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Pretoria - Ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster have spelled out steps to give effect to the programme outlined by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address, emphasising the centrality of the National Development Plan (NDP).
Some of their announcements reflected proposals in chapter 12 of the plan, “Building Safer Communities”, but other key suggestions were omitted, notably the strong call to demilitarise the police.
In line with an NDP recommendation that the criminal justice system make intelligent use of technology to improve efficiency, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said his department’s electronic case management system had been integrated with the police system earlier this month “to provide instant messaging and case details to process clerks, eliminating manual data capturing”.
It would become a “fully integrated solution” allowing prosecutors to manage electronic information on criminal cases, including electronic charge sheets and the ability to enrol cases electronically. It would also “automatically create an electronic court roll” at the Justice Department. It would make it possible to receive real-time updates from the department and SAPS, keeping the prosecutor abreast of important information such as postponement dates and bail status.
The Correctional Services Department was expanding a pilot project for the electronic monitoring of certain categories of parolees - meeting a proposal in the NDP to improve monitoring to ensure better integration and rehabilitation.
“The pilot has been a success. It is time to extend electronic monitoring, including to those serving custodial sentences,” Radebe said.
From April 1, it would be compulsory for every inmate who did not have a qualification equivalent to Grade 9 to complete adult education and training levels 1 to 4, he said.
This helps address another concern raised in the NDP, that “education and training programmes should be extended to increase the chances of employment and reintegration of released prisoners”.
The NDP also notes the proliferation of cybercrime and the need for better-trained police to combat this.
Radebe said 40 specialised Hawks investigators had been trained this financial year to improve the detection of cybercrimes.
“We are also stepping up measures to address cyber security and will soon make an announcement on the progress regarding the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Policy Framework.”
Radebe said 113 cases of cybercrime had been finalised last year, with an 83.1 percent conviction rate.
The NDP emphasises the safety of women and children, saying violence against women prevents them from making a full contribution to the economy. “The safety of communities should therefore be measured by the extent to which the most vulnerable in society, women in particular, feel and are safe from crime and the conditions that breed it,” the plan says, noting that little progress has been made in that regard.
Radebe said the reintroduction of the family violence, child protection and sexual offences units in 2010 had made an impact and more than 2 000 forensic social workers had been appointed to deal with crimes against children, to provide expert evidence in court.
The re-establishment of sexual offences courts would further help to ensure successful prosecution.
But Radebe made no mention of one of the key proposals of the NDP, the demilitarisation of the police. The NDP says this should occur immediately, citing “serial management crises”, and saying the switch to military ranks had taken place “without… training”