Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola may have all but crushed growing calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty this week after he described the campaign as flawed. Lamola said he would not be tempted by populist calls for the return of the death penalty. The reinstatement of the death penalty will not deal with femicide and other forms of violence against women and children,” he said.
The campaign to reinstate the death penalty follows the brutal murders of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, female karate and boxing champion Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, Northwood Primary School, Mitchell’s Plain pupil Janika Mallo, Ayakha Jiyani and her siblings Siphesihle, Khwezi and Kuhlekonke Mpungose.
But Lamola maintained that the Constitution states that everyone has the right to life following the Constitutional Court’s landmark judgment in the 1995 case of convicted killers Themba Makwanyane and Mvuso Mchunu.
Makwanyane and Mchunu were convicted of four counts of murder, one each of attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances and were sentenced to death on each of the murder counts of murder.
They appealed to the Constitutional Court and late Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson declared sanctioning capital punishment inconsistent with the Constitution.
Chaskalson also forbid the state from executing any person already sentenced to death at the time. But this has not stopped political parties represented in Parliament from demanding that it be reinstated. The IFP re-tabled its motion to debate the reinstatement of the death penalty in Parliament on Tuesday, saying it would be a deterrent to heinous crimes.
IFP national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa told Independent Media that it was now up to the National Assembly’s programming committee, which meets every week, to decide when to schedule the debate.
Hlengwa said he expected the debate to take place before the end of the year. African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) deputy president Wayne Thring said the ACDP has been consistent with its support of the death penalty since it was established in 1993. The death penalty has a role to play in curbing crime in South Africa,” he said.
Thring said even in the ACDP there were some members opposed to the death penalty but the vast majority still believe it is a policy to keep. He admitted that the death penalty was not the only solution but there would have to be other improvements such as police efficiency, numbers and training as well as the availability of rape kits.
Another strong supporter of the death penalty, the African Transformation Movement (ATM), accused President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration of being tone deaf on the death penalty and accused Lamola of misleading the country by saying capital punishment did not reduce crime.
The ATM insists that the Constitution can be amended to ensure that murderers have their right to live revoked. Its national executive committee is meeting this weekend to formulate a much more comprehensive response on the death penalty.
EFF leader Julius Malema vehemently opposed the reinstatement of the death penalty. He demanded that anyone saying the death penalty must be brought back must present scientific evidence of where it has succeeded in reducing crime.
”We must not be emotional here and start taking wrong decisions which are going to victimise all of us,” Malema warned. An online campaign for the reinstatement of the death penalty started earlier this week had about 580 000 of its target of one million signatures by late on Saturday.
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