Witsies, especially women students, are turning to tasers, or stunt guns, to protect themselves from criminals.
The stunt gun, being sold via social media, delivers “up to 2300KV (kilovolts)” of electricity in any one shot.
“You hold it against a person and it knocks them out for about 10 to 20 minutes,” said Victor Maluleke holding up the black, remote control size instrument, ready to give a demonstration.
Maluleke, a 4th year BAccSci student, started selling stunt guns and pepper-spray after a partner in his gadget supply business suggested adding the self-defence items to their offerings.
“It was a spark of genius from Simphiwe,” Maluleke said.
After about a half a year of trying out different suppliers and price models, building up a customer base and a marketing strategy on social media platform, Whats App, the sparks seem to have finally caught fire.
He is often asked about the legality of the stunt gun. Maluleka laughed: “It’s the first question most people ask.”
He said they went to the Crime Stop Shop in Benoni, east of Johannesburg and asked which products they could sell without a license, they found that the items were stunt guns and pepper spray.
Maluleke said once they were able to negotiate a deal to import the stunt guns in bulk and resell them at a lower price, sales really picked up.
“We sell them at R190. We give discounts to people who buy in groups and [to] referral purchases… We’ve sold about 150 since about April.”
The growing popularity of the stunt guns and pepper sprays come in the wake of recent crime surges at universities in Joburg. In the past week, a University of Johannesburg (UJ) student was kidnapped on campus and tied up in the boot of her car. On Tuesday evening another UJ student was shot in chest in an attempted robbery.[pullquote]Last week there was a mugging outside The Nunnery on Jan Smuts Avenue. It is only one of numerous cases of mugging and cellphone snatching[/pullquote] that have seen Wits join up with a private security company to patrol the areas around campus.
When Wits Vuvuzela spoke to women students and asked them whether they owned self defence weapons, or were planning buying any, the answers varied.
1st year BSc (Biological Sciences) student Zoë Miller said she did not own any weapons, but that she would “scream and fight back” if attacked.
Fellow 1st year BSc Sandile Mkhize said owning a weapon was “dangerous because someone could use it against you”.
“If something [did] happen to me I would think about [owning a taser] but not now,” Mkhize said.
Nonjabulo Buthelezi, 2nd year Social Work has not been a victim of crime before, but bought the stunt guns because she wanted to protect herself.
“There were cases of robberies near Wits. I just want to take extra precaution.”
Heather Martens, 2nd year BA Fine Arts, said she had learnt to be aware of her surroundings, as well as basic self defence from a “woman’s perspective”, since taking up Tai Chi last year.
Martens said as a Fine Arts student she was required to walk around Braamfontein and the Johannesburg CBD.
Martens said the most she would consider buying was pepper spray.
“If you’re walking confidently, people will be wary of attacking you.”
Maluleke admitted the stunt guns and pepper spray he was selling were “not that popular yet”, as they were in the United States or Australia, or even in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs.
“It’s not an ultimate solution but it gives you an option,” Maluleke said.