Radebe, Mbalula defend Section 59 changes

Transcript of crime prevention and justice cluster media briefing

Transcript of questions and answers at the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster media briefing chaired by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe at Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town, March 4 2010


Panel: Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development; Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Home Affairs; Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Correctional Services; Fikile Mbalula, Deputy Minister of Police; Thabang Makwetla, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans

Questions and answers

Journalist: Can you give us an update on the passage of the Superior Courts Bill feedback you have from the judiciary and when do you expect that Bill to be published?

Journalist: I also would like to find out about the Criminal Procedure Act Bill, when are they going to come to Parliament?

Journalist: I wonder if you could explain to us Minister as chair perhaps of the Cluster just really exactly where we are at the criminal justice system review that was presented with quite a bit of fanfare by then Deputy De Lange. Although it has been referred to, we haven't got that much detail and perhaps you decided it's too complex to try and deal with, but quite a lot of the things that are mentioned here in terms of making the people of the country to be safe, seem to be dependent on a properly integrated criminal system. If you are not continuing with the in-depth review and reform lent to it how do you expect these areas to improve?

Journalist: Can you please give us an update on the investigation into how the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) spy tape were given to President Jacob Zuma's attorneys. I think if you remember you said a few weeks ago you haven't seen the report that the intelligence inspector in November and you said you will get back to us?

Minister Jeff Radebe: Superior Courts Bill. The bill has been drafted and I have interaction with the head of court and the chief justice and the chief justice has informed me that he is finalising consultation with the heads of courts, but tentatively indicated to me that they like what they see and we are going to see the Superior Court Bill during the first half of this year. We have a judicial court meeting in April and I will also use that opportunity to converse more view from them but from where I sit I think all systems go for the Superior Courts Bill and we might even see it sooner in Parliament then what we all expect

On the Criminal Procedure Act in particular Section 49, consultation have been concluded; it will be going to Cabinet soon in order for it to presented to Parliament.

On the criminal justice review on your perception is wrong. There is a lot of action that is taking place in terms of the implementation. We are talking about the implementation - now my predecessor Mabandla and Johnny De Lange and our predecessors in the JCPS Cluster did a lot of research which the Cabinet have approved and we are now in the implementation. Just to revive your memory, there is a seven-point plan that is being implemented; now I will just run through it very quickly.

The first one is to have a single vision, vision and mission statement, which has been completed by the cluster, which was completed in January 2010 and as we can see we are moving to performance management. They are also being integrated in terms of how we are doing work in Government as a whole and particular in this Cluster.

The second key action plan to establish through legislation and protocol many of the things that we want to achieve, so we've chosen the method of a protocol in order to align all this activities we want to do. We've completed that in October 2009.

In terms of point three, short and long term measures that have to deal with the performance of our courts, we have indicated in our statements about the progress being made in terms of the protocol for regional courts in dealing with screen mechanism and child readiness of cases; this is ongoing. There is also another court protocol that is being implemented regarding legal aid cases and another protocol that are going to be linking with Department of Health in order to start the forensic chemistry laboratories that will facilitate in the detection of crime in South Africa.

Another area of this negative perception about the criminal justice system, the integration of the work of the police, of the national prosecutor authority and so on is being integrated to ensure that the whole the value chain of an offence from beginning to end is seen in an integrated form; not the police they are doing their work, the prosecutor and then later in the court, all this must be seen in a system that is functioning harmoniously. We have already indicated previously about the issues of the integrated information system, those systems as we proceed are integrated so that they speak to one another.

The issue of the application of technology - there is a lot work that has been done, the South African Police Service (SAPS), National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) ,Department of Justice, Department of Correctional Services facilities. Right now we already have a correctional facility were prisoners no longer go physically to court but they do video conferencing in order to issue remands. So these are some of the things that are being done, but being a Cluster we will have an opportunity in the future to give more details on the implementation of this criminal justice review, but I can indicate to you it is action time, no policy, no research .

On the issue of the spy tape, as I have indicated I have not received a report from the National Director of Public Prosecution. I met him yesterday and he told me that they are finalising the report for my perusal and that of the President. I cannot comment on it because I have not seen it but work has been done in order to be forwarded to me.

Journalist: The document you just given us said that the courts' backlog was reduced by 18,000 in a period of three years, that means 6,000 a year. As I understand, there is a backlog of close to 100,000 cases, which means you going to take 15 to 20 years to clear it. Could you tell us what additional measure might be taken? A second point: if you take more than 2 million reported cases of serious crime from the South African Police annual report and then you measure that with the national prosecuted annual report, you will see that between 10-15% of all of those cases are prosecuted. Many of those cases drop off the court rolls because of bungled investigation. What are you going to do to increase the prosecution rate?

Minister Jeff Radebe: Well over and above what we have said, you would recall there have been a lot of media writings about the decision of the National Director of Public Prosecutions to make prosecutors to do the jobs they were employed to do; it's precisely what we are doing. The National Director has indicated to me he has issued an instruction that all prosecutors must be in court prosecuting cases so we are going to be seeing a lot of activities in that front that will go a long way in ensuring that we reduce this case backlog.

The responsibility of the courts, the Chief Justice has indicated to me that he's intensifying his efforts to ensure that they modernise the manner in which courts are operating in South Africa. As you know, one Constitutional Court Judge Mogoeng is deeply involved in ensuring that this issue of courts, ensuring that they proceed with the cases without any delay, is expedited. Last year there was a conference of the judges where they wanted to adopt a method where presiding officers must be in control of their courts, not to be dependent on the wings of the accused of the State, but must be in charge of their courts so if a date is set for the 5th of July, there has to be pre-trial understanding in commitment they must not be deviated from, so that the consequences of which is we have to change the rules of court as well in order to facilitate that measure. So these are some of the measures that have been done. We indicated also in our statement that the improvement of detective services is of critical importance so that the police must increase their capacity to do work in a professional manner so that when the person is charged we know there is evidence upon which the court might convict against that person.

Journalist: To the Minister of Correctional Services: you placed an advert in the Sunday newspapers looking for a National Commissioner when your National Commissioner was sitting at home waiting to be recalled because she had been cleared of all charges against her. What was the reason why you placed an advert looking for a new commissioner when your commissioner wants her job back and when you haven't finalised matters with her?

Journalist: On the controlled release of awaiting trial detainees with a bail of under R1 000. You were saying that the problem is sometimes that they don't have verifiable addresses - do you mean that anyone living in an informal settlement without a street address would not benefit from the system? And if so, isn't that unfair?

Journalist: I want to understand how they are going to determine this R1 000 bail. You will find someone like Glenn Agliotti who has serious crimes but he has a bail of R1 000 and then someone who steals a loaf of bread also falls in that category. How are you going to determine this?

Journalist: Could you bring us up to speed to what is being done with the investigation of medical paroles?

Journalist: In terms of the audit that's being conducted into categories of offenders, can you fill us in on the categories. You want to ease the issue of overcrowding but if you could just explain to us that process, I mean at the end of six months, will we then see people being released?

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: On the National Commissioner I think I hear you saying whilst the National Commissioner was sitting at home waiting for me to recall her, but I certainly would not be irresponsible and move ahead by placing an advert in the media for two weeks without resolving the issues with the National Commissioner. We have decided in consultation with the Minister of Public Service and Administration to re-determine the contract of the National Commissioner which ends in August 2010. You would recall when she was moved from the Department of Sport, it was for her to move to the Department of Correctional Services for the duration and completion of her contract and that is what happened. We have re-determined she has six months to go and I feel strongly that I need a National Commissioner starting from the new financial year. So obviously we wouldn't have taken that kind of decision without engaging her. There has been regular engagement between ourselves, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the National Commissioner, the fact that there's some elements of that which is challenge shouldn't really stop us from going ahead and look for a National Commissioner for the Department.

Journalist: Sorry Minister, did you say you are looking for a new National Commissioner to start in the new financial year before the commissioner's contract has run its course?

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: You are not listening. The contract of the national commissioner has been predetermined, she is being paid out and it has been in the media. She's being paid out the remainder of her contract.

On the implementation of the bail protocol, the question is how are we going to do that? The physical address is the biggest problem for us because we have scores of people whose bail is under R1 000 but it's important for us to go ahead and implement a decision we have taken in order to alleviate overcrowding at centres. A number of those come from informal settlements where there are no physical addresses but we are trying to find ways of averting that because indeed as you say it's injustice to keep people at correctional facilities because they have no confirmed physical addresses by virtue of their socio economic conditions. So we are trying to look into that matter and one of the tasks of the team is to look at those kinds of categories, if we are saying there are people who can't be released on the basis of the bail protocol signed between the three Departments, how many people are we talking about. Is it true that they don't have physical addresses?

If I may proceed to talk about the task team, we have various categories of inmates at our centres, we have vulnerable groups and unfortunately the database of the Department of Correctional Services is unable to provide me with adequate information to be able to take proper decisions about what to do. Firstly with regards to vulnerable groups we actually have a number of people who are mentally disturbed and I'm certain at the end of the process we should know. The reclassification processes in the Department has caused serious problems, has led to a huge backlog for the parole boards, but if you ask me what is the backlog that I'm referring to, I can only know once I have gone out to find out and that is what we are doing. So the task team amongst others will be looking at issues of reclassification and backlog for the parole boards. The same applies to medical paroles. We have developed a policy for medical parole which should be out for the South African public before the end of the financial year for discussion.

The other group which is a group that requires special attention: You know that in terms of the 1959 Act, after you have served a term of your sentence you would be eligible for parole and as we move around at the centre we meet a number of inmates who were sentenced prior to 2004, who have served way beyond a third of their sentence and who have not had an opportunity to interact with the Parole Board. So that's one of how many? I don't know, the only way I can know is when I go out and find out and that's what we are doing.

The other and the last is your young people at the centres; I am not talking juveniles, I am talking children. There are many instances where, I will say unfortunately, magistrates and judges actually in their sentencing remark, make a point that a 14 or a 15-year-old child should be send to an adult correctional facility and not to a children's place of safety. We do have many of such cases and I can only know when I have tried to find out that information. So we do have the majority of our correctional centres, people at the correctional centres who are juveniles, but I also have a particular responsibility of looking out for the children who are serving at the facility, so that between ourselves and the Departments of Justice and Social Development we may work out a plan of what to do about children in conflict with the law.

Journalist: To the Minister of Correctional Services, how much will the National Commissioner be paid out for six months?

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: Plus minus R700 000. We have developed policy on medical parole. You will recall that last year during the Budget Vote I indicated that we had given instruction to the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS) to develop that policy. That is ready and there have been a series of discussions, of roundtables to engage on that medical parole policy. We have identified some gaps obviously and we are working on those and hopefully at the end of March that document should be out for the South African public for comments. The question is whether you want it as a regulation or legislation. If we go the route of amending the Act it will take us quite some time even to implement the policy. So it could be, we are seriously considering going the route of a Regulation so that as soon as possible we can start implementing that Medical Parole Policy.

Journalist: The Justice Minister: can you just tell us more about this development of this register or database for victims? And the Correctional Services Minister, how many cases is the Department dealing with in terms of the illegal release of detainees?

Journalist: To the Deputy Minister of Police, I believe the targets for the reduction of serious and violent crime have been lowered from 7-10% to between 4 and 7%, can you explain why that is? I see you want to manage the perception of crime among the population, can you tell us in practical ways. How will you do that? You want to tighten the licensing of trading liquor places. Can you just give us more information; does that mean people will struggle to get licences? Will there be limits on the time they may sell liquor, if you can just clarify that?

Journalist: Deputy Minister for Police, two questions. Community Forum Safety Strategy will be finalised by the Secretariat of the Police, in previous years the former Police Minister for example said that the community policing forums (CPFs) will be financed because they were under-resourced and moneys were supposed to be made available. I just want to get an update if that is still the case and if so, is there a ballpark figure, what is community policing forums going to get and how is that money going to be used? Can the cluster explain this kind of tough approach on crime which regenerates with lots of people in communities? Has it been able to counter perceptions that in your attempt to be tough on crime, you are beginning to erode rights culture that we are also struggling to build and just the kind of balancing act that you have to do in terms of the perception that you are tough on crime, but you are not going to be allowing rogue police to ride rough shod over people? Just how are you balancing that in terms of managing the perceptions?

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: We are in the process of implementing a National Register of Sexual Offenders. The implementation of that register is occurring in two phases, the first phase of putting the new convictions on has already been completed. There is a backlog and somewhat of a challenge on taking those previous convictions and putting them onto the register because the police crime data base provides details relating to offenders but not necessarily to victims. So we are working very closely and speedily with police to try and harmonise our database, its part of also the broader implementation of the review of the Criminal Justice System that is work in progress.

Deputy Minister Fikile Mbalula: That 7-10% was linked to in terms of Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The question of trade in legal places in terms of considering ties and so on. I think the main principle is to deal with the question of over-access of alcohol to communities and in particular young people which lead to contact crimes in our communities. So in engaging with that, is to look into that in terms of the total package in terms of time and how we regulate this particular industry.

CPFs will be financed, as you know that in terms of the current legislation the financing of the CPFs is primarily done by the South African Police Service and what we are looking at in terms of this is that how do we actually look into the Secretariat of the Police to also play a role in the financing of the community policing forums. As you will know, there is one provincial government which was actually reviewing the financing of the CPFs and we have raised serious concerns about that.

On the question of [being tough about] crime without eroding the rights of people, I think what we need to understand is that nothing is being done outside the law and everything that is being done has been within the confines of the law. We are tough on crime in upholding the rule of law in our country, nothing outside that and we have not eroded any rights of people. Where police officers have acted outside the parameters of the law, action has actually been taken and the law has taken its course.

Minister Jeff Radebe: I just want to add on this issue of perception of crime. When we developed this outcome and the various outputs, we considered this issue of perception of crime as one of the critical outputs. If you look at the statistics, contact crimes in South Africa has actually decreased over the years but crimes like car hijacking have increased compared to 1998. The number of South Africans who feel that crime has increased, has dramatically risen so that has been taken into consideration in developing this output. This issue whether crime has declined or increased is not the issue. The issue is about how people feel about the issue of their own security so in that regard we are also going to do surveys about perception of crime in South Africa and that must be done independently so that is one of our commitments in moving forward in our endeavour to deal effectively with the issue of crime and corruption in South Africa.

Journalist: Deputy Minister of Police with all respect I don't know how you answered my first question. The targets have been reduced, the national police commissioner told the portfolio committee that the targets were lowered to 4% and 7%; the previous targets like we had last year was 7% and 10%. Now the police this year gets more money, I think it's about a 10% increase in their budget from the previous financial year and in the meantime we see a lowering of the targets. Can you explain why?

Minister Jeff Radebe: Can I explain that? As I've indicated we have this outcome that we have agreed as Cabinet and we have these seven outputs against which we are going to be measured as a cluster as whole. Right now we are in discussion with the President so that we sign a delivery agreement which will include specifics in each area so that question you are posing will be answered in a month's time when we are going to set specific targets for each area of output against which we have to be measured. So we can't base ourselves on what has happened in the past, we are looking forward.

Journalist: My question is a defence question. The four companies that are to be sent to the borders, are they going to be there at all times or is it that the rotation will be coming from the four companies? Is there a timeline for when we will patrol Lesotho?

Journalist: To the Minister of Correctional Services. What is the position with the Gauteng commissioner?

Journalist: Deputy Minister, most of the journalists in this world has variously heard comments from members of the executive starting with Susan Shabangu as shoot the bastards. We have heard very tough talk from yourself and your political superior, not the least being that you said police must use their guns with determination and innocent people will be caught in the crossfire. Yet yesterday you told the National Assembly that it was a media creation and I would like you to justify that please.

Journalist: I want to understand amongst some of the initiatives that will be taken to improve the effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is the undertaking of a victim's survey. What is meant by this and what is it meant to achieve?

Journalist: About the appointment of Mokotedi Mpshe as a judge in the North West. Is he still in the employee of the NPA? When will his contract end and who is paying his salary while he is an acting judge?

Minister Jeff Radebe: Mokotedi Mpshe is an acting judge in the North West. As I recall you were here when I had a special press conference. He asked the President to be retired and the President signed a Minute allowing him to retire. So he is no longer the employee of the NPA.

Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla: Just to say that the Chief of Joint Operations in the report to the portfolio committee indicated that the Defence Force will be employing 540 personnel in resuming border duties. That is the total number of soldiers that immediately in phase one will be deployed for border duties, not that the four companies deployed at any given time on duty which will be replaced by another four companies when they are off duty. It is four companies deployed, 540 deployed for these duties and they will all be utilised at any given time. The question about companies, it's a unit within the Defence Force. Company - you would be talking about plus minus a hundred soldiers so four companies, we are talking about are battalion. The timeline for deployment in Lesotho, that is going to depend on how quick the budget that the Defence Force needs for this deployment is going to be made available. We have indicated that this will be going back to resuming responsibility for the border land between Namibia and Botswana and Botswana and Zimbabwe. Similarly with Lesotho it's going to be determined by how soon is the budget going to be raised of the Defence Force for this particular function. Thanks.

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: The Regional Commissioner Gauteng was suspended on the 11th of January and on the 16th of February she was served with a notice of a hearing and we are expecting a report to be ready in the next two weeks. What caused the delay in the main here is that the person who conducted a preliminary investigation was given to us by the NPA. The General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council has provided us with a chair who will lead the DC process and we expect that once that has been done as per the agreement with the employee that is what she requested. We expect that in two weeks that matter should be concluded.

Deputy Minister Andries Nel: Our main objective is that South Africans should not only be safe but that they should feel safe. The whole question of trio crimes has a very strong impact on our sense of safety. It's all fine and well for general crime statistics to decline but if you wake up in your own home in the middle of the night staring into a gun and you know many people who shared the same experience, that has a very real negative impact on your perception of safety. Therefore the survey that is being referred to here is a survey to try and crack whether the successes that are being achieved in bringing down levels of crime are translating into feelings of safety and also very importantly to ascertain from people who have been victims of crime whether the experience that they have in the many aspects of the criminal justice system is something that enhances their sense of security, whether they feel that they have received the level of service that we believe they should be receiving from the criminal justice system. That is a survey we would want to be done also by an independent entity so that we could get the kind of feedback we want. Thanks.

Minister Jeff Radebe: Also it responds to the call by our people. The perception is that the system doesn't take care of the victims of crime especially crimes against women and children. That is why you see in our statement they are also focussing on other departments which is not part of the security cluster but they play a critical role in ensuring this whole criminal justice system develops this feeling that the Deputy Minister is talking about, that even the victims, the manner in which they are treated by the system, they must feel in the long term that they have been taken care of. If you look at the Thuthuzela Centres that are being created in South Africa, if you look at this one stop centres by the Department of Social Development, all of them are geared towards ensuring that those that have been the victims of crime are treated in the most humane manner. So that the perception should not be it's only the criminals that go to correctional facilities with television and so on, what about the victims? So it is that other aspect that will play a critical role on the other point we have mentioned about the perception of crime, that is not only about the actual crime but how people feel about the issues of crime in South Africa. Do women feel safe to walk at night, at midnight coming from a movie, that is how we are going to measure success of our fight against crime.

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula: In the context of Correctional Services we are putting a lot of emphasis on consultation with the victims as we consider people for parole. Most of the time we will be informed that it's difficult to trace the victims or the victims simply walk away from the process because they wouldn't have a recollection of what happened. So we have a responsibility and all of us should actually drive this campaign. Victims should come forward as we look at issues of parole and allowing people to walk out of the facilities, we may not be able to do that without having some discussion at least with the victims of the perpetrators of crime.

Deputy Minister Fikile Mbalula: The issue have been raised many times but the point we are making here is that we have said it and we are still saying it now that we can't be seen to be smiling with criminals and crime. And part of our work in mobilising society as a whole involves aspects of agitation, not at the expense of any policy, but to articulate what Government stands for and uphold the rule of law. In this particular instance, the question of shoot to kill, I think have simply been blown out of proportion, meaning there is Government policy shoot to kill, which we have clarified that there is no Government policy shoot to kill. In our emphasis is when we deal with armed gun-pointing criminals. We have said in terms of upholding the law and the use of deadly force in terms of Section 49, a policeman have lost his life in this particular regard and how do they actually react, they have actually shown in the practice that they value life, warning and all of that, and criminals don't smile, they shoot to kill and this what we said because they are not trained anywhere so when a criminal is having an illegal gun pointing at the police officer shoot to kill innocent people and that is the point we making and in some of their activities, criminals they shoot innocent people and that is what we have actually said. There is no retreat or deviance in relation to this matter in what the National Police Commissioner has said and what we are saying is uphold the law, use the deadly force correctly to defend yourselves against deadly criminals. And this is what we are going to be saying moving forward. You have seen the results that some of this criminal who thought that they can hold the country at ransom, shoot people at random in the malls and everywhere else, with our technical response team on the ground, in our crime combating strategy we have been able to nip them in the bud and all of these is in context of the law. I think this our point of emphasis.

Minister Jeff Radebe: Just to add there that when you see the draft of the amendment of Section 49 you will realise that amendment will be in conformity with the guidelines established by former Constitutional Court Judge Kriegler in the matter of the state versus Walters where he elaborated the guidelines that must be used by the police. That is precisely what the amendment is about so that is conformity with the law. In fact Judge Kriegler even used the words deadly force inserting those guidelines under particular circumstances, so you watch the space and you judge for yourself as famous judge is prone to say.

Thank you.

Issued by: Government Communications, March 4 2010

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