/ 23 November 2007

Zuma speaks out against crime in SA

South Africans must speak up if they want the death penalty back, African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

Speaking to about 250 people at an anti-crime rally at Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats, he also called for ”extraordinary measures” against crime.

Asked whether he thought it was possible to sway the ANC into a rethink on the death penalty, he said it was an issue that had been decided by the Constitutional Court, not the party.

However it was important, if the issue ”keeps on coming”, to know what South Africans felt about it ”so that it can be addressed in the interests of all South Africans”.

He told the South African Press Association afterwards that he was not calling for the return of the death penalty, and emphasised again that the outlawing of capital punishment had been a Constitutional Court decision.

”What I’m saying [is] if people feel like they are not happy with it, a way should be found,” he said. ”The people themselves must voice their views about the matter.

”If the population is not happy, then let the population tell us what needs to be done.”

”They [will say they] want death [penalty] brought back,” suggested a reporter.

”No, I can’t say so,” said Zuma. ”The people must say what that they think should be done, that’s the point I’m making.

”They must tell the authority … this is what we want.”

The death penalty was outlawed in June 1995, at which time no executions had taken place for about six years.

Zuma, who faces looming corruption charges in connection with the arms deal, also told Friday’s anti-crime meeting that there should be ”no mercy with criminals”.

He said too much emphasis was placed on the rights of criminals as opposed to those of victims.

”I believe that as a country we have to deal with the issue of crime more effectively and make the laws bite if we [want to] protect ourselves and our children,” Zuma said.

”There must be something wrong in society … if adult people, old people, rape children and kill them. There must be something wrong.

”We need extraordinary measures to deal with that issue.”

Zuma, who is expected to challenge current ANC president Thabo Mbeki for the post at the party’s national conference in Polokwane next month, shared Friday’s platform with Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille and former mayor of Cape Town Peter Marais.

Without mentioning the pending case against Zuma, Marais reminded the audience of his own long legal battle against corruption charges — which he won — and gave assurance that all other people facing charges would enjoy justice in the end.

Marais said that if the government had really declared war on crime it would have suspended democracy.

In a war situation it was ”kill or be killed, it’s destroy or be destroyed”.

”What South Africa suffers from is an overdose of liberalism,” Marais said. — Sapa