Cape Town – Gun Free South Africa and Sonke Gender Justice have partnered in a campaign to encourage people to support a toy gun-free festive season.
The campaign, “Don’t Groom For Violence!”, was being held within the context of what the organisations called a “national gun violence emergency”.
National crime statistics showed guns were the leading cause of murder in South Africa.
About 47% of murders in 2018/19 were from gunshots and 31% were knife-related.
In Gauteng, gunshots have overtaken motor vehicle accidents to become the leading cause of death.
Suleiman Henry, of Sonke Gender Justice, said: “Toys are an instrument of socialisation. Every toy given to a child carries the message that we approve of that toy.”
He said when parents bought toys that imitated real weapons, children were encouraged to play with violence, thereby normalising violence.
“Instead of being socialised into violence, boys should be encouraged to embrace their caring side.
“We want to raise boys who say no to violence, who are considerate fathers and supportive partners,” he added.
Sonke Gender Justice community mobilisation and education manager, Nonhlanhla Skosana, said the campaign supported the vision of a safer, more peaceful and just South Africa.
“By encouraging gifts that are fun and educational, rather than toys of war, death and intimidation, children and their families and friends can actually begin to experience what it would be like to live in a country free from violence, even in play,” Skosana said.
Grassy Park community leader and activist Philip Bam discouraged parents from giving toy guns to children as Christmas gifts.
“The toy gun, especially the imitation one, is an initiation, because kids get used to handling guns and it becomes easier for gangs to put a real gun into their hands,” said Bam.
He added that the sale of imitation guns should be outlawed if the government was serious about addressing violence.
“There have been instances when children have played with a real gun, thinking it is an imitation one, and caused the death of a loved one,” Bam said.
He said gunshots went off daily in some townships, traumatising communities and putting fear into the minds of parents who think their child might be in the way of a stray bullet.