The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa

02/27/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/27/2024 02:25

Keynote address by Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile on the occasion of the National Conference on the Review of the Integrated Criminal Justice System and the Review[...]

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Programme Director;
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services of South Africa, Ronald Lamola;
Minister of Police, Mr. Bhekokwakhe Hamilton Cele;
Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr John Jeffery;
MEC for Gauteng Community Safety, Ms Faith Mazibuko;
Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee present;
Judge Presidents, Deputy Judge Presidents, and former Judges present;
Heads of Commissions present;
National Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv. Shamila Batohi;
National Commissioners of the SAPS, Lieutenant General Sehlahle Fanie Masemola of SAPS;
Mr Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale of the Department of Correctional Services;
National Head of Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Dr (Adv) Lieutenant, General Godfrey Lebeya;
Senior leadership of Chapters 9 and 10 Institutions;
Traditional Leadership and Civil Society Organisations present;
Government officials and members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to address you today at this important conference that brings together stakeholders to contribute to the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 vision through honest review, solution-based recommendations, and a commitment to working together towards a South Africa with a strong criminal justice system, and a country where all feel safe and secure.

As we celebrate 30 Years of our Constitution with less than three months to the 2024 General Elections, this is an opportune moment for us to reflect on the criminal justice system in the context of the rights enshrined in the Constitution, and the founding provisions of human dignity and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

I believe that the criminal justice system serves as the bedrock of every democratic society, ensuring the protection of individual rights and the maintenance of order. For many years, the integrated criminal justice system and the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 have had a profound impact on how we handle law enforcement, prosecution, and adjudication in South Africa.

However, we must examine the current legal framework and identify areas that require transformation or amendment. Our laws must be responsive to the changing needs of society and aligned with international standards.

In this regard, our Constitution guides us on the ongoing path of transformation, which has proven to be dynamic, challenging, but also producing some positive outcomes as it relates to improving the lives of South Africans. Likewise, the criminal justice system and all its constitutive parts are on a transformative journey requiring us to assess where we come from, where we now are, and where we are headed.

Currently, our criminal justice system and democracy have been put to the test due to widespread corruption, criminality, Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

Crime remains persistent despite the many strategies we have devised to fight it, such as increased police presence, community policing initiatives, and technological investments in surveillance and evidence collection.

The prosecution and judicial systems are overburdened, the correctional service is overcrowded, and the police system continues to be besieged as the state fights to prosecute and punish criminal behaviour, frequently compromising on "zero-tolerance" pledges to "punish at all costs."

Looking at these challenges, it is easy to grow despondent, but we must never be discouraged. Instead, we must double our efforts to reach our desired goal.

The legal system in South Africa has undergone significant changes since the apartheid era, aiming to ensure fairness and equal opportunities for all citizens. Post-1994, changes include a National Crime Prevention Strategy, victim empowerment programs, and a diversion program for low-impact offenses under Pillar 1, to ensure a human rights culture.

Recently, we replaced the 1996 National Crime Prevention Strategy with the Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy (ICVPS), approved in March 2022 by the Cabinet. This strategy focuses on preventing crime and violence through a 'whole of government' and 'whole of society' approach.

It outlines a comprehensive collaborative framework for crime and violence prevention in the country, focusing on six interdependent and interrelated pillars, which are:

• an effective criminal justice system,
• early interventions for crime prevention,
• victim support interventions,
• effective and integrated service delivery,
• safety through environmental design, and
• active public and community participation.

I applaud the implementation of the Safer Cities Project in seven cities, which includes community participation with 58 936 Community in Blue Patrollers, and the continuation of programmes such as Traditional Policing and the NPA Community Prosecution initiative.

Furthermore, we applaud the growth of Thuthuzela Care Centres, which now have 63 locations, targeting high-crime areas, empowering Community Policing Forums, and implementing outreach projects.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We cannot overlook the issues that are endangering our economy, particularly in the construction sector.

Murderous construction mafias have brought many companies to their knees, and we must fight back to safeguard this industry.

A concerted effort from all is necessary to unravel the complex web of construction site disruptions, which endangers lives and impedes the government's objective of transforming the nation into a massive construction site that generates employment and expands the economy.

In this regard, the Economic Infrastructure Task Teams are actively working to combat non-ferrous metal theft, essential and critical infrastructure crimes, and illegal activities in mining. They emphasise the need to enhance existing interventions to safeguard economic infrastructure, with a particular focus on Eskom, Transnet, and PRASA.

As government, we have put fighting crime and corruption as a top priority because it undermines human rights and the rule of law.

We are tackling significant commercial and serious organised crime through the developed Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Operational Committee, currently known as the National Priority Crimes Operational Committee (NPCOC) under the South African Police Service Act.

Through the Integrated Task Force, we are coordinating the implementation of 205 recommendations for criminal investigations made by the Zondo State Capture Commission. As it stands, three convictions secured and 11 cases are currently before court relating to 36 recommendations. The remaining recommendations are still under investigation.

Despite these crime intervention strategies and other initiatives, it is concerning the most recent Statistics South Africa Victims of Crime Survey indicates that confidence in our criminal justice system is declining.

In other words, our people do not feel safe and secure.

As a result, over the next few months, the JCPS cluster is strategically planning key interventions from multiple departments to address the prevailing crime situation.

These efforts will notably focus on combating violent and organised crime, with a dedicated emphasis on addressing corruption, and among other things:

• Maintaining targeted efforts to address Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and its impact on individuals and communities.
• Establishing an independent entity called the Investigating Directorate against Corruption within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
• Enhancing the effectiveness of the Whistle-Blowers Act.
• Finalising revisions to the Criminal Procedure Act to bolster efforts to combat both crime and corruption.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Given the drastic impact that arrests can have on the fundamental rights of individuals and the potential harm to those arrested unlawfully, it is imperative to reduce the instances of unnecessary arrests that may lead to unlawful arrests and detention.

Promoting alternative methods of ensuring a suspect's court attendance, such as summons and written notices, is crucial to reduce costly civil claims against the state and address pressing needs.

Ensuring these methods are more accessible to police officials, and considering greater judicial oversight over arrest is also necessary to reduce unnecessary arrests.

This will indeed help the strain on the fiscus and improve the overall justice system.

A couple of years ago, in response to the incessant outcry by our people that bail is readily granted to accused persons, the Government undertook to review bail laws to make it more difficult for accused persons to be released on bail.

Consequently, the Minister of Justice has initiated a review process to strengthen bail laws, ensure national security, and address some of the concerns of victims and communities as it pertains to our processes.

This review is a central part of ongoing work by the Department of Justice and the SA Law Reform Commission.

We believe that the outcome of this review will make sure that bail decisions are based on the needs of victims and complainants, improve the effectiveness of our efforts to fight crime and address the problem of overcrowding in our prisons and remand detention centres.

Regarding Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, we have developed the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan (GBVF-NSP) to enhance a unified national response to the issue.

In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the courts have shown a 27.9% increase in life imprisonment sentences for GBVF at Thuthuzela Care Centres, indicating the courts' robust approach to combating GBVF. Most significantly, the National Assembly approved the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill, which is currently under the National Council of Provinces review.

The Government is responding swiftly to the GBVF epidemic by putting an emphasis on robust institutions and solid evidence. In late 2020, the Department of Justice introduced three amendment bills including the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Act 12 of 2021, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 13 of 2021, and the Domestic Violence Amendment Act 14 of 2021. The latter Act established an electronic repository for domestic violence protection orders, which became operational on April 14, 2023.

These laws significantly changed the legislative framework for Gender-Based Violence, emphasising the need for an effective and efficient criminal justice system to fight GBVF.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Regarding immigration, South Africa has various pieces of legislation that address citizenship, immigration, and refugee protection, including the Citizenship Act, Immigration Act, and Refugees Act, as amended.

There is some misalignment in these pieces of legislation, we thus need to evaluate existing laws and create new laws that will assist in dealing with the crisis of illegal immigration in our country.

I am confident that the recently approved Cabinet White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration, and Refugee Protection will provide a framework for granting residency and citizenship to foreign nationals, and protecting refugees and asylum seekers while keeping the Republic's national security interests in mind, and following international migration agreements and protocols to which South Africa is a party.

Minister Lamola, and all the highly esteemed participants,

Let me conclude by highlighting that the formation of independent judicial institutions devoid of political influence has been one of the most significant achievements of the democratic South African justice system. This has guaranteed that the court can carry out its role in an unbiased and fair manner, protecting the rights of every person.

The judicial system has also played an important role in resolving historical injustices, through mechanisms such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. These activities have served to promote healing and reconciliation among South Africans, opening the path for a more cohesive and inclusive society.

As we look towards the future, let us commit to further enhancing and protecting this crucial institution to ensure a just and fair society for all South Africans.

I am optimistic about the potential outcomes that will emerge from the conference's discussions, which will ultimately shape the ongoing evolution of the criminal justice system.

I thank you.