File picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Death penalty debate shows flawed system

By Dr Kenosi Mosalakae Time of article published Dec 20, 2019

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The claim that South Africa is a democracy is discredited by the manner in which values and norms of society are easily rubbished at the whim of those supposed to be holding power.

People do not really matter as far as so-called “leaders” are concerned. The role the people are made to play is to vote, thus, legitimise the right of “leaders” to make any decision they deem fit.

The non-democratic nature originates from the very manner in which new SA’s very constitution was derived. Discussion on the future of the country after apartheid was not between elected representatives of the whole population.

On the one hand, there were elected representatives of white people, both in terms of their elected government and the referendum held in 1992 endorsing De Klerk’s moves to hold talks to end apartheid and invitees of the regime.

On the other hand, instead of De Klerk, on the basis of the mandate he was given by whites, similarly conducting a referendum or elections among the black people so that they too were represented by people they had chosen voluntarily, he chose to talk to Mandela and the ANC which they had been mollycoddling over several years.

Between them, they decided that the ANC represented the black population. That acceptance to hold talks with the regime on behalf of the black population without seeking their mandate was portrayed as “fighting” for freedom. Regardless of the talks not being by the will of black people, it was sold as “democracy”.

In all democratic societies, certain aspects of the founding rules, particularly those that have an impact on society’s norms and cultural trends, are subjected to a referendum.

These include things like the death penalty, homosexual marriages, corporal punishment, sex education.

The debate on the death penalty has recently surfaced probably in view of recent murders, particularly of women.

Arguments against the death penalty are mostly flawed. They are based on the “‘right to life”. Whose life? The murderer’s life? Is that the sacrosanct life the right to which society has to uphold by all means? Has the victim no right to life? Do potential victims have no right to life?

In essence, the death penalty should not be viewed as punishment. It is the removal from society of individuals who have lost their claim to humanness and are a potential threat to the right to life and well-being of humans.

It should be understood by everyone that killing a fellow human-being is ceding your own right to life to the mercy of society.

However, the important thing is that democracy would demand that a referendum be held for society to agree on how to deal with those who, by their actions, choose to resign from the status of decent human.

Without such referendums, we are, in fact, a dictatorship of some kind, certainly not democratic.

* Dr Kenosi Mosalakae is a medical practitioner and author.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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