Time to review SA bail system

FILE PICTURE: Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini speaking at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban at an Imbizo that was called by his majesty to speak about stopping the xenophobic attacks Picture Phumlani Thabethe Date 20 April 2015

King Goodwill Zwelithini has a penchant for sparking storms with controversial remarks.

However, the Zulu monarch has recently been saying the right things. Last week, he urged government to review the bail and parole system, arguing that many of those released ended up committing further crimes. The king also lamented granting of bail to serial offenders.

On Thursday, this newspaper published a heartbreaking story of a police officer whose husband, Kenneth Poortman, a Pretoria policeman, was slain by thugs who were out on bail for a string of other crimes. A few years ago, Bheki Cele, then national police commissioner, revealed how court decisions to grant bail to serial offenders was having a negative impact on police officers, who went out of their way to arrest dangerous criminals.

At the time, three of the country’s most dangerous criminals were wreaking havoc while out on bail for violent crimes. One was a serial house robber who had been given bail 30 times. Another belonged to a notorious cash-in-transit heist gang and had been granted bailed 32 times. The third was the kingpin of the socalled Rolex gang, who had been freed on bail 16 times.

We are mindful of the fact bail is not punitive and that its purpose is to allow an accused person to be released from custody under strict conditions, so as not to imprison them unnecessarily before they are tried for the criminal offence they are accused of. But it is scary that dangerous thugs repeatedly violate their bail conditions, taking the opportunity to further terrorise communities.

Surely, if a suspect freed on bail commits further crimes, their bail should be revoked until such time their trial or trials has been concluded. Failure to do so exposes the public to harm by robbers, rapists and murderers. Zwelithini is correct: the time has come for SA bail system to be reviewed.

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