T.W. rape and murder.
A broken society:
The cries of a society that is broken, disheartened, apprehensive for the safety of their survival can be heard by the angry chants and echoes of: “bring back the death penalty!”
Its cries are heard far and wide because there is real pathos for the victims of rape and murder. Conversations in the country are mostly about Eskom’s failure to provide constant electricity without load shedding and the despair and anger we feel when yet another child or woman especially is raped and murdered. We want blood! Someone has to pay for the pain we are feeling! Someone has to understand that people are scared and given the frequency of these crimes, people can’t be blamed for that.
Facts about our past:
Mandatory death penalty for murder was abolished in 1935. With the instatement of a Republic in 1961, hanging was maintained. In the 1980s there was mounting international criticism because of the rapid increase in death penalty sentences for anti-apartheid activists. In fact, in 1987, there were 164 deaths by hanging. An official tally higher than that of any other country including the People’s Republic of China and Iran. Out of more than 100 executed in 1988, only 3 people were white. Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu was one of the men who was hanged on the 6th April 1979 despite or in spite of international outrage. The fact of the matter is that Mahlangu did not murder anyone, never fired a gun but he was convicted of sharing his comrades’ deadly purpose. The man, Motloung, who fired the gun that killed two people, was so badly beaten by police that he was declared medically unfit to stand trial. So Mahlangu had to sacrifice his life. According to records, a Mr Solomon Ngobeni was the last person to be hanged on the 14th November 1989.
The “official tally” of the death penalty during Apartheid and Colonialism can’t ever be the correct one especially not of black and brown people.
Our collective pain lies in knowing that people were hanged for the freedom black and brown people experience today. Although the meaning of “freedom” is highly debatable however that’s a story for another day.
My concern with Capital Punishment:
In present-day South Africa justice is not blind and certainly not fair. Fresh from the past atrocities of both Colonialism and Apartheid and dealing with the present glaringly obvious inequalities that exist in this country, what makes those demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty for crimes of rape and murder sure that justice will be served based on the crime committed and not on the colour of the perpetrators skin?
Given that our judiciary still has white judges who sat on the bench during Apartheid, what is the likelihood that black and brown people arrested for those crimes will receive a fair trial?
Cast your mind back to Judge Mabel Janssen who believed that all black men rape their own daughters. How many more white judges think along these lines?
How many of those accused who stood in the dock for the rape of that nine-month-old baby in Uitenhage would not be alive today if they were sentenced to death and bearing in mind that it was discovered only afterwards that it was one man who committed the crime?
So I ask:
How many white people protested outside the court and cried out for Oscar Pistorius to be hanged for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp?
How many white people cried out for Dina Rodriguez to be hanged for being the mastermind behind the brutal murder of a baby?
How many white people protested and called out for the death penalty to be reinstated after Rob Packham from Constantia, brutally murdered his wife simply for wanting to be with his mistress and not to lose his assets through a divorce?
The list goes on but the point I am trying to make is that the cries for the death penalty should be heard in ALL instances, not merely when it comes to black and brown people. The cries from “farm murders” and so forth are loudest when there is one white person killed at the hands of a black and brown person.
If our justice system was fair, I could understand the cries. My heart bleeds for all people. It is heartwrenching to hear about the constant rapes and murders of our children but until our judiciary is overhauled it is not fair. Our police officers should be given the correct training and resources to investigate crimes. Harsh sentences should be metered out to those police officers and justice personnel who are found guilty of bribery and corruption.
And justice should be blind no matter what colour skin the person in the dock has.
Life sentences with no possibility of parole should be handed down for these crimes. They should remain in jail, away from society, until they die.
But in the event of a miscarriage of justice, how do we exonerate someone and release them from prison when they are dead? What comfort is it to the family when the person is posthumously found innocent?
Would you, the reader feel justice was served if it was your family member who you discovered was innocent sitting on death row or already dead?
Until we can treat black on white crime the same way we treat white on black crime there will always be innocent people being put to death for crimes they did not commit.
If the death penalty was indeed a deterrent for crimes such as rape and murder, there would be no cases of rape or murder in a “first world” country like America.
In the interest of justice for all including the victims, we have to ensure that no racism exists within our justice system.
When Ninow who is a white male was found guilty of raping an eight-year-old black girl and the media focused more on his drug problem and the pains of his childhood, then we have a problem. They even interviewed his family member who proceeded to extol his virtues with not an ounce of sympathy for the victim.
“Die swart gevaar” is still too fresh in people’s minds for justice to be considered fair.
Our judiciary, especially white judges and prosecutors should be trained and undergo intense anti-racism sessions including tests being conducted every month or so to establish how much they have learned and how they implement it.
The aim is not to be “soft” on black and brown accused but to ensure they are conscious of their bias and socialization.