Written by By Othmane Seck, CNN Johannesburg, South Africa
Four million guns have been confiscated from the illegal gun trade in South Africa over the past five years, according to the National Firearms Dealer Association (NFA). But this number does not account for the thousands of South Africans whose firearms are registered but no longer used.
It was the estimated combined total of these two groups — lost and seized weapons — that led to the formation of the Daily Syd Glo, a website which posts licensed gun dealers across South Africa. “The new license opened the market to guns which are not accessible through the retail sector,” says Sahar Nasir, the site’s founder and CEO.
This month, the Daily Syd Glo became eligible to sell its first gun — a hollow-point bolt-action revolver known as the “J. & J. Covid Shot across Africa” — for $2,000 USD or one euro per shot.
Owned by a Zulu descendant of Captain Britain Covid, the revolver has been on the Nigerian market for over 100 years. In 1867, Captain Britain Covid and his men were beheaded at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in a demonstration of African resistance to British colonialism. Subsequently, pirates began to use the weapon in their ransom demands for captured sailors.
Today, the Daily Syd Glo is the first authorized retail outlet to sell the shell casing and cosmetic labels on the pistol, and the license means that it can be legally imported into South Africa.
Nasir and other Daily Syd Glo staff are careful not to make claims about its authenticity. “It’s an amazing old piece of technology,” says Nasir, “but it’s from America.” She adds that there is still debate as to whether or not the J. & J. Covid shot across Africa is authentic.
The Daily Syd Glo claims its license is needed to “provide the market with a complete and accurate information of all firearms and ammunition” — a practice common in African countries. One such country is Mozambique, where there is an active gun market with easy access to semi-automatic pistols. There is also, say recent media reports, a flourishing black market for automatic weapons in West African countries, including Mali and Nigeria.
But while Daily Syd Glo claims the identification of legitimate gun dealers in other African countries is essential for a functioning firearms market, critics argue that it is a way to market South African guns to a much wider audience than are legally allowed.
“If they wish to claim to be useful to gun owners, the Daily Syd Glo should offer an alternative for them,” says the Standard newspaper’s deputy editor, Thembi Tshabalala. “Its true that South Africa is a land of guns, but all these groups (blocs) are selling weapons in an illegal market.”
Despite the efforts of South African authorities to ban some goods including firearms and drugs, illegal trade in these products has continued unabated. The Daily Syd Glo was launched in 2015 by a group of 20 gun enthusiasts who were “concerned with the lack of listings for licensed and reputable dealers.” In five years, its licensed dealer list has grown to around 1,800.
Buckets of some of the other items Daily Syd Glo sells. Credit: Daily Syd Glo
The Daily Syd Glo is not the only business that trades in South African firearms. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), three million illegal firearms are in circulation in South Africa. Despite previous efforts to regulate sales of firearms, handguns have been imported into the country for more than two decades and almost 25% of South African gun owners report owning them. The chief executive of the SA Bureau of Statistics, Rob Madis, estimates that 4.5 million firearms are currently in the black market in South Africa.
Nasir says that South African gun owners have “to watch their finger in case someone needs a bullet.” “But South Africa is an interesting market, because once a firearm is used in a crime,” she adds, “it stays there forever.”