PW's sons might quit SA

2005-01-23 22:55

London - Former president PW Botha's sons, Piet and Rossouw, say they might be forced to leave South Africa because of rampant crime.

And, Piet has told the London Sunday Times, the problem is being compounded by the controversial new gun laws.

He says there have been five attempted burglaries at his Pretoria home; he's been mugged twice; his son was badly beaten by other muggers and a friend was shot dead in his garden.

Botha said during one attack he'd fought off the muggers with one of three knives he carries with him.

He said he and his wife were always armed.

Botha says his daughter, who works in Britain, arms herself with guns and knives whenever she returns home.

"In our family it's always been the tradition that children learn to handle guns from the age of five or six and we all belong to shooting clubs."

Although Piet Botha is a sports shooter too, he says the most important thing is the defence of his family.

"I can't compromise about that. If I'm forced to give up my guns here, I'll emigrate to the UK."

He told the Sunday Times that his family would be safe in Britain as there was "law and order and the police are magnificent".

Concern for the poor

Rossouw Botha, who runs a gun shop in George, is only too aware that many gun shops are closing down because of the new law, which requires weapons in private hands to be re-registered every five years and, in some cases, every two years.

The regulations are bewilderingly complex and the licensing department is so slow that at its present rate it will take 65 years to re-register all South Africa's 4.5m legally held private guns.

If Rossouw Botha wants to continue to ply his trade, he may have to do it in the United States.

"The guys I really feel sorry for are the poor, mainly blacks," he says.

"Well-off whites can retreat inside high-walled houses with expensive alarm systems and security companies offering instant armed response.

"But 95% of my customers are black and they can't afford that.

"They buy my guns but have to leave them in my safe because they can't get licences for them.

"They are all going to be driven into becoming illegal gun owners."