Black on White – Why South Africa should not impose the death sentence.

Considering the amount of times society has been exposed to murder recently, many have called on the government to bring back the death penalty. A colleague of mine also believes the death penalty is the way to go.

The death sentence should not be introduced out of anger, but rather as a tool to rid communities of killers who show no remorse for their actions.

Let us pause a while. Although murder is a horrible thing to happen in society, we need to think of prevention instead of trying to find a cure or solution to the problem. As much as we could feel somehow vindicated when someone gets killed after committing murder, the reality is we need to find ways to prevent murder cases.

We need to look at contributing factors such as the licensing of ammunition as well as social behaviour. The question we need to ask ourselves is – Why are people killing? Are they killing because there is no consequence?

Maybe the increase in the murder rate is not due to lack of punishment, but rather a lack of strict rules regarding getting the licensing of ammunition and in general, social behaviour.

South Africa should not implement the death penalty because the constitution does not make provision for this to happen. Yes, the constitution – a document we all love when it best suits us, does not give provision for the death penalty to be introduced.

Section 11, Chapter 2 of the Constitution states; “Everyone has the right to life.”

The problem is although a murderer infringes on this basic human right, the constitution does not allow the person committing murder to have their life taken away because they took someone’s life. Yes, it may sound messed up, but this is the rule applied.

The difference is, if we were to say let us impose the death penalty on murderers, the argument would be the person’s right to life. Since there isn’t any other sub-section under section 11, no one should be sentenced to death. If we want the death penalty to be imposed, we need to have an amendment made to the constitution.

Before we start making applications for the amendment, we need to also consider which killers the death penalty should be imposed upon.

Say for example John gets ticked off when someone cuts in front of him, he stops, pulls out a gun, and shoots the other driver. This happens because he was angered and failed to keep his composure, so he killed someone. Maybe he shot four times, but the fact is he was angry.

Do we then sentence him to death for a moment of impulse, or consider that this is a man who now shows remorse and can be rehabilitated? I feel we should weigh this on case to case scenario, people do not wake up and decide they are going to kill, unless if they are paid to do so.

The only people we should sentence to death are the serial killers and those paid to kill. When studying most murder cases, we find it could be a crime of passion or a fight which gets out of hand.

Another factor we need to consider is the officers carrying out the execution.

As much as the majority of us would rush into saying, “We will carry out the execution!” Think about it, have you ever killed someone in your life before? Have you seen someone being killed before? Do you know what this could do to you as a human being?

It is not as easy as seeing justice being carried out, a lot has to be considered before we start imposing the death penalty – We are talking human lives here, not objects.

South Africa does not necessarily need a punishment method to be introduced, what we need is a society that works to enhance safe communities.

Although a lot needs to be done to ensure safety from government level, we need to recognise that punishment alone is not the solution.

South Africa should not impose the death penalty before amending the constitution and taking into consideration the kind of killers who should be sentenced to death. Chances are I probably only scratched the surface regarding this issue.

Malcolm Maifala

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