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Public Debate Over Restoring South Africa Death Penalty


In South Africa, there’s renewed debate over whether the country should reinstitute the death penalty. There’s been no death sentences carried out in South Africa since 1989.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke with VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the debate over capital punishment.

“The crime rate has spiked this year after a number of years of declining levels of crime. And while there could be various reasons for the spike this year and it may not be a permanent increase it has created a lot of debate in South Africa and a sense of people being quite tense and feeling unsafe,” she says.

South Africa did have a death penalty, but Robertson says, “In 1989, then- president F-W de Klerk put a moratorium on executions in this country. And that moratorium remained in place until the Constitutional Court Addressed the matter of the death penalty following the establishment of our new constitution in 1996…and declared at the time that the death penalty went counter to South Africa’s constitution and therefore had to be done away with.”

Robertson says calls for reinstituting the death penalty are coming from many groups, but the issue took center stage recently when a judge said there should be a referendum on the matter. She says unless the constitution is changed, there’s little if any chance for a referendum on the death penalty.

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