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Death penalty won't reduce systemic violence

Publish date: 16 September 2019
Issue Number: 841
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Human Rights

The debate on the death penalty detracts from the real issues needing urgent attention to address the effects of a centuries-old systemic culture of violence against black people and women in SA. This is the argument of a senior legal practitioner, using the nom de plume Sergeant at the Bar, in a News24 analysis. He writes that 300 years of violence, which manifested itself systemically on the basis of race and gender, has only intensified in the 25 years of constitutional democracy, exacerbated by the continued inequalities of apartheid. This, coupled with a generally incompetent police force and an incapacitated National Prosecuting Authority, has led to the criminal justice system failing the country abysmally at the very time that any scintilla of social cohesion has disappeared, he writes. Given this scenario, can the death penalty assist in reducing the current levels of violent crime, he asks? The writer says research and available evidence does not suggest that the re-introduction of the death penalty 'will serve the claim of a reduction of the brutality that continues to engulf SA'. 'Indeed, our own history of the death penalty, where outside of China we executed more people per capita than any other country, serves as a clear warning: rape and homicide never reduced during this period.' But he continues that even if the research and history indicated otherwise, with a 'generally incompetent police force, and very limited detective and DNA capacity, the death penalty will do little to protect those who live in this country, particularly women and children, from the heart of darkness which is contemporary SA'. Instead, the focus should instead be on 'a competent and accountable police service, a definitive and decisive set of initiatives to grow the economy and give millions real hope, an end to residential ghettos inherited from apartheid spatial policy so that residential areas can provide dignity for all, free from the violence of gangs and determined policies immediately implemented to expose the horrendous forms of patriarchy that exist in this land. Any less and we will continue to repeat the present.'

Full News24 analysis