Crime and corruption undermine human rights and rule of law, says Deputy President Paul Mashatile

Five men posing for a picture

Deputy President Mashatile with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola; Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele; Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, and Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa at the conference in Boksburg, Gauteng. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 27, 2024


South Africa’s criminal justice system and democracy have been put to the test due to widespread corruption, criminality, gender-based violence and femicide bedevilling the country, Deputy President Paul Mashatile said on Tuesday.

“Crime remains persistent despite the many strategies we have devised to fight it, such as increased police presence, community policing initiatives, and technological investments in surveillance and evidence collection,” he said.

“The prosecution and judicial systems are overburdened, the correctional service is overcrowded, and the police system continues to be besieged as the State fights to prosecute and punish criminal behaviour, frequently compromising on ‘zero-tolerance’ pledges to ‘punish at all costs’,” he said.

“Looking at these challenges, it is easy to grow despondent, but we must never be discouraged. Instead, we must double our efforts to reach our desired goal.”

Mashatile said the legal system in South Africa has undergone significant changes since the apartheid era, aiming to ensure fairness and equal opportunities for all citizens.

Post-1994, the changes include a national crime prevention strategy, victim empowerment programs, and a diversion program for low-impact offences, to ensure a human rights culture.

Mashatile was addressing Cabinet ministers, judges, legal experts, and members of government’s justice and crime prevention cluster gathered in Boksburg, Gauteng, for a three-day national conference on the integrated criminal justice system, and review of Criminal Procedure Act, 1977.

Deputy President Mashatile was welcomed at the three-day conference by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola. Picture: Supplied

Recently, Mashatile said South Africa replaced the 1996 National Crime Prevention Strategy with the Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy (ICVPS), approved in March 2022 by Cabinet.

“This strategy focuses on preventing crime and violence through a 'whole of government’ and ‘whole of society’ approach,” said Mashatile.

The deputy president expressed concern that many people in South Africa do not feel safe and secure, despite government’s efforts.

“As government, we have put fighting crime and corruption as a top priority because it undermines human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

“We are tackling significant commercial and serious organised crime through the developed Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Operational Committee, currently known as the National Priority Crimes Operational Committee (NPCOC) under the South African Police Service Act.”

Through the Integrated Task Force, Mashatile said government is coordinating the implementation of 205 recommendations for criminal investigations made by the Zondo State Capture Commission.

“As it stands, three convictions secured and 11 cases are currently before court relating to 36 recommendations. The remaining recommendations are still under investigation,” said Mashatile.

“Despite these crime intervention strategies and other initiatives, it is concerning the most recent Statistics South Africa Victims of Crime Survey indicates that confidence in our criminal justice system is declining. In other words, our people do not feel safe and secure.”

The deputy president said South Africa cannot overlook issues that are endangering the economy, particularly in the construction sector.

“Murderous construction mafias have brought many companies to their knees, and we must fight back to safeguard this industry,” he said.

“A concerted effort from all is necessary to unravel the complex web of construction site disruptions, which endangers lives and impedes the government's objective of transforming the nation into a massive construction site that generates employment and expands the economy.”

In this regard, Mashatile added that the Economic Infrastructure Task Teams are actively working to combat non-ferrous metal theft, essential and critical infrastructure crimes, and illegal activities in mining.

“They emphasise the need to enhance existing interventions to safeguard economic infrastructure, with a particular focus on Eskom, Transnet, and the The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

The three-day conference is being held under the theme: “Strengthening the criminal justice to keep our people safe and secure”.

The event was also attended and addressed by Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola; Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele; Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery.

Deputy President Mashatile with Minister of Justice and Correctional Service, Mr Ronald Lamola, Minister of General Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa, as well as senior government officials. Picture: Supplied

Other attendees include Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko; members of parliamentary portfolio committees; National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi; national commissioners of police, General Fanie Masemola of SA Police Service, national commissioner of Correctional Services, Makgothi Samuel Thobakgale; and national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya.