Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crime and Punishment in South Africa

“Everyone is taking a chance”. These are words I often use to describe the escalating crime problem in South Africa when in conversation with people on the subject. These words are not to be taken lightly either – so remember them. Having been involved in the investigation of commercial crime for the last 17 years, these words come from a position of knowledge.

As an example, in 2008 the total number of reported armed robbery cases was 118 312, and in 2007 the number is 126 558, which does effect a decrease of 5%, however the number is still high and, in my opinion, unacceptable. Yet South Africans make do and live with the reality that crime is a ‘problem’ but as long as we make ourselves a more unattractive target than our neighbours, by fortifying our homes and offices, then it’s OK.

The Law in South Africa, as written in the Statues, is firm and unforgiving towards those who transgress, but the 'system' is what lets us down. The problems are many, but one which seems to have grown is that the National Prosecuting Authority and the S.A. Police Service are reluctant to stick their necks out to nail perpetrators for fear of civil claims against the State. This in essence allows criminals to continue in their criminal activities with impunity and with little fear of arrest.

One such example is of a man who we recently investigated for theft from his employers of cash and goods to the value of about R 2 500 000. He was arrested, and released on R 1000 bail. Two days thereafter he intimidated one of the witnesses, who submitted an affidavit to this effect to the police, and the man was rearrested. In court the Magistrate agreed that when the man was released on bail he was not told to refrain from contacting and / or interfering with witnesses. He was then released on bail again. A week or two later he was again intimidating witnesses both telephonically and in person, which led to him being rearrested. In court his defense Council argued with (and battered) the witnesses stating that the witnesses were mistaken. This led to his release, and additional bail conditions were added, one in particular being that he was prohibited from entering a certain municipal area.

A couple weeks thereafter he was caught in the prohibited area by members of the Metro Police, fined for not having number plates on his car, and said vehicle was impounded. A copy of the fine was presented to court along with an affidavit of the fine issuing Metro Policeman. Again he was rearrested. In court his Council argued that his client had been telephoned by an unknown person asking to meet him at the local police station, and it was on the way to the police station that he was caught… despite the fact that he was actually caught at his girlfriend’s house. Unbelievably the Magistrate accepted the man’s version and he was released.

What message does this send to criminals? Clearly it is a simple one… namely, “do what you want because the system will protect you”.

When asked why this had happened the State only admitted that they have to exercise great care to prevent civil claims against them.

We as taxpayers need to be more vigilant and put pressure on the State to protect us, the victims of crime.

Watch this space, because things are going to get interesting…

Source: Carrington Laughton (Richmark Sentinel)

1 Opinion(s):

Exzanian said...

The principle usually invoked is that it's better that 1000 guilty criminals should go free rather than 1 innocent person gets sent to jail. Very noble, but this is not the rule being applied in Azania is it? No, lets just be honest about it, it's more along the lines of "we don't have the political will, competence or resources to investigate, prosecute, try and incarcerate 1000 criminals effectively, so we'll just let 999 free and send 1 to jail"