The case for and against return of the death penalty

South Africa's high crime rates have resulted in increasing calls for the re-instatement of the death penalty as a deterrent.

Despite various polls indicating a significant portion of the country being in favour of its re-instatement, it remains a divisive and contentious issue that would require an amendment to the Constitution which protects citizens' right to life.

The death penalty was abolished more than 20 years ago with the advent of a post-apartheid society.

If we are going to bring back the death penalty, we would have to amend the Bill of Rights which is almost never a good idea.

Pierre de Vos, Constitutional Law expert

De Vos made it clear that any changes to the Bill of Rights requires a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament and says that will never happen.

702/Cape Talk's Eusebius McKaiser (standing-in for Redi Tlhabi) engaged constitutional law expert, Pierre de Vos, and director of Christian View Network, Philip Rosenthal, to present both sides of the argument regarding the issue.

De Vos said that the pro-death penalty deterrence argument conflicts with the heart of democratic South Africa's founding principles in upholding equality and justice.

People talk about the death penalty as if it's going to stop crime or be a deterrent, while all the evidence suggests is that it is not a deterrent.

Pierre de Vos, Constitutional Law expert

The SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) recently said the following in stating a case against the re-instatement of the death penalty:

"human beings who are not infallible ought not to choose a form of punishment which is irreparable".

However, Rosenthal emphasised that part of the process of justice is taking a life for a life in the form of capital punishment.

The view of the sanctity of life - which is held by most of South Africa and explained in the Bible - is one that sees the state having a role in administering justice which includes punishing murderers.

Philip Rosenthal, Christian View Network director

Listen to the conversation below:


This article first appeared on 702 : The case for and against return of the death penalty


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