A number of agricultural organisations have come out with guns blazing about the draft Firearms Control Amendment Bill. One of the proposals are that self-defence is not a valid reason for owning a firearm.
Agri SA’s chairperson for its rural safety centre of excellence, Uys van der Westhuijzen, has called this “irresponsible and irrational”.
“Agri SA strongly opposes these amendments,” he says.
Further proposals regarding the validity period of a competency certificate and added limitations on the number of firearms for occasional hunting and sport shoot are equally unacceptable, says Van der Westhuijzen.
“Agri SA will provide commentary on the proposed amendments, with inputs from its member organisations and, where necessary, work with other organisations to oppose amendments that are to the detriment of fellow South Africans.
“The [Firearms Control Amendment Bill] draft proposals disregard the universal right to self-defence and should therefore be opposed vehemently by all South Africans,” he adds.
Who will protect farmers?
According to Agri SA, if the proposal regarding self-defence is accepted, it will have a negative impact on the farming community as it is largely tasked with protecting itself because of how remote farms are.
The fourth-quarter crime statistics confirm the vulnerability of the farming community against attacks, with an increase of 64 incidents since 2019/2021, and an increase of five murders during the same period.
“This vulnerability and the police’s inability to fully implement the rural safety strategy, with further postponements of the implementation dates, leave the farming community vulnerable to crime,” says Van der Westhuijzen.
Free State Agriculture believes that self-defence should not be restricted by the state.
“The mere thought that the government will raise such a proposal, in a country with some of the highest murder rates in the world, is not only outrageous but extremely disturbing. It will lead to an increase in criminal anarchy!” says Francois Wilken, president of Free State Agriculture.
“This is absolutely contrary to the provisions of the common law with regard to the right to self-defence provided, while the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution absolutely guarantees the right to life.”
‘Criminals have more rights’
Wilken further adds that especially rural communities are already vulnerable, as recently pointed out in the increase in farm attacks and murders statistics, and cannot afford to be deprived of legal firearms.
“The state’s inability to protect its citizens from increasing crime, the perception that criminals have more rights and may possess firearms that are normally illegal, and no longer have the right to defend themselves, is absurd and unconstitutional.”
Meanwhile, TLU SA has found the proposed amendment to be “contradictory to the Constitution”.
“South Africans are already like birds on a branch trying to miss the shots fired left, right and centre. Literally and figuratively,” says Henry Geldenhuys, the president of TLU SA.
“The suggested amendments to the Firearm Act will be ridiculous as long as crime in the country is out of control and the government cannot guarantee the safety of each citizen. To expect that farmers, who are remote and isolated, must not protect themselves, is unthinkable.”
The body believes that if government approves the suggested amendments, government should be held liable for any expenses incurred in crimes where the victim could not act in self-defence.