Defend Truth


The call for the death penalty is getting louder


Vuyolwethu Zungula is president of the African Transformation Movement (ATM) and is a Member of Parliament.

South Africa needs a justice-based capital punishment, which should come with an automatic appeal process to ensure that if the death penalty is implemented, it is to deserving offenders and it will only apply to repeat offenders.

The nation’s demand for justice for the brutal murder of the teenager Thoriso Themane and the call to bring back the death penalty symbolise the desperation and hopelessness of its citizens. This is a clear indication of a government that has lost the battle against crime.

In the same week that the community of Limpopo marched for justice for Thoriso, days later another murder was reported. A rising star Sibusiso Khwinana, who was a lead actor in the locally-produced movie Matwetwe, had been stabbed to death over a cellphone in Pretoria, sending shock waves across the nation.

On average, 57 people are killed in South Africa every single day. Defenceless and impatient South Africans who constantly live in fear of crime, are making a call to their government to deal decisively with serious crime by bringing back the death penalty. This is a call that cannot be ignored.

This is because many believe that a lot of murderers and criminals often get away with murder. Even after being locked away, many would argue that too often the sentences handed down against these criminals do not match the crimes committed. Some even point to the fact that many unrepentant criminals who have committed these crimes get released, but only to commit more crime not long after they have been released.

At the core of the communities’ anger against criminals being released is the feeling that the convicted criminals after being released from prison don’t own up to what they have done, and often don’t give back to the same communities they have wronged.

A US’s award-winning author and preacher Rev Renee Pittelli, says a lot of offenders stop at repentance, but there is restitution which requires offenders to make amends, by giving back to the person or the community they have wronged. Pittelli writes: “Restitution is unfamiliar and often uncomfortable to many. It comes as a quite surprise to offenders to be told that they are expected to undo the damage they did.”

There’s an important lesson that we can take from Pittelli’s argument as far as restitution is concerned. With the average population of more than 160,000 prisoners locked away in South African prisons, the country has consequently locked away potential.

The state should make it compulsory and mandatory for all the ex-offenders to work for the state free of charge, for at least up to a year after being given parole. As opposed to the current dysfunctional model, where ex-offenders are only required to volunteer to do community work at their “spare-time”.

To deal with serious crime such as murder, what needs to happen urgently is the immediate review of the parole system. This would include, making use of labour convicts as a means of them earning their way back into society; by contributing to the welfare and economy of the country.

There also needs to be a justice-based capital punishment which should come with an automatic appeal process. This is to ensure that when the death penalty is implemented, it is to deserving offenders and it will only apply to repeat offenders. DM


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