Bring Back the Death Penalty


By Andrew Matjila SOUTHERN AFRICA is in the grip of murderous international Criminals who won’t let go until the region is totally paralyzed. In a mind-boggling interview with a hijacker from Johannesburg – his face hidden – the M-Net programme Carte-Blanche laid bare the shocking story of a southern Africa that is gradually being driven over the edge of becoming ungovernable because of the power of thugs and internationally organized crime syndicates. The young man interviewed on Sunday, October 22, 2006 at 19h00 did not mince his words, but stated categorically and emphatically that, and I quote: “All policemen in Soweto know me well, because I add one thousand rand to their pay every month.” The young man went further, giving a chilling account of how he pays border police and officials to let stolen cars go through, then he orders these and delivers them to politicians and businessmen in the SADC region. This is indeed frightening, considering that such escapades were not even dreamed of in the past. What has made these desperados so daring, so strong, so clever as to be three jumps ahead of the professional policemen of today in whatever they are doing? The answer is perhaps not difficult to find. In January 2005, I received a phone call from an acquaintance who reported that he was stranded at a police station in South Africa, 40 kilometres from the Botswana Border. The acquaintance in question was driving to Namibia after a holiday in South Africa. The car had passed through that border point a month earlier into South Africa, and there was no trouble. It was on the return trip that the South African Police took charge of the car at the border, and the driver had to drive 40 kilometres back to a police station, in convoy with the police. Computers were consulted, and when the motorist realized that the matter was very serious, she phoned me in Windhoek. When I spoke to the Commander of the Police over the line, he informed me that the car was registered in the Eastern Cape, in Kwa-Zulu Natal, in Johannesburg and in Windhoek. I thereupon informed the Commander that I was personally invited by the owner of the car to help him select it brand new from the floor of an internationally famous car dealer and manufacturer, and that I personally knew the history of the car. No, said the man, there are discrepancies all over the place, and it cannot be decided just off-hand who the car belongs to. Fortunately, although it was still during the holiday period, the manager of the firm that sold the car in Windhoek was in his office. He arranged with the registering authority to fax the car’s registration to the Police Station in South Africa, and within minutes the vehicle was released to travel to Namibia. The reader can just imagine what could have happened if the motorist in question had not received help from Namibia. Let’s Revisit the Death Sentence It is not so much revenge by the law, or “dealing” with wrong-doers, as though to say, “we give them what they deserve.” It is justice. Period. “He/she who takes the life of another, must know that he/she will lose his/her own.” There cannot be peace, tranquillity and laughter in the home of Tom, while there is misery, crying and instability in Paul’s home, simply because the one parent has killed the other. And here the reader must understand that we are not talking about the beheading of thousands in Europe during the Middle Ages, and ensuing years when the king, unhappy with a concubine, ordered her to be beheaded so that he should not see her face again. No, none of that. We are talking about thugs who are prepared to kill anyone who stands in their way. We are talking of brutal people turned into animals, whose anger propels them to take the lives of others without compunction. We are talking about a man who spits hell fire and takes a gun to wipe out his whole family, simply because he is angry. Two young men get to a farm after having been promised that they would be paid handsomely if they could “elimineer (eliminate)” certain people there. Money becomes the priority for them and, without hesitation they undertake the long journey to the farm concerned, all the way scheming how to execute the plan, the weapons required, and the speed with which the job must be done. Who says movies such as the ‘Terminator’, the ‘Equalizer’, the ‘Hit Man’, and many others are not being copied by thugs and other trouble-makers? It is no longer necessary to page through dailies to see what happened the previous day or night. We already know that someone somewhere was raped, mugged, shot or knifed to death the previous day, or that some unfortunate woman or child was terribly beaten. This has become a way of life in Namibia and South Africa. Botswana and Zimbabwe have the death sentence hanging like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of criminal elements, ready to strike if provoked. You kill and be killed in those countries. Anybody taking the life of someone should know that if found guilty of wilful murder, his/her life will be taken as well. Namibia and South Africa still have their pre-independence gallows, waiting to be reactivated to meet the growing menace of criminals on the warpath. It remains to be seen whether the authorities in these countries will sit smugly until citizens resort to vigilante revenge killings to protect themselves. The police are ineffective to the extent that security guards who die in numbers in South Africa whilst transporting cash in transit, have now called upon the South African National Defence Force to protect them. The Law and the Criminal Elements So much has been said about the subject through the ages. In fact, since Cain is alleged to have killed his brother, Abel, crime and criminals have multiplied appallingly in society. Cain seems to have invented an appealing and macho way of life for criminals. Whilst I do not lay claim to being an expert on crime and punishment, I’m looking at this serious issue purely from a parental point of view. There is a school of thought that argues that in our case in southern Africa, racial laws and policies are partly to blame for our crime woes of the past century, and hence the present situation. Crime has become so endemic to our region, so much of a way of life – a culture if you like – that children growing up under present conditions tend to mistake criminal acts for bravado, for acceptable behaviour. This argument must not overlook the fact that millions of people who endured the apartheid regime’s policies are not criminals. The Tutuses, Mandelas, Toivos, Nujomas, Gurirabs, Ulengas, Riruakos, Pohambas, and thousands of others were subjected to the most humiliating treatment during the apartheid years, yet they have emerged dignified, human and unscathed. No, crime is often in the bloodline, that is, inherited from some scoundrel in the family down the line, or is learned or acquired from others. One of the sensitive stages of a child’s life is the imitation stage. If the wrong notions are copied, learned and preserved in the young mind, the Lord help us. At age fourteen or fifteen, if that young mind is spent in idleness and day-dreaming, the criminal is immediately cultivated, groomed and prepared to challenge the world out there. Homes in which virtues and ethics are not inculcated but ignored can only offer their offspring anathema and a life of sordid evil, lawlessness, murder, rape, and today the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Where are we headed? What are African Governments doing to stop this devastating mess we find ourselves in? Why do politicians promise so much and yet do so little? Many of them are church-goers until they occupy important positions in life when they no longer need God. They seem to fade away from their people into the labyrinth of government offices, and totally ignore the advice of the voters. To hear voters say “We only see you on TV,” must be cause for concern to any leader. The Sunday Sun, a newspaper read mostly by township ( location) dwellers in South Africa, people at grassroots level, that is, in its issue of Sunday, 15 October, 2006, ran a column with the title JQ. In the current issue, the columnist writes, and I quote: “At least we valued life in the bad days” (the period of oppression and apartheid). He goes on to say: “But something has gone terribly wrong with us in the first 12 years of our democracy, and we need to do a thorough and honest introspection in order to pinpoint exactly what it is, and then attempt to find some workable remedies – pretty fast.” The columnist continues: “One does not have to be ‘missing’ apartheid or ‘hankering after’ its return to point out, quite currently, that in the bad old days at least we somehow had a great reverence for life, and we valued and respected it. Ditto the property of others. One could even say that in those terrible bygone days the police were very efficient and could be relied upon to nip any sort of imminent mischief in the bud, but not anymore.” The writer goes on to name shocking incidents of murder committed by the youth of today, without compunction. What has gone wrong with us Africans? Why this kind of behaviour? Let us forget the colonial era and all that nonsense. After all, we are human and with feelings, humanness (ubuntu), and dignity, otherwise we would all be dead, having murdered each other. We do have an origin and a future. It is fact that Justice now demands the highest priority from those who rule. Women and children are being brutalized and murdered at such an alarming rate in our region, that they are becoming mere statistics. In the name of democracy, thieves, murderers, rapists and child molesters are protected by law, and are often granted bail to roam around bragging about their exploits, or get off free or with light sentences. The law-abiding citizens of our region have now come to realize that the law is mostly on the side of the criminal elements. In South Africa and Namibia, because of their affluent economies, these countries have become like honey, attracting all the dangerous men and women of the world who run away from their own countries where the death sentence is imposed without hesitation by their governments. In fact, it has been proven beyond doubt that ex-fighters’ countries which were involved in guerrilla warfare, are now using their previous military experience. Experts in the field claim that what we are seeing is just the beginning of greater and more horrifying things to come. It has now been established beyond any doubt that opium and cocaine from Asian countries follow a route along the eastern seaboard of Africa, from the Gulf of Aden into South Africa where it is distributed, and part of it shipped to Europe. The people who are involved have standing armies of well-armed men who are prepared to die for their operations and, like in the movies, the drug lords apparently give orders to certain policemen. Rumour has it that these lords will pay any sum of money to get good information, or to buy the best arms from the manufacturers. South America is also reportedly being used by drug lords, when the coast is clear, to get women to swallow whole loads of cocaine for delivery to southern Africa. Millions – if not billions – exchange hands daily, at the expense of young children who are either destroyed in school or are whisked off to unknown destinations as prostitutes or sex slaves. The days of African slavery are not yet over, except that we now face slavery of a totally different brand. Criminals are taking revenge on society by plundering, like in the old days of campaigns by warring tribes such as the Vikings, the Mongols, the Imfecane wars of southern Africa, and so on. Heists in South Africa and Namibia, and indeed the world over, are usually followed by great celebrations, with drinking orgies being the order of the day. Never has it ever happened that highway robbers would, for instance: – donate some of the loot to an orphanage; – give money to the poor; apparently only the legendary Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest has ever done that; – build houses for the poor with the millions or, for that matter, houses for themselves; – pay schools fees for their own children; – buy food for the hung-ry; – give scholarships to deserving students; – establish charitable institutions; – invest the money in projects that could create employment for the people. Highwaymen and women, bank robbers, the heist-men of Johannesburg and Brakwater blow their loot as fast as they get it, for obvious reasons. The only people who often score heavily, if they are lucky, are the shebeens which are the normal venues patronized by the big shots. ‘Fill up the table and count the empties. Satan come duze, heaven can wait,’ is the usual greeting of the underworld. Friends, lovely women, hangers-on and chance shebeen regulars waste no time in joining the money-spinners for free drinks. A hail-fellow-well-met party develops within minutes, and the Hi-Fi of the establishment booms away the favourite tunes, while the scientists in the pile exchange wisdom on how they planned and executed their adventure. People are held spellbound as they listen to the thugs relating how the police were put on the run. Within two days the millions are blown away in shiny motor cars, beautiful women, fine clothes, expensive whisky and, very often, tragedy. There are those who warn that southern Africa – now being swamped by all the drug lords of the world, warlords, fighters, money-launderers, cut-throats, fortune-seekers, clevers en moegoes, paedophiles, rapists, human traffickers, and all the dangerous people imaginable – is destined to become the most dangerous place on earth by 2020. It might just be an exaggeration, but if the shocking crimes committed these days, with the culprits getting away with it all, are anything to go by, then it is not far-fetched to use the African expression, ‘Dikgolo di setla’, the worst is still to come. Even the 2010 Soccer Extravaganza in South Africa in particular, may just be a pipe dream. It is time for the hoodlums to be shown that: “Ons is nie moegoes nie” – we are not as stupid as they think. But we should show them there is only one way, viz. The Death Sentence to be reimposed. To even suggest that the police forces must be given a boost is to dwell on Sunday School nursery rhymes. Why? Many of them are involved and cannot extricate themselves. To replace them, the new arrivals must have laws that guarantee success, and not days and days of arguments between lawyers in court, ending in two years imprisonment for a murderer. Criminal elements in our region are well organized, there is no doubt about it. – they must have structures similar to those in established, recognized and legally-registered institutions; – they have well-trained armies and fighters; – they plan well and often outclass the police; – they are well armed and are capable of using firearms on a “Wafa-wafa” basis. “that means they don’t fear death at all; – they have experts and specialists who know where, and what they want, the place, time and how to tackle all obstacles to achieve their objectives. We have a situation on our hands where dangerous criminals even draw up their budgets to carry out daring raids in heavily-crowded shopping centres. When the police hear about it, it is often already in execution, or the heavy staccato of machine guns sounds the alarm. At that time, an innocent child dies on its mother’s back, the poor woman having hastened into town because she had heard tell that there was a big sale on at Woolworths and she wanted to cash in on cheaper clothing. It is too late now to deliberate on what the law is or is not doing. The people want a referendum to decide on reinstating Capital Punishment, human rights regardless. Those who lose their lives from weapons that are being fired in public places without hesitation, are also human. We can no longer protect them with jail sentences for the offenders. We have a serious problem with our Justice system. Litanies of postponed cases, missing dockets at times, escaped prisoners or witnesses who have disappeared, and many other problems that crop up daily, serve only to compound the story that justice delayed is justice lost forever. Many citizens feel that the police force needs beefing up to make it more effective. This may be partly true, but people arrested must appear before court, charged, sentenced and put in prison within days. Being given bail to go out there and then jump bail and disappear, causing the taxpayer more money for police to burn fuel hunting the runaways, shows the weaknesses of the system. One of the reasons for the justice system being weak is because it is shockingly under-resourced. Like Nursing, it does not seem to retain competent and highly experienced staff. It is mostly staffed by young people with very limited experience. Criminals repeatedly commit crimes in southern Africa and are released on bail simply because there is no national system capable of keeping track of them. Very often investigating officers tell us, “Ja, we know that boy.” And the story ends there. A few years ago while in Parliament, a police officer called me to tell me that someone had laid a charge against me. My dog had savaged someone else’s daughter, I was told. Well, in fact it was just the opposite. A guard dog had savaged my grandchild while the child was walking in the street. The case has never come before court to this day. The greatest challenge facing our government is to eradicate crime in its totality, otherwise there is no reason building houses if nobody will live in them, or creating jobs that will not be filled because people are afraid of joining the police force or manning offices where thugs maltreat them if they refuse to grant them favours. Another problem, of course, is the expectations imposed by our Constitution. Ours is second to none in the world in its defence of human rights. The escalation of crime after independence is mainly due to the protection of rights by our constitution. All of a sudden, criminals find a boon in a document that seems to protect even the rights of wrong-doers. One thing must be made very clear here, viz. a good constitution and tens of well-paid rights commissioners are no guarantee for justice. Only a good criminal justice system can do that. Since independence, the gap has been growing steadily between the high flown intentions of our constitution and the grinding reality of terror spread by gangs who run their own criminal governments. Public cynicism is reaching high proportions. Human rights without the law, is hardly better than law without human rights. Both always have the same result – outraged citizens who are poised on revolt or, at the very least, ready to take the law into their own hands. And we are not very far from such a scenario in our country. Women and children are murdered, and murdered, and murdered mercilessly. The murderers are kept for 48 hours behind bars, or just long enough to get thirsty, and they are out in the streets. Mourners and murderers soon rub shoulders in the same graveyard during funerals. The public is clamouring for a reinstatement of the death sentence. They want to hear the bells ringing, or the sirens blaring , announcing that a murderer is being sent to a place of no return. The government must heed this call. The irony in this matter is that it is not so much the wealthy and affluent who are carrying the burden of suffering, but the poor in most cases. They rely on the law for protection, but very often it is simply not there for them, or they cannot afford lawyers who charge high rates for defending people in court. But then, we have those liberals wh