In South Africa, the opposition Democratic Alliance Party is calling on the government to compensate crime victims. It’s also proposing that crime victims have a greater say in what punishment their attackers receive.
Dianne Kohler Barnard is a member of Parliament and the Democratic Alliance spokesperson on safety and security. From Cape Town, she spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why compensation is needed.
“It’s now an acknowledge fact that virtually every South African has been affected by crime either directly of through a colleague, a neighbor or loved one. And the Democratic Alliance has finally come to the conclusion that the time has come to move away from the one hundred percent focus on the criminal and the rights of the criminal to actually looking to compensate the victims. Because we’re contacted literally on a daily basis by people, who’ve been attacked, who end up with enormous hospital bills, while the criminal is taken to a private hospital and given free board and lodging and usually out on bail, while the victim is still unable to work and perhaps injured even for life,” she says.
Kohler Barnard describes the proposed compensation system. “I have submitted a private members bill to Parliament that will be coming before the relevant committee in a week or so. And what we are envisaging is a fund, which would be put together from donations from Parliament, all the fines from the courts, private donations. And the judges from our courts, certain of them would be chosen to oversee this fund…in the same manner that one receives compensation via insurance. Insurances companies know full well what the value of an eye is, the value of a leg, an arm or even a life. They would be compensated in exactly that same fashion for any injured from a violent attack,” she says.
The DA Member of Parliament says that there have been three attempts to deal with this matter, but all have failed to really help crime victims.
Asked what the chances are of a minority party bill passing an ANC controlled Parliament, she says, “This is really an issue that is way beyond party politicking. It is not a race issue. There is no single individual in this country who does not at some stage fear that they’re going to be attacked or is recovering from an attack…. The victims are really the last persons who are ever thought of in this drive to attempt to get the crime under control.”