South African women turn to guns to fight rape, murder scourge
ON FEBRUARY 8, 20216:00 AMIN FOREIGN
For the dozens of women training at a shooting range near Johannesburg, learning how to use a gun has become a means of protection in a country where a woman is murdered every three hours.
For the first time in her life, Ntando Mthembu holds a revolver in her hands. Without hesitating she fires 10 bullets towards a cardboard target.
Last November Mthembu’s cousin, left alone in a house for several hours, was gang-raped and murdered.
“Before it happens to me, I want to be prepared,” said 33-year-old Mthembu.
South Africa is among the most violent countries on Earth, and its homicide rates are constantly increasing.
In 2019-2020, the country suffered 21,325 murders, according to the latest annual police report — up 1.4 percent on the previous year.
And the rate of femicide is five times higher than the global average.
“Women are targets in this country,” says Matsie Noge, another participant in the training organised by the Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA) association.
She brought along her 24-year-old daughter to the session, reserved exclusively for women. “I should have done it way before, when she was 15,” Noge added.
– Every minute counts –
“These trainings have a focus on young black women, statistically most impacted by crimes,” says Themba Kubheka, who organised the female-only training for GOSA.
“Every lady here knows a lady that has been raped, robbed, mugged. Each of them has a story about crime in this country.”
For Kubheka, the point of the training is to equip the women with immediate self-defence skills in a dangerous situation.
“Instead of waiting for help, they need to be able to first respond,” he says, noting that South African police take an average of 15 minutes to arrive when alerted to a case of assau