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January 26th, 2018 by

The death penalty – killing people who kill people, to show people that killing people is wrong. Get it? The death penalty, otherwise known as capital punishment, has long been the subject of intense debate.

As a government-sanctioned practice designed to put criminals to death as a punishment for their heinous crimes, no other subject has divided more administrations. Even those who have been pro-abortion have been anti-death penalty.

Capital offences, those historically worthy of death sentences and/or execution, include murder, treason, espionage, crimes against humanity, genocide, etc.

Etymologically, the term capital (of the head) is derived from the Latin capitalis from caput – head. In this context, it is alluded to execution by beheading.

Fifty-six countries have retained the death penalty, and as we’re all aware, South Africa isn’t one of them. With our crime rates off the charts and millions of taxpayer rands being blown on the rapists and murderers in our jails, some people have been actively vocal about it.

Bring Back The Death Penalty, they chant…

We take a look at the pros and cons of such a choice.

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Death Penalty In South Africa

Executions were traditionally carried out in the Pretoria Central Prison and those condemned to die were placed in a section of the prison known as The Pot.

Hanging, in South Africa, was the standard method of carrying out executions. Sometimes, several convicts were executed at the same time. In 1935, the mandatory death penalty for murder was abolished in South Africa. At this time, the vast bulk of culprits in capital cases were represented by the non-white majority.

After the instatement of a Republic in 1961, hanging remained. South Africa experienced intense international criticism against deliberate political executions of anti-apartheid activists convicted of violent crimes. Many of these were black people, but in some cases, such as Frederick John Harris in 1965, white people too.

The 1980s saw a speedy increase in executions. The hang-happy government executed 164 people in 1987 alone. This was higher than any other country, including Iran and China. Of the 2949 hangings performed since 1959, 1123 were in the 80s. 14 of these were women.

The last person to be executed by the South African government was Solomon Ngobeni, 14 November 1989. Ngobeni was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Also convicted of murder, the last woman to be executed was Sandra Smith. She was hanged alongside her boyfriend, Yassiem Harris, earlier that year on the 2nd of June.

In February 1990, President FW De Klerk declared a moratorium, temporarily prohibiting the death sentence. By the ruling of the Constitutional Court, the death penalty in South Africa was declared as unconstitutional and completely abolished on the 6th of June 1995.

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The Gallows of Pretoria Central Prison have since become a museum, open to the public.


Death Penalty Around The World

More than 60% of the world’s population live in countries where the death penalty is retained. These include the United States, China, Japan, India, Pakistan, BangladeshIndonesia and Sri Lanka.

Currently, all European countries, with the exception of Belarus, have abolished the death penalty. Other countries which no longer practice it include Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many African countries. Zambia and Botswana are among those which still perform it.

In the United States, some states have banned capital punishment for decades, while other states still actively use it today. Such as Texas. Of course.

In abolitionist countries such as South Africa, the debate is often revived by a spike in serious, violent crimes. This is often brought about by an increase in brutal murder or rape statistics, such as we experience each and every year. Even though this is the case pretty much everywhere in the world, few countries have brought the death penalty back.

In 2014, after the Peshawar school massacre, in which 132 students and 9 members of staff of the Army Public School and Degree College Peshawar were killed by Taliban terrorists, Pakistan lifted its six-year moratorium on executions. Since then, Pakistan has executed over 400 convicts.

Most recently, last year saw Turkey and the Philippines making moves to reinstate capital punishment.

Public opinion on the death penalty varies considerably by country and the crime in question.

In South Africa there is no escaping the attention and interest focussed on crime in our country.  We are inundated with terrifying news every single day. The media feeds into our fears and insecurity, reminding us of how violent, lawless and savage the world beyond our burglar bars can get.

In response, we often hear the call for the death penalty to be reinstated.


In Favour Of Bringing Back The Death Penalty

Opinion polls in South Africa suggest significant public support for its reinstatement. A 2014 poll, for example, confirmed that 76% of millennium generation South Africans support re-introduction of the death penalty.

Some political parties also support bringing it back. These, according to Wikipedia, include the National Party South Africa, the African Christian Democratic Party, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the National Conservative Party of South Africa.

At face value, the death penalty is the most terrifying sentence any person could be given. It is widely believed that the mere threat of this would be effective in deterring criminals, more so than incarceration. This belief is widely supported by the fact that the most vile, merciless rapists and murderers often receive reduced sentences due to overcrowding in our prisons. The majority of released inmates then go on to commit further crime.

For some people, an unpopular suggestion often made is that a life in prison may be more comfortable than the lives they lead as free men on the outside. In this case, we may have created a system in which it benefits degenerates to continuously commit crime, and live off the tax payer.

It certainly has its champions. Dr Norman Mabasa is one example, who in 2012 was the Medical Chief of the South African Medical Association. After one of SA’s senior dermatologists, Dr John Moche, was gunned down five years ago, Mabasa advocated for the return of capital punishment.

“The number of people who die at the hands of criminals is higher than in countries embroiled in civil wars or natural disasters,” he said. “Crime has become so bad that soon we are going to have to put burglar bars around our beds.”

Kill with impunity, and you will be killed. That is the powerful message conveyed to criminals.

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Against Bringing Back The Death Penalty

Murder, rape, common and indecent assault, street muggings, car hijackings, house break-ins, home invasions, pickpocketing, corrupt police, etc. The crimes themselves have come to epitomize our perceptions of South Africa. Are we safe? Are our children safe? Our loved ones?

“The most dangerous country in the world.”

“The rape capital of the world.”

We hear the like day in and day out, from the people we know, in the news and media, etc. The response is a call for the death penalty, for those guilty of hideous crimes to be hanged by their necks until dead. But perhaps, according to many people, this simply isn’t the right way forward.

The first thing to consider is that capital punishment is in direct conflict with the constitution. Next is that there seems to be no credible scientific evidence to support the idea that the death penalty actually deters criminal behaviour. Thirdly, how would we go about trusting an intensely corrupt government to use this power responsibly? The government of old certainly exploited it for their own selfish political gains, and why wouldn’t this one?

Some feel that to reinstate the death penalty would be to brutalize the whole of society. It implicates us all, as the government acts on our behalf, in the same kind of violence we want criminals to be executed for.

Maybe it’s time to admit the truth. We want the death penalty back because it makes us feel better, not because it solves a problem. It serves to satisfy our yearning for swift and merciless vengeance, but offers little long-term retributive value.

Prisons, though, as a form of deterrence and rehabilitation, are mostly counterproductive and ineffective. So, what is a lawless country to do?


Let us know your thoughts or ideas in the comments.

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  • alexia

    What is the solution then? The government is corrupt and indeed the ‘esteemed’ president was accussed of raping a young HIV woman left in his care!
    The current government inherited many ‘apartheid’ laws and although many excellent laws were abolished I feel that this was done merely because they were ‘white’ laws. Just my own opinion. The lawlessness since some of these laws were abolished, is proof.
    To kill someone, (again just my opinion) is stooping to the very levels of the criminals.
    Yes, these criminals are filling up prisons, and the prisoners are enjoying their lives on tax payers money!
    The answer is to clean out the judicial system, install judges who cannot be swayed, and start meting out the harshest of sentences! This ruling must be in line with the criminal act.
    Take away privileges and make it a very unpleasant experience. (Hope?)
    Special facilities for different crimes.
    Killing does not solve the problem.
    We are a fragmented society, governed by a most corrupt government, who want the people to remain uneducated and unemployable.
    Grassroots level in our country is the boiling pot of crime and discontent.
    Solutions will be found with these people if only government engaged and worked on the solutions!
    Will it happen?
    No of course not. Its easier to pass the buck and just “hang the bastard”!!

  • Andrew Dutton

    GREAT ARTICLE…WOW !!! Well done!
    Makes you think really hard what the right decision is…Doing what you “feel” is right or doing what “is” right.

  • moyra

    No to death penalty.

  • Ash

    As much as I love the idea of just hanging every damn criminal we have, in reality it isn’t going to deter them, because there are so many people who have no clue as to what is actually right and wrong in this country. Just go and park your truck full of beer or other goods on the side of the highway for a little while. I promise you, within a few hours there will be hundreds of people there stealing and looting it, from old ladies to young kids and every one else in between. They are all a part of the problem, because they are poor and unemployed, uneducated and have nothing better to live for. The ANC government have shown time and again that it is fine to help yourself to whatever you want, do whatever you want, kill who ever you feel like. It’s no problem, it’s the rainbow nation! Bring back the death penalty and hang all those useless politicians – and then we start looking at only the ones who are actually doing something for the good of the country and not themselves. Uplift the people, improve living conditions, improve education and we will have a lot less problems than we have now.

    • Rusty

      Lets add the health services at government hospitals that stink to high heaven.

      • Ash

        What’s wrong with losing your patients and or murdering them unintentionally?!

  • Naas Scholtz

    After the coffin prank heavy sentences for two guys who accosted a known criminal stealing cables, tried to scare him and got the short end of the stick, I am sure the idiot transformation judges will impose death penalties on any white person, even if factually he did nothing wrong. They have shown in many cases, even in the constitutional court, that the judges brake the law in their judgement. For that reason one cannot trust the judicial system at all. So my answer to the question: Do not impose the death penalty when there is no justice in the justice system.

  • Rusty

    Yes, Yes indeed we need the death penalty back in full force in South Africa, there is not a person I know who has not been attacked, or robbed by gunpoint, including me. . so far between family and friends, 2 killed by car hi-jacking. 1 for murder of a friend. and 2 of very viscous Torture before murder of two very old relatives on a plot.
    We live behind bars and every electronic device to try and safeguard our families, Security in South Africa has become one of of the biggest money making businesses ever.
    These criminals know no fear at all, The only time we lived like human beings is when there was a death sentence in place, If they know they will be hanging for murder they will think twice, I believe that this government did away with the death penalty because they know that their own kind are 90 percent guilty of these horrific murders, if we check the jails, again 90 percent behind bars are black, they kill and rape their own daily, savages delux. By no means do I comb all blacks under this, There are wonder upright black citizens sick and tired of what is going on and how even they are target, no human here are safe from these untamed wild barbaric savages, To crown it all we may not even shoot them on our property, then we are charged with murder, excuse me, must I first ask the intruder with a gun in his hands what he wants? This government is mad and have taken leave of their senses. Then again in a country where 50%, and I dont even want to hear any one say it is less, unemployment due to Black empowerment is the cause of a lot of our problems. So do we really believe they will bring back the death penalty, No for then thousands in the Security sector will be unemployed, businesses in this sector will not survive if we can sit on our front porch in peace without having to look onto high walls, electric fencing, barbwire, spikes, beams, cameras and what have you. There must be a law where South Africans can vote on anything that safeguards its citizens. It is OK for those gravy train riders to have private security guards, body guards, and jack citizen must pay for it while his family and friends are being murdered..