'It speaks to the ANC government' ... Henke Pistorius, right, and his son Carl during the bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius last month. Photo: AP
JOHANNESBURG: The father of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympian who shot his girlfriend dead on Valentine's Day, has blamed the failure of the ANC government to bring down violent crime for the high number of South Africans who carry guns.
Henke Pistorius said he and other members of his family owned guns because they could not rely on the police to protect them. He laid the blame for South Africa's violent crime rates, which are among the highest in the world, with 15,000 people murdered last year, on the ANC government.
Look at white crime levels, why protection is so poor in this country.Henke Pistorius
He also singled out crime against white South Africans.
He made his comments after it was disclosed that Oscar Pistorius's father, grandfather and uncles owned 55 guns between them. Oscar Pistorius had recently begun collecting guns himself. As well as the 9mm gun he used to shoot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, he had applied for licences for six more firearms.
He insisted during a bail application in court last week that he shot Ms Steenkamp through a locked toilet door believing her to be a burglar.
Prosecutors say he gunned down the 29-year-old model after she fled to the bathroom following a row.
Henke Pistorius said the family were firearms collectors and hunters, but also needed guns for self-defence.
"Some of the guns are for hunting and some are for protection: the hand guns. It speaks to the ANC government. Look at white crime levels, why protection is so poor in this country," he said.
"You can't rely on the police because crime is so rife."
He said he had never had to use a gun in self-defence, but added: "That doesn't mean I haven't been hijacked, attacked. As a family, we value life much too much to produce guns at every opportunity."
Beeld, an Afrikaans-language newspaper, reported that Henke Pistorius, Oscar's grandfather Hendrik, and his uncles Arnold, Theo and Leo owned 55 shotguns and handguns between them.
Among the six weapons Oscar Pistorius applied to license were three shotguns, a Smith & Wesson 500 and a .223-calibre semi-automatic rifle, similar to that used in the Sandy Hook school massacre in the United States.
An ANC spokesman, Ishmael Mnisi, said Mr Pistorius's comments were worrying. "Crime is something that affects everyone in this country," he said.
"It doesn't justify a person having to use a gun to kill, or justify him having many guns in his house. People must report crime to the police."