One of the few times I found myself on the same side as former president Jacob Zuma was when he urged South Africans to speak up on the death penalty. That was back in 2017, when unemployed former deputy president was a charm offensive at a community meeting in a Michell’s Plain.
Zuma acknowledged that extraordinary measures were needed to fight the rampart criminality in South Africa. He said: ‘The people must say what they think should be done.”
Unfortunately, he made a U-turn in December 2011 when he was the country’s No 1 citizen.
At the official opening of the Gallows Memorial t the Pretoria Central Prison, Zuma said there is no credible evidence to prove that reintroducing the death penalty will reduce crime.
“I do not think there is justice in killing another human being,” he said.
That was to be expected since Zuma was no longer on the campaign trail because politicians are known to make promises they would never keep, to woo the voters.
The death penalty was abolished in June 1995 by the Constitutional Court following public hearings. Of course, this country has a chequered history with the hangman as the apartheid government often used it to exterminate freedom fighters.
However, Zuma was right to say we need to speak up. The country has lost its way and criminals are on the rampage. We have one of the highest murder rates in the world comparable with countries that are at war, like Iraq. Lives are needlessly snuffed out by cretins with no respect for human life.
In the absence of the ultimate punishment, the hands of the courts are tied and limited to sentencing the wrongdoers to life in prison. And we all know that a life sentence has a limit.
To rub salt in the wound of society, the taxpayer is left to pick up the tab for the upkeep of the prisoners who need to be fed daily.
Consider the August rape and murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana by Post Office teller Luyanda Botha. Botha was sentenced to three life sentences for his foul deeds while his employer admitted he was hired despite having a prior criminal record.
Botha might be off the streets but nobody knows for certain whether he might someday escape or be paroled. For me, Botha’s confession makes a case for the death penalty.
The billions of rand set aside to fight gender-based violence mean nothing for as long as the perpetrators are treated with kid gloves. Even as we were still reeling from Uyinene’s killing and others, 21-year-old Capricorn TVET College student Precious Ramabulana met her brutal death last Sunday when she was stabbed 52 times.
The worst that can happen to her killer would be life in prison. It is time to speak up on the death penalty.