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11 Aug 2009 17:41
So fraud convict Schabir Shaik was spotted driving around Durban with his black BMW, buying balloons for his kid and probably getting some take-away pasta from Spiga d’Oro.
So what? Was he breaking any laws?
South Africans have a bizarre obsession with wanting to see criminals rot in jail. Although I understand the knee-jerk gatvolness with our obscene crime rate, I do, however, hope we can learn to move beyond this instinctive, emotional reaction and look at the facts.
Here are a few:
In my mind there’s absolutely no argument to be made that Shaik has not suffered as result of his conviction.
I experienced the same emotional outburst with the conviction of the so-called Waterkloof Four, who brutally killed a homeless man in a drunken orgy of violence.
Sane, open-minded friends of mine were expressing their hope for these four young murderers to be assaulted and raped in prison.
For me the question is less about whether Shaik should be in prison or not, but more about the views we South Africans hold about our criminals.
Remember that they are not a bunch of aliens being dumped in the Karoo in the middle of the night, but people who grew up as kids in our neighbourhoods, schools and churches.
Why do we so desperately want Shaik to be back in prison? Is it not enough of a shame to have been convicted in arguably the most-publicised trial so far in South Africa? And, if not, isn’t that the real, hard question we as a nation must face?
If my arguments are not convincing enough, read respected prisons expert Lukas Muntingh’s brilliant paper Punishment and Deterrence—Don’t Expect Prisons To Reduce Crime here.
Prisons do not bring down crime. Not in South Africa and not in the world. And that is ultimately what we want, isn’t it?
Read more from Adriaan Basson
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