South Africa’s renewal begins with the rule of law

A competent and trustworthy senior official is needed to drive the reform of the country’s criminal justice system.

South Africa’s prosperity depends on the rule of law, trust between police, prosecutors and the public, and a criminal justice system that treats everyone fairly. These are some of the main lessons to be learned from a week-long exchange between top German and South African police and prosecutors in Munich in October.

The South African delegation also included representatives of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, the Civilian Secretariat of Police Services and the Institute for Security Studies.

It is estimated that between 2014 and 2019, South Africa lost 1.5 trillion rand due to corruption, while the cost of violence in 2021 is expected to be 15% of GDP. Reforming the criminal justice system to remedy such damage, instill confidence in the state and restore economic confidence was central to the trip to Germany.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to an anti-corruption list in 2018 and has taken action to keep his promises. He appointed new heads for the Priority Criminal Investigations Directorate, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Revenue Service. He strengthened the Special Investigation Unit, created the Investigations Directorate within the NPA and a National Security Council, and hired a national security adviser.

Despite Ramaphosa’s efforts, few grand corruption or serious organized crime perpetrators have been prosecuted

Despite this, the damage caused by more than a decade of poor governance and state capture under the Zuma administration means that few grand corruption or serious organized crime perpetrators have been brought to justice. This includes the alleged instigators of the July unrest. The weak rule of law has compounded cycles of deteriorating investor confidence, economic stagnation and rising unemployment.

When citizens perceive the state as corrupt, incapable of ensuring their security or creating jobs, they are more likely to engage in illicit economic activities, avoid taxes, and use personal violence or violence. self-defense to solve problems. Uncontrolled corruption and violence create the conditions for the crumbling of society.

During the visit to Europe, German prosecutors and police and their South African counterparts agreed that the primary role of the democratic state is to create a safe and secure environment for its people. The best way to achieve this is the equal application of the rule of law.

Reflecting on this, Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang said: “Security for all is promised by both the South African and German constitutions, but too often we fail to provide it to our people. … We must judge a country by how it creates a safe environment for all of its citizens, especially its most vulnerable. ‘

The UK’s night-time economy was the country’s fifth-largest industry in 2019, accounting for 8% of jobs

Germany differs because this principle is led by police and prosecutors whose high-level goals are “truth and justice”. The South African approach is to meet raw statistical performance targets that may look good on paper but fail to improve public confidence or safety.

In Germany, the police and prosecutors can apply the law without political interference and approach everything they do with the imperative of promoting trust in the state. For this reason, the Bavarian Police are one of the most trusted organizations and most sought after employers in the public and private sectors.

Considering the implications of this message, the Head of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Contingent, Deputy National Commissioner, Lt. Gen. Liziwe Ntshinga, noted that “law enforcement agencies cannot win. public confidence that if they perform their duties competently, respectful professionals.

Likewise, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi suggests that if South Africans see and believe that the law of the land applies to everyone equally, trust in the state will increase. This will allow investment and economic activity, more jobs and a growing tax base, and a government better able to provide services to millions of people in need.

An example of this potential is the nighttime economy of more peaceful industrial states. At night, many South Africans stay at home, neither earning nor spending money. With improved security, it could instead be an important time of productivity and entertainment with positive spillover effects on well-being, employment and economic growth.

Criminal justice reforms in the NDP and other reviews spanning the past 15 years have not been implemented

In the UK for example, the night economy was the country’s fifth largest industry in 2019, accounting for 8% of all jobs. But for this to develop, people need to feel safe leaving their homes at night, keeping their businesses open, traveling on public transport, carrying cash, and interacting with strangers after dark. of the night. None of these are common in South Africa.

However, this is South Africa envisioned by the government’s 2012 National Development Plan (NDP) – where all people are safe and feel safe, and where dignity and opportunity abound. Yet the notable criminal justice reforms in the NDP and many other reviews and policy documents spanning the past 15 years have not been implemented.

Ramaphosa is expected to appoint a member of the executive to coordinate and manage the implementation of the seven-point plan in the 2007 criminal justice review adopted by the cabinet and reiterated in the NDP. This person – who should not have executive powers – should lead the realignment of the criminal justice system, its performance measures and targets, budget allocations, the generation and use of evidence-based practices, and more.

In turn, the chiefs of police and prosecution must hold the executive, to each other and below them, accountable to the law, their respective codes of conduct and the values ​​of the public service.

Political support and dedicated leadership from the criminal justice system, combined with rigorous training and meritocratic promotions, can transform South African law enforcement agencies. By aligning performance cultures, fostering respect between agencies and supporting each other in organizational reforms, the NPA and SAPS can spur South Africa’s social and economic renewal.

Andrew Faull, Principal Investigator, Justice and Violence Prevention, ISS Pretoria

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