Lamola says NPA to prosecute those involved in looting
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Cape Town - To deal with the prosecution of people involved in recent acts of violence and looting, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola says cases that relate to people in possession of stolen goods or people who participated in looting may result in restorative justice or alternative measures.
These include an admission of guilt, diversion and plea agreements as means of finalising it.
Lamola was addressing the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services on Wednesday.
He said the department’s analysis of the situation reveals that the unrest and incidents of violence witnessed in the past week were occasioned by a confluence of issues.
“I personally walked in the streets of Soweto, Tembisa in Gauteng and Gamalakhe in KwaZulu-Natal respectively. I saw and witnessed very disturbing scenes. Our old scars as a nation were re-opened. Racial tensions which simmered in our communities really boiled over to a point where the ethos of the National Democratic Revolution got derailed significantly,” said Lamola.
The aftermath has now resulted in more than 2 000 arrests and concerns of overcrowding.
Lamola said to ensure that the wheels of justice continue to turn exceedingly fine, he has issued directions to manage case backlogs arising from backlogs as well as cases emanating from the public violence and public disorder that erupted in KwaZulu Natal and spread to Gauteng.
“The National Prosecuting Authority has considered the operational impact of the unrest. KwaZulu- Natal and Gauteng provinces bear most of the challenges. Chief amongst those challenges is the limited staff at offices due to Covid-19 related reasons as well as transport problems occasioned by the unrest.
“Another challenge is overcrowding of South African Police Services cells, as a result, quick processing of detainees will be required when large numbers of arrests are made,” he said.
Lamola added that the operational plan will address the collaboration between NPA and SAPS, many of these cases would likely amount to theft than mere possession of stolen property.
In collaboration with SAPS, emerging cases will be divided into four categories which include actual looters and persons participating in stealing from shops and outlets, persons found in possession of stolen properties, groups and individuals stealing property in big quantities, organised or planned action and enticement or inciting public violence.
He told the committee that experienced prosecutors have been assigned from the Organised Crime and Priority Crime Litigation Unit. Crime heads in the provinces under the direction of the directors of public prosecution are assigned to deal with more complicated and serious matters.
"From a Correctional Services perspective, we are required to reconfigure the remand detention system that is already overburdened. We have received a high number of remand detainees in KZN and Gauteng regions, as a result of arrests made for recent criminal acts and violence. To date, a total of 1 498 remand detainees have been admitted to our facilities," he said.