‘Azapo will not oppose death penalty referendum’

The Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) would not stand in the way of a referendum that seeks to have the death penalty reinstated considering the skyrocketing brutal killing of “our people”, and the escalating entrenched culture of izinkabi contract killings, Azapo president Nelvis Qekema said in an exclusive interview with Sunday World.

“We do not want to rule out the possibility of having an appreciation of why so many people and organisations in our country want capital punishment reinstated, despite what the constitution might say about its unconstitutionality.

“We understand the people’s frustration and desperation about the high rate of violent crime in our country, and so resorting to seeking retribution as a form of justice for the brutality in which innocent babies and girls and older defenceless women are massacred is understandable.

“The thinking by those who want to have a referendum considered for the reinstatement of death is not irrational if you consider the level of violence and mayhem that have gripped South Africa, which is now regarded as one of the highest-ranking crime-infested countries in the world,” Qekema said.

Qekema said the sentiments expressed for the return of death sentence were exacerbated by various factors, including the fact that people had lost hope in the government’s ability to put crime under control, and “for the fact that people are dying like flies” with policing and intelligence systems out of sync with the security needs of the people.

While Azapo did not think the death penalty is the panacea to the socio-economic challenges facing South Africans, mainly black people, and many of these manifesting in violent crimes because of socio-economic disparities, “we cannot stand here and ignore other people’s views on the need for the reinstatement of the death penalty given the prevailing circumstances, and the escalation of violent crime in their country”.

He said the uncontrolled “izinkabi economy” where hardened criminals are contracted to end with impunity innocent people’s lives through assassination, was a sad phenomenon “that should remind us that the economy continues to be in the hands of white people”.

“The fact that these antisocial tendencies in large measures happen among us as black people and less among white people and other racial groupings is a reflection of deeper social and economic disparities black people have had to endure, with violence and mayhem as symptoms of a deeper problem of poverty and inequality,” he said.

Qekema said his organisation believes the government must invest in hi-tech intelligence, which among other things, must involve local communities to help fight crime, “and to become the eyes and ears of policing and security entities”.

“For now, there is simply no will on the part of the government to involve local communities to help fight crime. If this trend continues, a desire for retribution will always bubble in the minds of those whose loved ones have been brutally killed without the security system responding appropriately to the brutality prevalent in the country,” said Qekema.

In 1995, the Constitutional Court took a drastic, and controversial step, to abolish the death penalty, ruling that as it was provided in the Criminal Procedure Act, it was at odds with the constitution and so should be done away with.

The judgment found a concrete expression in the Constitutional landmark judgment of S v Makwanyana and Another in which capital punishment was abolished – a judgment that saved several people who were awaiting the hangman to end their lives through execution
by hanging.

As various violent crimes including gender-based violence escalate, several political organisations, including the African Christian Democratic Party, are using their manifestos to call for the reinstatement of capital punishment.

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