ANC would campaign against death penalty

The African National Congress would campaign against the death penalty if a referendum was held on the issue, the party’s secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday.

Mantashe’s remarks, made at a Centre for Conflict Resolution seminar in Cape Town, follow last week’s statement by party president Jacob Zuma that a referendum should be held if enough South Africans wanted it.

“If we hold a referendum, I can tell you now we’ll campaign against it,” Mantashe said. “That’s how strong the ANC feels about it.”

If sectors of society felt strongly about a particular issue, they should be allowed to debate it.

“But in principle the ANC is against the death penalty. We fought about it ...
we saved people on the death row.

“I have an emotional feeling on that issue. I can’t see my way of supporting a referendum on the death penalty. I think it’s a bad thing.”

He told the South African Press Association that Zuma had said if people wanted to raise the issue of a referendum, they should do so.

“He didn’t say ‘I support the opening of death penalty debate’,” Mantashe said.

Asked what he thought the result of a referendum would be, he said that was a hypothetical question.

“The problem with society in South Africa is that you can make predictions on the basis of the elite that has access to means of communication; they phone in talk shows, and you can think this is the dominant view.

“But if you go to the actual people on the ground, they hate it with passion.”

Zuma told the Financial Times last week that because South Africa was a democratic country, differing views could not be suppressed.

“I say, if there is sufficient majority that says so, we should have a referendum on the matter,” he told the newspaper.

In a statement issued on Monday, he said these remarks had been misrepresented in the media.

He said the ANC was opposed to capital punishment, but it would be difficult for the party to tell people they could not debate the issue of a referendum.

However, a debate would not change the fact that the ANC’s policy and the Constitution remained very clear on the right to life of every South African.

“We who believe in this view should be ready to defend it through engagement and persuasion, not through denying others a platform to state their views.” - Sapa

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