DA says Ramaphosa’s stance on hard labour for sex offenders at odds with Constitution

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a recent gender-based violence and xenophobic looting in parliament, September 18, 2019. Picture: Screenshot

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach says the president’s comments come after Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola reportedly made similar utterances.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has said the stance taken by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration on subjecting convicted sex offenders to hard labour in jail and reinstating the death sentence is at odds with the country’s Constitution.

The party said it “notes with concern” Ramaphosa’s comments on Sunday at the funeral of the tragically slain student Precious Ramabulana.

The 21-year-old student was attacked and killed in her student accommodation in Mokomene, Limpopo, just over a week ago.

A 28-year-old suspect was arrested in Nyakelang Village, Botlokwa, at his parents’ home in connection with the murder.

Police also recovered cellphones which possibly belonged to Precious, blood-stained clothes and what was possibly even the murder weapon.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa reportedly said that “government would work to change the justice system to ensure that people convicted of crimes against women and children remained behind bars for life and under the harshest conditions”.

He also reportedly said that “they should not be in jail and enjoy life there, they should be subjected to hard labour – the harshest of labour”.

He is further reported to have said: “We must now have an active record of all those who are either found guilty or who have had a brush with the law on crimes against women and children.”

DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said the president’s comments come after Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola reportedly made similar utterances.

Lamola suggested that Cabinet would discuss the return of the death sentence, Breytenbach said, adding that the minister also “made outrageous suggestions regarding bail for sex offenders”.

Breytenbach said Ramaphosa’s “party’s government” has “taken since 2007 to get the National Register of Sex Offenders up and running, and there are still no guarantees that it is either complete or accurate”.

She further questioned who advised Lamola “to encourage him making such statements”.

“It also brings into question whether or not the president and the minister have come to grips with a Constitutional democracy and just how it works. These types of statements are unfortunate, emotional and coming from the president of a Constitutional democracy, frankly deeply disappointing. It is cheap talk, speaking to placate the general population, but which can never be delivered.  The tragedy which befell Precious Ramabulana happens all too often in South Africa, and now, on an almost weekly basis,” Breytenbach said.

She added that the country needed to work together to put an end to rampant gender-based violence (GBV).

“It is a complex issue and will require a multi-faceted approach to begin to address this serious problem.”

Breytenbach said the country’s “prison system is severely compromised, again largely thanks to the ANC / Bosasa coalition”.

“There is no hope of rehabilitation for offenders of any nature and increasing sentences and then throwing away the key is no solution to what is largely a societal and socio-economic problem. To suggest that hard labour or the death sentence will solve the problem is to bury one’s head in the sand, and the president will have to do so much better if we are to begin to solve the problem of GBV.

“The government will have to stop the looting, and then put the taxpayers’ money where their mouth is, and spend money on solving the problem, including recapacitating the entire criminal justice system. We can never begin to address the scourge of GBV when the president makes simplistic statements off the cuff with no regard for the Constitution or the real, underlying causes of this massive, complex problem.”

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)

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