Fool metal jacket: Malema’s rifle antics 'a crime'
The EFF leader was definitely firing live rounds, and he should have been charged, say experts
Julius Malema is not firing blanks. At least he wasn't when he fired a semiautomatic rifle into the air at the Economic Freedom Fighters’ fifth birthday bash on Saturday.
A video of the incident emerged on Tuesday night, prompting a massive backlash.
Firearms experts and gun dealers say the party’s claim that its commander-in-chief was doing nothing more than firing blanks is “hogwash”.
Malema has not responded to requests for comment. The EFF has said it was not live ammunition that was fired.
“From the video you can see that a muzzle ‘stopper’ was not fitted to the gun,” firearms expert and trainer Johan Lourens told Times Select. “Muzzle stoppers are fitted onto guns which are set up to fire blanks. You can’t miss them. From the video you can see that it’s not fitted with one.”
He said it needed to be asked why someone who is allegedly Malema’s bodyguard would equip himself with a gun that fired blanks, “especially when it comes to defending someone’s life”.
Lourens said Malema faced a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment for possession of an unlicensed firearm.Police confirmed on Wednesday that they were investigating a case of discharging a firearm in a built-up area.
Firearms experts have also slammed the lack of police action in arresting and charging both Malema and the gun’s owner, who is reportedly his bodyguard, at the event or subsequently.
There was a heavy police presence at the EFF’s event in East London on Saturday.
A video, which has gone viral on social media, shows Malema being handed the weapon before he walks to the side of the stage and fires it seven times into the air.
A man meets Malema as he returns and hastily takes the gun before Malema high-fives another senior party member and continues to sing and dance on stage.
Experts told Times Select the firearm could be an LM5 or an AR15.
Both are semiautomatic assault rifles, with the LM5 being the civilian version of police-issue R5 rifles. LM5 and AR15 rifles are used in the private security industry, often by cash-in-transit security guards.
Lourens said that if it was an LM5, the rifle would have been fitted with a short magazine carrying up to 10 rounds of ammunition.The incident is said to have occurred at an after-party held several hours after the EFF’s main birthday bash.
Times Select has learnt from a firearms training expert that Malema is a pro-gun lobbyist and has a gun licence.
But, says Lourens, having a firearms licence does not mean Malema is licensed to fire the weapon he had on the stage.
“His licence will allow him to be in possession and fire his gun. When you fire the gun of someone else they have to be with you and supervise you and have control of the weapon – which this owner did not.
“No matter who you are, you cannot walk around firing off guns into the air.”
Another firearms expert, who asked not to be named, said Malema had broken numerous sections of the Firearms Control Act.
“With the high level of gun deaths in South Africa, what Malema has done is an incredibly serious and stupid thing,” the expert said.
“Not only does he face imprisonment, but so does the gun’s owner, who can be charged for negligence.”He said that while Malema could fire a firearm, it had to be under the control and supervision of the gun owner, “which was not happening in these circumstances”.
“This was not a shooting range. It was a public event filled with people. High-powered rounds like those from semiautomatic rifles can travel for several kilometres when fired into the air. Anyone could have potentially been killed or maimed.”
Pretoria firearms trainer and gunsmith Richard Grobler said it did not matter whether Malema was firing blanks or live ammunition.
“What he did is totally illegal. If you are a licensed gun owner you have to be in possession of a firearms competency certificate, which tests your knowledge on the Firearms Control Act.
“The act says you are not allowed to discharge a weapon in a public place. This was a public event.”
Grobler said the act allowed someone to fire another person’s weapon but it had to be in a controlled environment such as shooting range, under the supervision of the gun owner.
“This was not a shooting range.”
He said that depending on what he was charged with, Malema faced various penalties, ranging from a fine to imprisonment and the loss of his firearms licence, if he had one.A police firearms trainer, who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said that from an analysis of the video it appeared the gun was not firing blanks.
“If you listen to the sound of the gunfire, there is the distinct crack of live ammunition being fired. The sound created by blanks does not break the sound barrier or make those crack noises, which came from the gun fired by Malema.
“Those sounds come from live ammunition being fired.”
He said officers at the event should have immediately arrested and charged Malema and the gun’s owner.
“Those that did not can be departmentally charged. They are failing in their duty to serve and protect the public. All police took an oath of office, which is to protect all South Africans, not an individual.”
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said: “I can confirm that the SAPS registered a case of discharging of a firearm in a built-up area. The due processes will follow.”