Story By Abigirl Tembo
CALLS for the country to review its gun laws are growing louder as Zimbabwe has recorded an increase in violent crimes involving guns.
The upsurge in the misuse of firearms by gun licence holders to commit violent crimes, suicide and settle personal scores has become a worrying reality for many Zimbabweans who are now questioning the country’s gun laws.
Those who spoke to ZBC News on the streets of Harare called for stiffer penalties on people who abuse guns.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi acknowledges the worrying trend in the misuse of firearms.
“In terms of the Firearms Act Chapter 10.09, members of the public, business people, companies or institutions can acquire firearms for various purposes which include cash-in-transit protection, which include those who are into farming or those who push huge volumes in terms of financial transactions,” he said.
“The Firearms Act is very clear that one has to be licensed to acquire the firearm, even for families or individuals who want to protect themselves at home, they have to go through the armoury process which includes vetting, a requirement for one to have a medical certificate in terms of their mental capacity.
“We have had some people licensed to own firearms but at the end of the day, they are then discovered that they are unstable in terms of their mental capacity where they threaten their family members, threatening even business colleagues when they have disputes, but basically the Firearms Act is very clear.
“Unfortunately, we have had people who misuse firearms we have had people who are abusing firearms to settle scores and business disputes, marital disputes or in other activities for instance when you have people who go to a service station to draw fuel they have a dispute and one of the party suddenly pulls out a firearm, these are the incidences we have recorded indicating that people are misusing firearms.”
Assistant Commissioner Nyathi also indicated that some individuals are still trying to smuggle firearms into the country.
“Although we had 583 firearms surrendered during the Presidential amnesty last year, surprisingly we still have people who are being found in possession of unlicensed firearms. We still have people who still try to smuggle firearms into the country, people who have been arrested and are appearing before the courts. We still have licensed firearm owners who are not properly securing their firearms and some of these firearms are finding their way into the hands of criminals where they are used to commit murders and robberies.”
An expert in the security services sector, Mr Fidelis Mazividza reckons there is a need for the constant mental evaluation of gun licence holders.
“When it comes to the country’s gun laws, we are mainly talking of the Firearms Act of 1957 and this is a law which has been amended several times, but it appears that law is still lagging as far as international standards are concerned,” he said.
“There are some issues which relate to the Firearms Act on the issuance of firearms licences to firearms holders. The first thing is the aspect of the licences themselves, the issuance of licences in Zimbabwe is not that watertight, for example, for someone who is a house owner to be given a licence there are only two requirements, the first, a letter from the police and secondly, the possession of a title deed. These two requirements alone are not enough.
“The validity of the licence, as much as we know, the current state says the licences which are being issued expire after three years. Do these people still have the same capacities which they had when they initially obtained the licences because many things can change, the mental capacity of a person can change, and the business itself in which the licence was issued can also change. So, we need to ascertain and see if the law is still protecting the citizens lives.
“The law should be changed to at least a renewal in one year so that people are continuously vetted and checked if they still meet the criteria and these same requirements also need to be checked. There is a need for the police to go deeper in their vetting process.”
While the misuse of licenced guns remains an issue, the abuse of firearms in general including illegally possessed guns has become a major source of worry.
Figures released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency show that in 2016 there were 214 cases of armed robberies, with the figure doubling to 429 in 2017 and 561 in 2018
In 2019, 1 022 cases were recorded, while in 2021 there were 1 120 cases.
The figures for 2022, which are still being compiled, are pointing to a higher number compared to the previous year with the recent Jaison Muvevi case, where he allegedly gunned down three people in Wedza, setting a bad tone for 2023.