An eye for an eye?

by Dimakatso Komape


The death penalty or “Capital Punishment” in South Africa was abolished in 1995 by the ruling of the Constitutional Court. A national survey conducted in 2012, found that the millennium generation thought that capital punishment should be reinstated. This is mainly due to the increased deaths of young people and that they felt that crime in South Africa was becoming progressively worse.

Many believe that a lot of murderers and criminals get away with murder. Even after being locked away, many would argue that too often the sentences handed down against these criminals do not match the crimes that they have committed. Some even point to the fact that many unrepentant criminals who have committed these crimes get released, but only to commit more crime not long after they have been released. At the core of South Africans’ anger against the criminals being released is the feeling that the convicted criminals after being released from prison do not own up to what they have done, and often don’t give back to the same communities they have wronged.

This continues to be a big debate in South Africa throughout the years. The problem with the death penalty is that it is not always ‘black or white, it leaves room for a lot of grey areas. Firstly the death penalty is irreversible. And because we are all human and sometimes make mistakes, absolute judgment may lead up to people paying for crimes that they did not commit. Secondly, there is no ‘humane’ way to kill another human being. This may even continue to perpetuate the cycle of violence.

Lastly, theoretically, the criminal justice system should maintain law and order, preserve public safety and prevent crimes through appropriate restraints of punishment. Our criminal justice system should be reviewed and come up with better ways to deal with crime. The death penalty is not a better way to deal with a crime especially in a liberal country like South Africa. More than that, we should question whether this is an ethical punishment or not. To live a consistently ethical life in South Africa sometimes seems like a terribly weighty task but killing another human being would seem like a heavier task.

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