South Africans arm themselves in wake of violent riots
By Nerea González
Johannesburg, Sep 17 (EFE).- “It was a traumatic, full-on terror kind of experience”. That is how Durban resident Surav Jimmi remembers the wave of violent riots that swept the country in July, leaving 354 people dead. Like many South Africans, Jimmi is now applying for a gun license because he sees no other way to guarantee his personal safety.
“It was a week full of no sleep, standing off in the community, seeing people getting shot at, us getting shot at, it’s a traumatic experience,” the musician and entrepreneur tells Efe from the shooting range in the eastern city of Durban, the worst hit by the violence.
“I’ll have peace of mind within myself because I can say to myself that if these guys are coming to attack us with firearms, I am armed and ready to fight back as well,” he adds.
Compared by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the unrest surrounding the dismantling of the racist “apartheid” system in the 1990s, the wave of violence that South Africa experienced at the beginning of July not only left deaths and losses in the millions ($3.5 billion, according to the government).
Those days, the live televised images of the rampant chaos in the provinces of Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal also dealt a heavy blow to the confidence of South Africans in the institutions and security forces, already undermined by criminality and corruption.
“The Police are standing behind us as a community, is that something we can trust? Can we say I fully put my trust in the South African Police Services to take care of me?” Jimmi wonders.
NO POLICE PROTECTION
Fear of future violence is fueling South Africans’ interest in guns, as legislation allows — for the time being, as there is an amendment bill under discussion — their possession for self-defense.
“They really thought this was the end of the world for them. And what has happened as a result is, specifically in KwaZulu-Natal, the number of people that are interested in doing firearms training have quadrupled,” says Damian Enslin, president of the South African Gunowners Association (SAGA).