Slain Sadia: 'Bring back the death penalty'
Petition launched on Monday has already garnered nearly 20,000 signatures - but law experts say it will never be successful
The death of nine-year-old Sadia Sukhraj in a botched hijacking in KwaZulu-Natal has seen the birth of a petition to bring back the death penalty.
It has attracted more than 19,000 signatures since it was launched on Monday.
The petition was later updated to include Kelly Chetty who was shot dead in a botched hijacking in Avoca, in KwaZulu-Natal. It does not only focus on the death penalty; it also asks the government to look into Section 51 of South Africa's Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1997 regarding stricter sentences for convicted criminals.
But the death penalty call has become a known response to violent crime in the country with hundreds of South African signing online petitions in favour of it every year.
“Nineteen thousand is an impressive number of signatures for a petition, and statistics and other similar petitions seem to suggest that, if a nationwide consensus was taken, the majority of South Africans would call for the reinstatement of the death penalty,” said University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Law senior lecturer Suhayfa Bhamjee.
“But, we have a constitutional democracy, which means that all laws passed and currently in existence must meet the standards laid out in the Constitution.”She said the death penalty is inconsistent with the right to life which is entrenched as an unqualified right in the Constitution.
“It cannot be corrected or undone in a case of error and further it negates all other rights which flow and are inextricable linked to the right to life,” she said.For the death penalty to be reinstated, a two-thirds majority of votes in parliament would be required.
“As a first step, this motion would have to be introduced to the house by a member of parliament supporting such a call,” Bhamjee said.
But the Constitutional Court would object to any attempts to reinstate the death penalty, which it had outlawed in 1995.
“If parliament were try to reinstate it, the Constitutional Court would almost certainly rule any such attempts as themselves unconstitutional,” said John Kane-Berman of the South African Institute of Race Relations.
He said there was no evidence, not even convincing argument, that reinstatement would curb crime.
“It would be far better to improve policing and prosecution so that a greater number of criminals are arrested and brought before the courts where they can be successfully prosecuted according to due legal process,” he said.
*This article has been amended to reflect that the petition does not only call for the death penalty, it also advocates for stricter sentences for convicted criminals.