daily basis, and most do the best they can.

And you want to blame a rifle? Wake up and smell reality, Mr De Rover. In South Africa, 57 of my people are killed every day by criminals. Hands off my police, they need support and acknowledgement for the work they do in extremely difficult circumstances, not easily triggered professionally outraged “woke” condemnation. DM

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