NEWS & ANALYSIS

Constitution won't be changed to allow death penalty - Jacob Zuma

Transcript of President's reply to question from Graham McIntosh, March 15 2012

Transcript of President Jacob Zuma's answer to questions in National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town, March 15 2012

4. Ms W Ngwenya (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1) How far has the process of establishing a transformed, integrated, modernised, resourced and well managed criminal justice system progressed?

(2) whether he has set any time frames for specific projects in this process, if not, why not; if so, (a) what are the time frames in each case and (b) are the relevant details in each case?

Reply: 

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, the transformation of the criminal justice system has progressed substantially. It is, however, not a singular event, but a continuing process to enhance service delivery. The Criminal Justice System Review was completed in 2008 and the implementation of the review's recommendations through a seven-point implementation plan began in earnest in 2009.

The seven-point plan focus areas now form part of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster's, JCPS, service delivery agreement signed by all security cluster Ministers with the President. The objective is to ensure that all people in South Africa are, and feel, safe. Simply put, we are working towards a system in which there is improved co-ordination between the police, prosecution authorities, the courts and correctional services, to bring improved results in the fight against crime and corruption, as well as enhanced access to fair and equitable justice to all South Africans.

Actions emanating from the seven-point plan and the delivery agreement have also been made part of the strategic frameworks and agendas of all departments and agencies. Tangible progress has been made on many fronts. For example, successive reports have indicated a decrease in serious crime, the detection rate for crime, as regards house and business robberies, as well as vehicle hijacking, has also significantly decreased. We are improving the integrity of the National Population Register. We have deployed the SA National Defence Force on the borders and at ports of entry and are seeing progress in containing the entry of counterfeit goods and illegal persons through the country's borders.

Our courts have registered improved case finalisation rates, for example, the High Court with an average conviction rate of 84%. In addition to these measures, the Office of the Chief Justice has initiated case flow management and a process to set uniform norms and standards for the judiciary. Progress has been made to establish 26 additional Thuthuzela Care Centres and victim support rooms at police stations. In order to strengthen partnerships between government and communities in fighting crime, a Community Safety Forum Policy has been put in place with a phased implementation schedule to start in 2012.

These are just a few examples that indicate that integrated and co-ordinated interventions across the criminal justice system have had a very positive impact. The transformation programme spans several planning cycles as a full-scale transformation programme that is based upon continuous improvement practices. There are no exact end dates for the programme, as a whole. Timeframes and targets have, however, been set and are reported on in relation to the various focus areas through the reporting cycles of the JCPS Delivery Agreement Report to Cabinet on a quarterly basis. The cluster reviews its delivery agreement, and thus reviews the targets for each element of the project.

The JCPS Cluster is currently in the process of refining the delivery agreement which sets out milestones, timelines and deliverables. This process is being guided by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency and the refined delivery agreement shall come into effect at the beginning of April this year. Thank you, hon Speaker.

IsiZulu:

Nkk W NGWENYA: Ngiyabonga Somlomo, ngibonge futhi nakuMongameli ngempendulo ecacile nezwakala kahle, anginawo omunye umbuzo Ngiyabonga. [Ihlombe.]

English:

Mr J H VAN DER MERWE: Speaker, thank you, Mr President. With respect, I do not agree with you when you say that substantial progress has been made. I do not think that is correct. There has been some progress, but with the police it is 3,4,5%, which is not substantial; the court rolls are still such that it is sometimes impossible to get your case heard for a year or two. However, the main problem is with correctional services: overcrowding. So, I think the President is too optimistic. There is not a substantial improvement, just a moderate one. [Interjections.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, well, I do not know what measurement the hon member is using that is different from what we have done - and we are on the job, we are not onlookers. We are actually doing the job and doing the calculations and measurements, absolutely. What is new if an opposition member says, "I disagree"? Have you ever agreed on anything? There is nothing new there, really! [Interjections.] [Laughter.] [Applause.]

Mr J H VAN DER MERWE: Mr President, I agreed that you must be fired!

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: That was a disagreement covered in agreement!

Now, I think it is substantial. We are making progress and we do this on a daily basis. Therefore, I do not think I agree with you when you say it is just 3% or 4%. That is really calculating like a sangoma, because you are not there!

IsiZulu:

Vuma, sangoma! [Interjections.]

English:

Thank you, hon Speaker. [Interjections.]

The SPEAKER: I thank the hon President. Order, hon members! I have on my list the following hon members: D Schäfer, N Swart, and since four supplementary questions are allowed and the first question was not a supplementary question, I will then allow the hon McIntosh to take that slot.

Mrs D A SCHÄFER: Mr Speaker, my question to the President relates to the transformation aspect of the judicial system. In terms of the recently released discussion documents on the transformation of the judicial system, it is clear that government sees transformation largely in terms of the rationalisation provided for in section 16(6) of Chapter 6 of the Constitution. Given that this is a transitional provision in the Constitution, what, in the President's view, exactly still needs to happen before this transformation will be regarded as being complete? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, of course, transformation is a holistic thing. It is not one aspect. It must involve many, many other things, and there are many things that we believe still need to be transformed in the system. So, it is not necessarily one aspect that we are looking at. We are looking at transforming the system totally, and I am sure we could enumerate a lot of things that still need transformation. So, we believe transformation is necessary.

Mr S N SWART: Speaker, arising from the hon President's response, I am sure he will share the ACDP's view that prosecutors play an integral part of a successful criminal justice system. Indeed, it is they who are entrusted with securing convictions in all manner of criminal cases. However, according to the most recent strategic plan filed by the National Prosecuting Authority, NPA, they indicated that prosecutors are faced on a daily basis with physical infrastructure constraints, such as inadequate accommodation, poor working conditions and limited resources. These conditions, according to the report, prevent prosecutors from performing at their best, which ultimately results in poor service delivery. They also indicate in the report their high vacancy rate, which also impacts on service delivery.

Is the hon President aware of these challenges facing the NPA and the impact on service delivery, and in particular, on fighting crime? If so, what action can government take to address these concerns, or should we, as Parliament, rather, use our powers in terms of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Bill to amend their budget and give them more money? Thank you, Speaker.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, certainly, when we talk about transformation, it includes those matters that the prosecutors are talking about. That is why I said transformation is holistic. It deals with all of that. Therefore, I am sure if the hon member thinks that the Department of Justice needs to be given more money, and you can vote here unanimously, I am sure the Minister of Justice would be very happy. Absolutely! Thank you, hon Speaker.

IsiZulu:

Mnu G B D MCINTOSH: Ngiyabonga Somlomo, mina angizethembi izangoma, [Uhleko.]

English:

My question to the hon President is: In regard to the criminal justice system, will the President consider appointing a judicial commission to, firstly, investigate whether by giving our High Courts the freedom, after due legal process, to impose the death penalty for murder? This will be a factor in bringing our unacceptably high levels of murder and other violent crime down. [Interjections.] Secondly, would the judicial commission advise Parliament on what amendments to the Constitution will be required to give effect to allowing the High Court that freedom in sentencing? [Interjections.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Did I hear the hon member say "the freedom to sentence people to death"?

Hon MEMBERS: Yes! [Interjections.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Is that what he is saying?

Hon MEMBERS: Yes! [Interjections.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBIC: Well, really, I do not think I will take a decision and establish a judicial commission of enquiry on that issue. I would not. This is a decision that was taken by the Constitutional Court ... [Applause.] ... and it is left like that. I will not do it. Absolutely not. I am very clear. You could raise the matter for debate in Parliament. I do not think you will win it, either. Thank you very much. [Applause.]

The SPEAKER: I thank the hon President. This is just to remind hon members that a supplementary question may not consist of more than one question. It cannot be a string of questions, just one.

Source: Hansard, unrevised transcript

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