ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula. (Supplied)
Fledgling political party the African Transformation Movement (ATM) has promised to reintroduce capital punishment should it be elected into power after South Africans go to the polls on May 8.
Its president, Vuyolwethu Zungula, speaking to News24 during an interview, said that South Africans had marched, held summits and numerous meetings regarding escalating levels of violence in the country, but only strong legislation would be able to curb acts of violence.
Zungula said only "justice-based" capital punishment would solve South Africa's challenge with violence, especially against those who perpetuate it against women and children.
"All serial murderers and serial rapists will get to pay for what they are doing - with their lives. We can't have South Africans living in fear," he said.
Zungula was quick to add that his party would not impose the death penalty if it wins a majority in next month's polls but would seek to give South Africans the opportunity to change legislation if this was what they wanted.
He also insisted that based on incidents of mob justice in the country, it was clear to him that South Africans were agitating for the return of capital punishment.
"Look at the increase of mob justice. That's people saying part of the punishment that must be given to criminals is that they must pay with their lives."
Zungula claimed that close to 500 people died in the past year.
He cited social media comments on some of the high-profile killings that have caught the country's attention, including the February murder of Thoriso Themane in Limpopo, as signs that people are in favour of the death penalty.
"When people communicate with government, sometimes they write petitions, they will go on TV. At times people speak with action, when they are violent in dealing with crime, it's another expression of what they think needs to be done," explained Zungula.
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The political party made headlines in January when Mzwanele Manyi, former government spokesperson, announced that he would change allegiance and join the ATM after having been an ANC member for most of his life.
It has also been labelled a pro-Zuma party, something which Zungula vehemently denies.
"If you look at our gatherings from the first till now, there's never been one mention of 'Viva Zuma, viva!' Not even saying 'hands off Zuma'. Our manifestos, our documents, there is nothing about his rhetoric or politics that you will find. We have no association with the former president."
Political leaders treat traditional leaders like puppets
In its manifesto, the ATM has also said it wants to see traditional leaders taking on a more prominent role in communities.
Zungula, who admitted that at times some traditional leaders did go astray, said his party's vision would see a peer review system being established, allowing different traditional leaders to reprimand and guide one another in performing their roles.
He complained that under the current system political leaders paid and used traditional leaders when they needed to campaign.
"The relationship between traditional leaders and politicians, is that politicians have made traditional leaders their puppets," said Zungula.
The ATM president said this stripped traditional leaders of their ability to bring value and to assist in developing the country.
"Even our government cannot properly provide oversight on traditional leaders, because they themselves have a role to play in the current state of traditional leaders," he said.
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