Justice minister Ronald Lamola has promised to take calls for a referendum for the return of the death sentence to the cabinet.
The calls have been made amid the background of rising violence against women in the country, particularly in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of student Uyinene Mrwetyana, which brought the question of gender-based violence and femicide back into the spotlight.
Lamola and minister for women in the presidency Maite Nkoana-Mashabane were addressing the media on Tuesday.
Lamola said he could not decide alone whether or not to bring back the death penalty, but that all he could do was to take the matter to cabinet for discussion – and then for approval or disapproval.
“Whether we are open to referendum or not, at this stage I cannot say… It is something we can take further as a discussion to the cabinet,” said Lamola.
According to him, the NPA and the court could never alone halt gender-based violence if society at large, particularly men, did not play their part.
“The NPA does take these matters seriously when they are brought before them, and when you look at their stats it shows they have 74% conviction rate. But it is not enough,” said Lamola.
“It needs more of a societal work and needs us men in particular to be more sensitive and responsive to the calls of the nation. NPA and the judiciary may not be able to do all the work, we need men to do their part.”
Lamola said there were various interventions that government was undertaking to curb the scourge of gender-based and femicide in the country. Chief among these was a consideration for the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act to “ensure that it is effective, responsive and enables us to prevent the scourge”.
Furthermore, said Lamola, government would accelerate the establishment of 92 special sexual offences courts, 11 of which would be built in the current financial year.
Lamola added that it was high time that the justice system treated cases of gender-based violence and femicide with the sensitivity and speed they deserved – to the satisfaction of the victims.
Nkoana-Mashabane said her ministry had declared Sunday September 8 as a national day of prayer and silence to mourn women who have died at the hands of men.
“Enough. We are sick and tired of hearing how women get killed in their homes, in their churches and as they walk along the streets,” she said.
Nkoana-Mashabane further revealed statistics of the conviction rate of gender-based violence and femicide cases.
According to her, between July 1 and December 31 2018, the courts sentenced 1,357 people to 371 life sentences – a total of 4,629 years’ imprisonment.
“This includes six serial rapists who were sentenced to a combined sentence imprisonment.”
She said much more was being done by government.
“In 2018, the government signed a declaration of gender-based violence and femicide with various civil society organisations.
“We are working toward the establishment of the gender-based violence and femicide council and national strategy plan that will guide all of us wherever we are in our efforts to eradicate this national scourge,” she said.