A broken system

by Tshepang Sebulela

The Criminal Justice System is a collective term which includes the police system, the court system as a whole and the correctional service. They act as inseparable state components in the administration of justice. The issue regarding prisoners and rights in one sentence seems to be a taboo in this country, even sixteen years after the promulgation of our constitution. It seems as if the best way to kill or to get a person killed these days is to send them to a correctional facility, especially to the awaiting trial section.

The Human Right Report states that there has been an excessive violation of human rights by the South African criminal justice system which has led to a number of mortalities inside our prisons.

On the 17th of February our President suggested that the Constitutional powers need to be reviewed. Now the powers of the Constitutional Court are contained in Chapter 8 of the Constitution. The provisions contained in this chapter can be amended by a two-thirds majority of the member of the National Assembly and six of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces.

Section 175(5) of the Constitution states that the Constitutional Court has the final say on whether an Act of Parliament or conduct of the president is constitutional. It also states that any order made by any of our courts, from the Supreme Court of Appeal to the ordinary courts, can and must be declared invalid if it is contrary to the Constitution.

President Zuma is convinced that the past judgements from the Constitutional Court were influenced by the media. This implies that the whole bench that sat on those cases where influenced by the media. These powers can be amended firstly by removing the powers of the Constitutional Court, including all other courts to review and question the conduct of the President and his Executive body. If this was to be a success it means that any misconduct by the President and the Executive would not be reviewed or amended by the Constitutional Court. This means that the President and his Executive can infringe on anybody’s constitutional right and we would all be quiet and not question anything.

The Protection of Information Bill is on its public debate final stages and I am convinced that the President will assent to it. This means more power will be vested with him unless they include a public interest clause. Now if anyone in the media in any form publishes any incriminating information regarding these very important members of the state they will be facing jail time or a fine. Will the government not be remarrying Parliamentary sovereignty by amending the powers of the constitutional court?

Why does it seem as if we are moving backwards, especially when it comes to issues involving human rights, social values and democracy? This is especially true for a constitution that is considered fast developing. A developing and beneficial constitution should be judged on how it helps the ordinary man on the street.

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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