Connect with us

Current Affairs

IN PICTURES | Shots Fired: Gun Violence In South Africa




The brutal reality of South Africa’s gun culture, and how some victims are fighting back.

A woman is shot and killed and a 10-year-old girl wounded in a shootout between rival gangs in Westbury, west of Johannesburg.

This is a real incident. And every day, there are similar news headlines everywhere in South Africa.

Sometimes, they make it to the main pages, sometimes they don’t.

There are far too many to report.

The death of this woman angered the community in Westbury and put the area on pause, loaded with tension, as the locals blocked roads, burned tyres and threw stones at the police.

They believed the police were not rightly addressing the turf war in the area over drugs and guns, and the violence the gangs perpetrated against women and children.

In South Africa, a total of 2,930 women and 294 girls were murdered in 2017/18, according to crime stats of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

The statistics have driven some women at least to enrol in self-defence classes. They say they have to.

We visit the Black Duck Field Sports Shooting and Archery Range in Honingklip in Krugersdorp, about 38 kms from Johannesburg, where men, women and children are taught to use firearms at the outdoor range.

Donne Oosthuizen is a regular here and has been working with the Community Policing Forum (CPF) since 2002. She joined the neighborhood watch under the Douglasdale precinct, in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, in 2012; with that, came the responsibility to patrol the streets to protect the community.

“I didn’t have my husband to protect me so it was about myself; if we faced a situation [where we needed to defend ourselves] and obviously protect someone else if they needed it,” says Oosthuizen.

All this stems from the fact that she has also been a victim of crime.

I’ve been through a lot of crime, I have been held up, been hijacked. My husband has had a gun to his head. I have two guns of my own, a 9mm and a shotgun, and I’m going to be building up my collection.

Oosthuizen has two daughters, aged seven and 10, and encourages them to practise at the shooting range, so they are not scared of using firearms if they need to protect themselves, and also so they are aware of the dangers of using them.

“If there is a situation at home where we are not able to protect ourselves because we’ve been shot, they can then protect themselves. They both shoot 9mm guns,” she says.

Oosthuizen is one of five women on the neighborhood watch, the youngest being 19 and the oldest 60.

The 34-year-old Oosthuizen has introduced her mother, Debbie Walters, to firearms too.

“I haven’t been happy that my daughter has guns but I understand that in the times we live in, we sometimes have to protect ourselves, especially as women. When it comes to my granddaughters…. [if the situation arises], the girls will be able to protect us if necessary,” says Walters.

As we walk the length of the shooting range, shots are fired from all directions,deafening sounds not rare in South Africa’s inner cities, except that this time, it has a different context.

 Judy Holding is yet another sharpshooter at the Black Duck range who has been handling guns since 2016. She feels a gun is a part of empowerment as it helps women protect themselves.

“South Africa is dangerous and you need to be quite ready. We love this country, so if we are going to be here, we need to be prepared to live where we are,” says Holding.

She does not own a firearm yet but is in the process of getting a licence.

According to the law, before owning a firearm, a person needs to obtain a licence from SAPS; he or she will need a licence for every firearm under possession. The person is then prescribed training at an accredited training institution for a proficiency certificate. The process takes about six months. From there on, one can obtain a legal firearm from accredited gun dealers.

But are guns, really, the only route to self-defence?

Gun Free South Africa (GFSA) was established in 1995 with the aim of reducing gun-related violence and making a solid contribution to the safety and security of South Africans.

One of its founding members is Adèle Kirsten, who has been “a non-violent activist” for over 40 years now.

“1976 was my first year in university, that’s when the Soweto Uprising happened. So I joined the anti-apartheid movement. Most of my work during that time was around teaching people and engaging in what we called ‘direct non-violent action’. Basically, I come from a social justice background,” says Kirsten.

 Today, Kirsten is the Director of GFSA and one of the biggest opponents of gun ownership in South Africa. She played a role in the National Peace Accord (NPA) during the 1990-1994 transition to democracy.

NPA was sought to end violence in South Africa and help establish a multi-party democracy.

 That period was incredibly violent, she remembers. “More people were killed during that period than during the apartheid years. A lot of us were helping the country move through that period and into the first national democratic elections in 1994. It was also a time when massive [slug] guns were in the country.

“So we had a national amnesty in 1994 [calling to hand in firearms]. We didn’t get as many guns as we had hoped and we realized this is something we wanted to work on – a commitment to transforming our society.”

In 1997, she was appointed to a committee by the then Minister of Safety and Security to help craft a new policy for gun laws. In 2000, the Firearms Control Act was passed by Parliament which is still in place today. The numbers may have come down, yet, the statistics are brutal.

In 2014, reportedly, gun-related incidents overtook car accidents as the leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries in Cape Town’s government hospitals.

Wemeet Tshepo Seboko, a 31-year-old photography and videography student at the Vaal University of Technology, who was shot and injured during a robbery in Soweto in Johannesburg. Seboko was home for the weekend for his younger sister’s birthday.

“There were three of us on our way back passing through a passage, including a female family friend, and a close friend. We heard someone running from behind us and made way for him. He suddenly stops, pulls out a gun and wants our phones.

“The two managed to get away and I was in a tussle with the guy. He ends up on the floor and I start to run. As I was running away, that’s when I was shot from behind. After he shot me, he came and took whatever belongings I had,” Seboko painfully recalls.

He was rushed to hospital where he spent 10 days and was told he might not walk again because of the bullet lodged in his spine; which he has to date. After 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit, Seboko was moved to a rehabilitation center.After three months, he willed himself to get back to mainstream life.

I just realized how beautiful the gift of life is after such a dramatic [incident], he says.

Seboko went back to school but didn’t complete his course at the Tshwane University of Pretoria because he lost interest. Things changed after he accepted the harsh reality of his life.

Fortunately, the man who inflicted such bodily harm on him was arrested a few months later, and in 2010, sentenced to 18 years in jail.

“I heard earlier this year that he was released. I have the anger for it, but ever since the incident, I have not let the anger overwhelm me to make me the same person that he is in terms of violence. So it doesn’t really affect me. I wouldn’t know until I come face-to-face with him. So right now, I’m feeling robbed not only by him but the justice system,” Seboko says.

Seboko quit his corporate job after getting himself a camera and went back to creative school. He loves photography and has been inspired by his friends. He hopes to turn his pain into creativity and awareness.

Trauma is never easy to deal with. Nthabiseng Mogale, a 25-year-old qualified paramedic in Johannesburg, has saved countless lives working out of an emergency room on wheels.

She talks about trauma management in transit. “If a patient was shot and is conscious, it’s easier because you can communicate. We try stabilizing the gun wounds, controlling the bleeding and if the patient is in too much pain, we get medication into the body using drips to be able to move the patient on to a spine board, called a stabilization board. This board minimizes pain and stabilizes the neck and the spine,” says Mogale.    

Women and children continue to be vulnerable to gun-related crimes. With the festive season approaching, the numbers are likely to go up. A police officer working in central Johannesburg, who does not want to be named, says the only solution is more “visible policing”.

“There are more operations now, and roadblocks to stop criminals, and there’s more patrolling in the malls,” he says.

Yet, will the guns ever go silent in South Africa? 

Bullet points

According to 2018 statistics by Gun Free South Africa(GFSA), women make up 11% of gun-related murder victims. Guns are also used to injure, threaten and intimidate.

• Women are most at risk of being shot in their home by their intimate partner.

• Most victims have been threatened with a firearm before being shot. The four main types of threatening gun-related behaviour by men are:

1) Threatening to shoot their partner

2) Cleaning, holding or loading a gun during an argument

3) Threatening to shoot a person or a pet the partner cares about

4) Shooting a gun during an argument.

• Intimate partner violence and gun deaths are particularly high in families where men use a gun for work, such as in the police, army or private security industry.

• Two national studies of femicide (the murder of women) show that the number of women killed by their intimate partner (called intimate femicide) has dropped from four women a day in 1999 (an average of one woman being killed every six hours) to three women a day (one every eight hours) in 2009. Researchers attributed this decline to the Firearms Control Act (2000).

• Men make up 89% of gun murder victims in South Africa.

• Men living in metro areas have a “notably higher” rate of murder.

• Murder rates are highest in the 15–29 years age group.

• 23 people are shot and killed every day in South Africa.

 138 people survive a gunshot every day in South Africa,often with severe disabilities closely associated with spinal cord injury. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies trauma, specifically motor vehicle accidents, as the leading cause of such injuries worldwide, followed by falls and violence. However, according to the WHO, South Africa has a very high violence-related traumatic spinal cord injury rate in 2018.

Continue Reading

Current Affairs

The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation




Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.

As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.    

The spark that fueled the raging fire was in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district (CBD).

The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.

The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.

To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.

Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.

Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.

“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.

But South African businesses were affected too.

Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.

Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.

“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.

 Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected. 

Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.

“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.

Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).

Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.

Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.

The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.

Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.” 

Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.

There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.

A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.   

Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”

“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.

She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.

Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.

“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.

She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.

“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).

“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.

Women stop traffic while they hold up placards stating their grievences against GBV. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.

The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.

Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?

Continue Reading

Current Affairs

Roadmap For African Startups



Francois Bonnici, Head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, explains how African impact entrepreneurs will continue to rise.

Does impact investment favor expats over African entrepreneurs? If so, how can it be fixed?

There is a growing recognition all over the world that investment is not a fully objective process, and is biased by the homogeneity of investors, networks and distant locations.

A Village Capital Report cited that 90% of investment in digital financial services and financial inclusion in East Africa in 2015-2016 went to a small group of expatriate-founded businesses, with 80% of disclosed funds emanating from foreign investors.

READ MORE | It’s Time For Africa’s Gazelles To Shine

In a similar trend recognized in the US over the last decade, reports that only 3% of startup capital went to minority and women entrepreneurs has triggered the rise of new funds focused on gender and minority-lensed investing.

There has been an explosion of African startups all over the continent, and investors are missing out by looking for the same business models that work in Silicon Valley being run by people who can speak and act like them.

In South Africa, empowerment funds and alternative debt fund structures are dedicated to investing in African businesses, but local capital in other African countries may not also be labelled or considered impact investing, but they do still invest in job creation and provision of vital services.

There is still, however, a several billion-dollar financing gap of risk capital in particular, which local capital needs to play a significant part in filling. And of course, African impact entrepreneurs will continue to rise and engage investors convincingly of the growing and unique opportunities on the continent.

READ MORE | The World’s Most Generous Billionaires Outside Of The US

What are the most exciting areas for impact investing and social entrepreneurship today?

After several decades of emergence, the most exciting areas are the explosion of new products, vehicles and structures along with the mainstreaming of impact investment into traditional entities like banks, asset managers and pension funds who are using the impact lens and, more importantly, starting to measure the impact.

At the same time, we’re seeing an emergence of partnership models, policies and an ecosystem of support for the work of social entrepreneurs, who’ve been operating with insufficient capital and blockages in regulation for decades.

Francois Bonnici, Head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Picture: Supplied

The 2019 OECD report on Social Impact Investment  mapped the presence of 590 social impact investment policies in 45 countries over the last decade, but also raises the concern of the risk of ‘impact washing’ without clear definitions, data and impact measurement practices. 

In Africa, we are also seeing National Advisory Boards for Impact Investing emerge in South Africa and social economy policies white papers being developed; all good news for social entrepreneurs.

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell: Africa Is One Of The Leading Continents In The World

What role does technology play in enabling impact investing and social entrepreneurship?

The role of technologies from the mobile phone to cloud services, blockchain, and artificial intelligence is vast in their application to enhancing social impact, improving the efficiency, transparency and trust as we leapfrog old infrastructures and create digital systems that people in underserved communities can now access and control.

From Sproxil (addressing pirated medicines and goods), to Zipline (drones delivering life-saving donor blood to remote areas of Rwanda) to Silulo Ulutho Technologies (digitally empowering women and youth), exciting new ways of addressing inclusion, education and health are possible, and applications are being used in many other areas such as land rights, financial literacy etc.

While we have seen a great mobile penetration, much of Africa still suffers from high data costs, and insufficient investment in education and capacity to lead in areas of the fourth industrial revolution, with the risk that these technologies could negatively impact communities and further drive inequality.

READ MORE | Why Now Is The Time To Invest In African E-commerce

Continue Reading

Current Affairs

Businesses At The Heart Of A Greener Future




With every day that passes by it becomes more apparent that the Earth is deteriorating and time is running out to save it. Scientists have estimated that we have less than a decade to save the planet before it is irreversibly damaged, mainly due to climate change.

Businesses claim the largest percentage of global emissions (at approximately 70% since 1988, according to The Guardian) which is an alarming statistic, especially in a time when the planet’s well-being is being compromised.

Many large business corporations are hastily coming on board with operating sustainably by transforming their practices and placing business ethics at the forefront of their priorities.

READ MORE | The Most Sustainable Companies In 2019

Last week, a round table discussion was held at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel, Sandton hosted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM) – the world’s largest sustainability consulting firm. Their aim was to discuss how imperative it is for African businesses to get on board with sustainability.

“We have been talking about how to be sustainable for a long time but now it is time for us to do sustainability,” says Thapelo Letete, Technical Director of ERM.

An engaging and thought-provoking panel discussion ensued with representatives from ERM and mining companies, Anglo American and Gold Fields. They emphasized the importance of sustainability being recognized by investors, especially in mining and oil companies that rely solely on Earth’s natural resources.

Civil society has a colossal role to play in ensuring the sustainability of businesses. Due to the law of supply and demand in production, consumers are being urged to be mindful of their buying habits and to make sustainable decisions. These are as simple as minimizing the utilization of plastic straws by replacing them with metal or paper straws and reusable shopping bags and by recycling selected items.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“Research suggests that socially and environmentally responsible practices have the potential to garner more positive consumer perceptions of (businesses), as well as increases in profitability,” according to an entry in Sage Journals published in May.

The advancement of science, artificial intelligence and the rapid growth of the technological industry make it an undeniable fact that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. Many businesses across the globe seem to be well prepared for this change. However, businesses in Africa seem to be vulnerable. 

“It is difficult to say that all businesses in Africa are prepared for it. It is not a country specific thing but it does vary across corporations. There will be businesses that are well prepared and businesses that are not so well prepared,” says Keryn James, CEO of ERM.

A large part of sustainability also relies on empowerment and equality. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female-owned businesses who contribute a large amount of money towards their respective countries’ GDPs. However, most of these businesses struggle with the issue of scaling.

“Women sometimes underestimate their ability and they don’t necessarily  have the confidence that they should have about the value that their businesses present. Women often take less risks than men,” says James.

“The issue of scaling is one that we see globally. One of the issues are access to funding to support in the investment and growth of their businesses.”

READ MORE | Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa

Going forward, the availability of mentorship programmes and skills development opportunities for women, especially black women in business should be encouraged.

According to a study done by the UN Women’s organization, an average of 3 out of 7 women score higher in performance when they are placed in senior managerial positions. Additionally, if more women work, the more countries can exponentially maximise their economic growth.

Women will be empowered when given the correct skills and opportunities to be able to run their own businesses independently which would ultimately lead to the scaling of female-owned businesses in Africa and sustainable development.

The Nedbank Capital Sustainable Business Awards aim to recognize the efforts of businesses that operate sustainably and to encourage other corporations who intend to adopt more sustainable strategies into their practices. Initiatives such as these prove that business value also depends on how sustainable they are.

It is clear that the prioritization of sustainability and accountability in businesses is the only way forward in the midst of this global crisis. With a combination of will and the rigorous work that African businesses have put into sustainability initiatives and strategies, it is easier to be optimistic about our planet’s wellbeing.

-Buhle Ntusi

Continue Reading