Criminal justice system 'racist'
Lizel Steenkamp, Beeld
Cape Town - The new deputy police minister has described South Africa’s criminal justice system as racist, saying it needs to be transformed as black criminals are given harsher sentences than their white counterparts.
Maggie Sotyu, the new deputy minister of police, made this statement in Parliament on Tuesday after a report on extensive research regarding the scope and nature of violent crime was published by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).
Sotyu referred to a “white person or boer who drags a black farm worker behind his bakkie and gets off with a R10 000 fine”.
“But a black man who murders a white farmer gets life in prison. That’s racist politics.”
According to her, the criminal justice system needs transformation “because people in the same country aren’t treated equally”.
“It’s about time our courts realise this is the new South Africa.”
No new findings in report
Sotyu was speaking to the media after the parliamentary portfolio committee for police and the secretariat of police pulled the CSVR’s research to pieces.
The finding which came under most fire is that South Africa is caught up in a subculture of violence.
Based on the annual murder rate, South Africa is one of the five most violent countries in the world.
The secretariat argued that South Africa’s violent crime “is not extraordinary” and that various other countries have similar or even higher levels.
MPs and committee secretary Jennifer Irish-Qhobosheane labelled the CSVR’s research - for which government paid R3.5m - as inadequate, disappointing and incomplete.
In their opinion, the research provided no new insights or reasons for the extremely violent nature of crime in South Africa.
According to Irish-Qhobosheane, the department has serious concerns about the research, undertaken in 2007 on the instructions of Charles Nqakula, then minister of safety and security.
“It’s useful, but it doesn’t provide anything new. The recommendations aren’t even creative.”
Sindi Chikunga, ANC MP and committee chairperson, referred to the Democratic Republic of Congo which, after years of warfare, is so safe that people can exchange currency on the streets.
“There are heaps of weapons in the DRC, and Kinshasa is dirt poor, yet their crime isn’t nearly as violent (as ours). What’s so unique about the situation in South Africa?
“I can’t find the answer in your report,” she said to Adèle Kirsten, director of the CSVR.
Pieter Groenewald from the Freedom Front Plus pointed out gruesome farm attacks “where elderly people are tortured with steam irons and attackers flee without even taking anything”.
“Why the brutality? These questions have not been answered.”
According to Kirsten, extreme violence is the result of various complicated reasons.
“You won’t find a single (simple) answer anywhere - not from us and not from international researchers.”
David Bruce, also from the CSVR, is of the opinion that alternative research, such as psychological profiling, is needed to determine what motivates criminals to commit such brutal and violent acts.
The situation in South Africa is unique because of the migrant labour system, forced on the Witwatersrand by the apartheid government, which destroyed thousands of families.
Furthermore, the gap between rich and poor is wider here than in any other country in the world.