Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

20 January 2020

By Phumla Williams

A stable and peaceful Africa is the only way to ensure the prosperity for our region and the rest of the continent. South Africa shares the vision of a peaceful and prosperous continent, which contributes to a world that is just and equitable. A world, that will collectively continue to sharpen peaceful intervention of resolving conflicts.

Conflicts in Africa are one of the biggest impediments to the continent reaching its full potential. It leads to the loss of lives, displaces families, creates the conditions for instability, human rights violations and undermines development. Sadly, the continent continues to be plagued by conflict in a number of countries.

This year South Africa will assume the Chairship of the African Union and will use its tenure to intensify efforts to establish peace and stability in Africa. The AU approved theme for 2020 is “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”.

The initiative, adopted by the African Union during the organisation’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2013, aims to make peace in Africa a reality. It proposes peaceful resolution to rid the continent of wars, violent conflicts and human rights violations.

While our country will work together with other African nations across the continent to drive this initiative, we are also advancing the removal of illegal and unwanted firearms at home through a Firearm Amnesty that allows citizens to surrender these guns without prosecution.

The Minister of Police Bheki Cele has declared a Firearm Amnesty until 31 May 2020 in a bid to create safer communities. The Firearm Amnesty applies to people who are in possession of illegal firearms or ammunition and who voluntarily hand them in at any police station across the country. All firearms will undergo ballistic testing to ensure that they have not been used in the past in committing acts of crime.

Since the start of the amnesty period, 2 266 firearms have already been surrendered and will be destroyed. With this act of amnesty, the country will be safer with less guns in our midst. Government encourages the public who are illegally in possession of firearms and ammunition to take advantage of the amnesty period and hand them over at their nearest police station without fear of prosecution.

The use of guns is responsible for the senseless deaths of innocent lives both in South Africa and on the continent. According to an Oxfam International report “The human cost of uncontrolled arms in Africa”, there are an estimated 100 million uncontrolled small arms and light weapons in crisis zones in Africa.

Furthermore, the AK-47 assault rifle is regarded as one of the most dangerous killing weapons in Africa according to Aïssatou Hayatou, Operations Manager, at the African Union’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative.

South Africa will continue to build on the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the continent, guided by the African Union’s aspirations of Agenda 2063. We will also emphasize the preventative approach in addressing conflicts while assisting countries emerging from conflict from relapsing.

Through these measures, we are confident that we can foster peace and stability on the continent which will drive the social, economic and political rejuvenation of Africa. An integrated and prosperous Africa that takes its place as a dynamic force in the international arena is within our collective grasp.

Phumla Williams is the Acting Director-General at the Government Communication and Information System.