About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

04 Sep 1998: Omar, Dullah

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POM     Let me begin by asking you an ironic question. Fidel Castro's regime is associated with the abuse of human rights, individual liberties. He's been cited on many occasions by both Amnesty International and World Watch for such abuses and yet SA, probably the world's foremost champion of the culture of human rights, is affording him a welcome probably that surpasses any welcome given to any visiting head of state or head of government in the past and he will address a joint session of parliament before packed galleries and standing room only. Do you not find this slightly paradoxical?

DO     What we are dealing with is social and political issues and not logic. Many heads of state have come to our country, many others, those who believe in democracy, those who don't, those who champion human rights, those who don't, there are many people who criticise the fact that we received the American President because of the United States' record in the world in many respects which many people say are the grossest violations of human rights ever. Now I'm not saying that is true but there are such criticisms, so the fact that the head of state comes to this country does not mean that the SA government approves of all the things that that government does or does not do. In the case of Cuba we do not condone any denial of civil liberties to people. We believe in the approach to human rights which is contained in the Vienna Declaration of 1995 which says that all human rights are inter-dependent and indivisible, civil and political rights. We think it's very important that those need to be protected, social and economic rights, cultural rights as well as the right to development. What is remarkable about Cuba is that it has made provision for people in respect of housing, in respect of health and education and its achievements in the social field are immense. In other words there is an area of human rights that Cuba has done better than most countries in the world. It may not have done well in the area of civil and political rights.

     We prefer a multi-party system. We believe that people should have civil liberties. There must be a situation where there is no detention without trial. We think people should have a fair trial. We believe in an independent judiciary. So those are matters about which we would be concerned anywhere in the world but I don't think one can be selective with regard to heads of state who visit and who don't visit. Cuba has done well in many respects. Secondly, Cuba came to the assistance of SA during the course of struggle. They had 30,000 troops in Angola. If they did not intervene the situation in SA today might have been very different. I think it is the intervention of Cuban troops which played some role in ensuring that we moved speedily towards a negotiated settlement. Castro is very popular in SA amongst blacks, he's probably one of the most popular world leaders. He is popular because of his contribution to social change as they see it, but that does not mean that we condone violations of human rights at all.

POM     Let me go back a little. As you know I've been travelling around the country now for I think nine years and I've done about 11,000 hours of formal interviews. I talk incessantly to people from all walks of life in both the formal, informal, urban, rural, townships, people of every colour, creed, religion, and one issue keeps re-surfacing to the point of where it's become, I would almost say, obsessional among both black and white. That is, and you've probably heard it before, that there is no law and order, that the policing system does not work, that the courts do not work, that there is no justice, that crime pays. Now whether or not the facts would support all those assertions, they are deepening perceptions rather than lessening perceptions, what would be your comment on that?

DO     I think if you just walk down the road, look at the High Court you will see it works. There is a Magistrate's Court 200 metres from here, it works better than it has ever worked before. There is another court in Wynberg, ten kilometres from here working outstandingly, black and white. There are blacks in most courts today as you never had before, special sexual offences courts, special juvenile courts. Bellville is another court within these magisterial districts where you have the same thing. Changes have taken place in our courts in the sense that there are now more blacks in courts as magistrates, as judges, as prosecutors. Sexual offences are receiving special attention and the courts work. There are over 500 magistrate's offices in the country. The factual situation is that the courts open their doors every day, they hear cases, they dispense justice and they work. The problem that we have is that a great deal of change is necessary. Our courts must be transformed in many areas to ensure that there are more blacks in courts, more women in courts, that our courts are more specialised. We've never had specialisation. We're creating special family courts, for example, in terms of sexual offences, special sexual offences courts. We have introduced in the past three years more than 200 courtrooms in different parts of the country where children and victims of sexual offences in particular can give evidence through intermediaries in a protected environment in courts. There is a new juvenile justice system coming in based on diversion in general and for juveniles to appear in courts, in criminal courts and to be tried in the case of serious offences. So there is that sort of distinction.

POM     Why then the deepening perception?

DO     Well many of those perceptions are white created. Our newspapers are dominated by whites and the minute blacks come in it is seen to be inferior, below standard. I am not saying that our courts need not improve. They have to improve. Up to 1994 our courts served 20% of the population. They now have to serve 100%. It creates a kind of pressure on courts which never existed before. Equality brings with it its own problems, you've got to make provision for it. This does not mean that the courts work perfectly but to say that the courts don't work, that this doesn't work, that doesn't work, is absolute rubbish.

POM     I'm not saying that. I'm trying to give you the feedback I get from people that it does not work.

DO     No, I accept that you're getting these things and I'm responding to that. That's why I'm saying go to the courts.

POM     You say it's a perception created by the white media, yet even today in the Cape Times there was -

DO     Owned by white bosses.

POM     And in Drum magazine -

DO     Also owned by white bosses.

POM     - which talks about the growth of township justice.

DO     Well I think that is terribly unfair to township dwellers. Township dwellers do complain about crime but they are not meting out so-called 'township' justice because that is racist. It means it's blacks who are doing it and it is totally untrue. In 90% of all cases what black community groups do is they apprehend criminals and take them to the police but there is a big problem with police. You haven't mentioned the police. I am talking about courts. Now here in Guguletu, in Khayelitsha, other parts of the country where I've been to, groups complain they arrest people, take them to the police and then shortly thereafter people are back on the streets. So that happens in many instances.

POM     Are they back on the street because they are - are they taken before a court?

DO     Sometimes they are.

POM     Released on bail or are they just simply allowed back on the street by the police?

DO     Sometimes they are taken to courts and the police recommend bail. police do not oppose bail applications. Sometimes the police are right, sometimes the police are wrong. But I think the situation with regard to the application of bail laws has improved over the last few years. Today people are not complaining about bail laws. There may be a few. People are complaining about over-crowding in prisons because the awaiting trial prisoner population is quite high. It has shot up over the past couple of years as a result of the application of bail laws. Now what I am saying is that whilst people may have complaints about courts and I recognise that much change still needs to be done, there are over 500 courts in the country, they are working, they work every day, they dispense justice, but we haven't yet completely succeeded in transforming the courts in a number of ways which we are doing - specialisation, making provision for better handling of civil matters, commercial matters and one of the problems our courts have is that organised crime takes a particular form in SA and our courts have never had to deal in the past with organised crime because the apartheid regime used to collaborate with organised criminals.

POM     Have you any kind of rough breakdown as to what proportion of crime might be attributable to organised crime and what proportion to just gangs or individuals?

DO     I think there is a fair amount of organised crime. Some of it is trans-national - drug trafficking, money laundering in that regard. And if you look at those matters we inherited a situation where there was no legislation to deal with it. We had to create legislation, new extradition law, new law on mutual co-operation between states, a new law on dealing with profits of crime, confiscating proceeds of crime. There is a law which is being developed on money laundering. There is an Organised Crime Bill coming before parliament. We never had a legal framework which was adequate to fight crime and so for the past couple of years lots of pieces of legislation have been put into place. There was no national crime prevention strategy. We've not got that in place. Within that framework we had to develop a new prosecution system and after a very lengthy study we passed a National Prosecuting Authority Act and appointed the first ever National Director of Public Prosecutions. So there are many things which are being done in order to deal with the weaknesses in the system.

POM     When you talked about bail and the application of bail, this is a report of the Bureau of Justice Assistance which just recently issued a report.

DO     The Bureau of Justice Assistance of course is an arm of the Justice Department, my department.

POM     It issued a report saying 20,000 prisoners who had been granted bail were still in jail because they couldn't afford the bail and it concluded that it was unjust for people to be in jail simply because they cannot afford to pay bail and it is in violation of their constitutional rights.

DO     You know when the Bureau of Justice Assistance says that, it is we who are saying that. That is our investigation and we are saying that the way the legal system has worked for 300 years in our country has always discriminated against poor people and as one of the elements of transformation we look at how the system impacts on the people who appear in court. One of the enquiries which the Bureau, which is one of our initiatives, did was to investigate whether people who were granted bail actually paid the bail and what happens to them. So it's all very well for a court to say you can be released on R500 bail or R1000 bail but does the person pay the bail and that was the investigation which was conducted. What we found is that most of the people -

POM     But they have to pay the bail before they get released?

DO     Obviously, that's the way it works. You must pay money. So what we found is that people who on their appearance in court were granted bail, in other words they can secure their release by depositing the amount of money fixed by the court with the court, we have found that most of those people did not in fact pay their bail and therefore they continued to remain in prison as awaiting trial prisoners.

POM     So they contribute to the overcrowding?

DO     So they contribute to the overcrowding.

POM     Do you have here two standards? You have a judiciary that's still mostly white and we'll get to that, part of the old order. So a judge may set bail at R500 which to the alleged perpetrator of the crime may be way beyond his means to pay so he ends up in jail, yet a person in the white community says R500! what a ridiculously low amount to set for a crime, the bail should be much higher. So on the one hand you're caught between the proponents of those who want higher bail without taking into account the economic circumstances of the alleged perpetrator of the crime and on the other hand you have those who say bail is set at ridiculously low levels when in fact the alleged perpetrators of the crime can't even afford to pay that bail.

DO     That has always been the situation in SA. Because generally speaking the rich are white and the poor, the overwhelming majority, are black, there has always been a situation that you can fix the same amount of bail, it's the rich who will be able to afford it and the poor will not be able to afford it. That has always been the situation. The law does not operate in a racial way. The magistrate or judge fixes the bail whether you're white or black but even if the poor had not been black, had been white, the same problem would have existed. What we found in our work in the Bureau for Justice Assistance is that in fact you see it is mostly black people who are unable to pay the bail for the reasons which you mentioned. So what we are doing is looking at a way of bringing people back to court and ensuring that there be a better bail evaluation so that people who do not have to be in prison do not even have to pay bail. They could be released on warning, they could be released on conditions, they could be monitored so as to ensure that they do come back to court. At Mitchells Plain court here in the Cape that system has already been put into operation and the pre-trial service project which operates there has ensured that many people get released without having to pay bail where, for example, they are not a threat to the public, where it is unlikely that they will commit further crimes, where a person has an address, a family.

POM     But as things stand even in the bail system there is an inherent in-built inequality in the way it applies.

DO     The bail system will always operate in a way which discriminates against the poor and our courts over the years have not taken that into account. What we are saying is courts must take it into account and that is why we've introduced the pre-trial service project to ensure that that area also receives attention. At the same time, you see, if a poor man commits murder and is a threat to the public it does not mean we must release this person just because the person is poor. If a person is a threat to the public the public must be protected.

POM     Roughly speaking, and when I say 'roughly speaking' I mean very roughly speaking, what proportion of those who are arrested actually end up in court and what proportion of those who end up in court actually end up in jail?

DO     I haven't got the figures for you but very few of the people who are arrested are brought to court. The police often release figures to say that the conviction rate is very low compared to the number of people arrested. The problem is that it's a very false comparison because the majority of people who are arrested are not even brought to court. That's the first thing.

POM     Why?

DO     Well that's a matter for the police. I don't know why. Secondly, people brought to court often have charges withdrawn against them by the police. The reason for that is that very often people are brought to court without the case having been finally and fully investigated. After investigation has taken place the police come to the conclusion that there is no case against the accused and the charge is then withdrawn. Of the cases that do proceed to trial the figures indicate that you have a conviction rate of over 70% generally speaking though it varies from crime to crime and the conviction rate in our courts has not gone down in the last few years.

POM     So if I were, this is hypothetical, if I were seriously contemplating committing a crime and I was calculating my odds of ending up in jail, say like robbery or assault, what roughly would be the odds if I was a car hijacker or whatever of actually ending up in jail for the car hijacking?

DO     Now you see here you've got to draw the distinction between the work of the police and the work of the Justice Department and the courts and I would say that if you are that hijacker you would be inclined to taking the risk because most of the hijackers are not arrested in the first place and therefore they do not even see the door of the court, though the situation has improved over the past year as a result of the reorganisation by the police, but I do think that a large amount of people don't get arrested.

POM     So the fault lies in non-apprehension?

DO     That's the first fault, that's a major fault. The second fault is poor investigation which is also the work of the police. When I mention this it's not as if nothing is being done because I know the police are training and re-training their investigators so that they can do their work and there has been an improvement in that regard. Thirdly, prosecutions are not always as professional as they should be. Many prosecutors have resigned, many have gone into the private sector and generally speaking prosecutors after a few years of prosecution leave the public sector because the private sector is much more attractive so that the level of experience in the prosecution service is low. Those are problems which we are trying to address by developing an entirely new concept for the prosecution service. That's why we passed the National Prosecuting Authority Act. So I would say that one of the major problems in SA is that many would-be criminals think that there is not an effective deterrent to crime. They think that they can commit a crime and get away with it and for so long as that situation persists I think that we will have this problem with the crime rate and it is very important that we must create a situation where people who commit crime, especially serious crime, are apprehended, the cases are properly investigated and that they be properly prosecuted.

POM     Now you have how many prosecutors, about 300?

DO     No, there are much more than that, there must be about over 1000 prosecutors in the country, nearly 2000 maybe.

POM     Maybe 2000. I say this because I noted a debate in parliament last week Sheila Camerer, the NP spokesperson for Justice, said you have 300 prosecutors and your own Director General says you need 1500. You have sufficient prosecutors?

DO     Yes, well, Sheila Camerer speaks rubbish, she doesn't have the figures.

POM     You have sufficient prosecutors?

DO     I think we have sufficient prosecutors. What we did not have, what we did not inherit in our country is a proper management system, proper management of prosecutors, proper management of cases. There was no court management system in SA, there was no case management system in SA, case management from the point of view of the judges, magistrates, how they managed their courts, how they managed their cases and also from the point of view of the prosecution. Our prosecutors were under the control of magistrates, for example. There was a confusion of functions so what we did is after a lengthy study we began to implement a system in which there is a separation of judicial, administrative and prosecutorial functions in our courts so that the administrative functions would be performed by the Justice Department, that court, magistrates, judges would concentrate on their judicial functions and that the prosecution function is streamlined under the control of the Prosecuting Authority, which never existed before. So now that streamlining enables prosecutors to plan their cases better, plan their prosecutions better and for the independence of the judiciary to be enhanced.

POM     Are you satisfied with the level of training that prosecutors have or do you think that when defendants come in with high prices - ?

DO     No I'm not satisfied with their training. I'm dissatisfied with the level of experience too but unfortunately Rome cannot be built in a day. We have instituted training programmes. Two weeks ago, for example, there was the first ever national conference of senior state prosecutors in the history of the country, under the leadership of the new National Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss training amongst other matters.

POM     So is it a question of there being inadequate funding for training, low salaries for prosecutors, competition from the private sector or a combination of all three?

DO     It's a combination of all three plus the fact that we inherited a system which did not rationalise between administrative, prosecutorial and judicial functions and that rationalisation had to take place. In addition there was no proper case management system and no proper court management system and these are all things which we have introduced. A new court management system was worked out in consultation with the Attorneys General, the Magistrates' Commission as well as a new case management system. So as these are going to be implemented the situation will improve. But the factors which you've mentioned are additional factors which contribute to the situation that we have.

POM     I want to refer to an audit that you had conducted in your department and this was reported in City Press and it was an audit that resulted from a threat of a strike last year by public prosecutors or some public prosecutors who said they were overworked and you said you didn't have the money to pay them overtime and then you went to parliament looking for the money to pay them. But you had an audit conducted which showed that the department was paying about R20 million a month for redundant and under-utilised court officials, that despite the over-staffing court officials were still working overtime and hiring new officials and that instead of relocating officials to courts experiencing shortages, bureaucrats of the old order were hiring more people to fill vacant posts and this had never been brought to your attention.

DO     You know you're asking a lot of things there and I can tell you that that is just a lot of rubbish. That report is false, it is distorted.

POM     The report in the press or the audit?

DO     Yes the report in the press. The report in the press is completely distorted. It does not say what happened and I think you've got to have an understanding of what is taking place in that regard. The audit you talk of is part of a process of rationalisation of the Department of Justice and the system which we initiated soon after we came into office. We inherited eleven Departments of Justice, each department having its own personnel complement, it's own systems, it's own financial administration, it's own sets of laws, etc. What we then began was a process of creating a single Department of Justice and to rationalise processes and personnel within a single Department of Justice so that we have a uniform system. Now pursuant to that we first of all started creating a single national management of the Department. We got rid of the eleven different managements so when I took an audit of the national management there were too many management personnel so we concentrated on that, created a single national management which we now have in place and it is representative of the population in terms of race. Thereafter - well that process I can tell you took more than a year, nearly two years, because there had to be a study of all the systems and what everyone was doing. Thereafter we began the second phase of rationalisation and that is to create regional or provincial Offices of Justice and to bring all personal within that province under the provincial system, provincial head. That was the second phase.

     The third phase of rationalisation was to look at personnel on the ground at local levels within each province and what we then did is we started examining the situation in the Eastern Cape and when we examined that we found that different criteria were applied in Ciskei, Transkei and the rest of the Eastern Cape under the old system, different criteria for how many personnel you employ. Now that we created a uniform criteria we said that we have too many people in different places and they have to be relocated. That audit was an assessment of the personnel that we think we have too many in the Transkei and in the Ciskei and who we have to relocate. It's part of the rationalisation of the department.

POM     So no information was being withheld from you by 'bureaucrats' from the old order?

DO     Not at all. That investigation is part of a national investigation and I receive regular reports. I receive a monthly report in that regard.

POM     We usually have an hour, I don't know what's happened.

DO     You'll have to come back. Come back this afternoon.

POM     What time can I come back?

DO     After three I think.

POM     What if I came at 2.30?

DO     Come at 2.30, I'll try.

POM     I'll be here at 2.30. OK. Thanks. I'll wait for you anyway.

DO     I'm saying that there are large numbers of whites, men and women, who have embraced the new democracy, are loyal to it and are doing their best to make it succeed. But it is also true that the white political and economic interests are creating a laager mentality around whites which has created a situation where many whites are not participating in the process of transformation. The best example I can use is the Truth & Reconciliation Commission where the political parties such as the NP, Freedom Front, have undermined the TRC at every level, criticised it at every level, accused it of witch-hunting, of being uneven in its approach to various matters, thereby creating the perception amongst its supporters that the TRC is making no contribution to reconciliation, in effect discouraging them from participating and here was a golden opportunity for whites really to participate in a process which was conciliatory, reconciliatory and which was for everyone and these interests have persisted in their old attitudes of wanting to maintain privilege, not wanting to look at the past and not wanting to break from the past and driving people into a cul-de-sac in which they do not participate in nation building and reconciliation. So I would say, you see, that we unfortunately do have that phenomenon.

POM     Community courts, and the Premier of Gauteng lately has been making a case for community courts to deal with crimes that are not serious or in rural areas crimes such as stock theft or the like. Is there a case for community courts?

DO     There is a case for community courts not only for petty criminal matters but for civil matters. In the old tribal system there was no distinction between crime and - a criminal wrong and a civil wrong, it was a wrong and the way in which authorities then dealt with these matters was one which ensured that harmony in society was maintained but dealing with the wrong. The principle of restorative justice was applied even though they never used these fancy terms and every attempt was made to deal with matters in that way, to use dispute resolution mechanisms which enabled the perpetrator to do good what he did wrong and enabled the injured party to be compensated. If the crime was of a more serious nature the crime may have been dealt with differently.

     Now in many parts of our country disputes are resolved in that way and so there are places in our country, such as in Alexandria here in Worcester in the Cape, where community court type of structures at a very informal level do exist and they do resolve matters. Why? Because people do not have access to justice, they do not have access to mechanisms and procedures through which their disputes can be resolved. Courts are inaccessible, number one, in civil matters because it costs too much money, they cannot afford them. Secondly, in criminal matters the amount of trouble that people have to go to have their matters resolved is far too great. We still need to develop a system which will ensure that the criminal courts work as efficiently as they should but quite clearly we need to draw a line between those kinds of matters which can be resolved in communities through properly created structures and matters which must be referred to criminal courts. For example, we would not refer a rape case to a community court. That would have to go to a properly constituted criminal court.

POM     In principle you're for community courts for certain types of offences or disputes.

DO     Not only that, we more than a year ago asked the SA Law Commission to conduct a proper investigation which it has done. It has consulted throughout the country and people are generally in favour of the setting up of community courts. Just about two months ago the Law Commission held a national conference, report-back conference, where people discussed the modalities for the setting up of the community courts. So we are now at the stage where we are looking at legislation and we will give effect to it and start implementing them at different levels. The important thing about the community court is that it is must not become a kangaroo court. We don't want kangaroo justice and we don't want vengeance. Secondly, it will basically apply alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve matters. Thirdly, there are certain things which can be decriminalised and handled at the community level. Fourthly, we have tribal courts in parts of our country and we are looking at a system of community courts which is flexible enough to incorporate the tribal courts as well. Then we have to work out the relationship between these courts and the formal justice system in our country taking into account the bill of rights which we have, and those are all matters that the Law Commission is looking at at the moment.

POM     This is an issue I can't get in with you today, I was going to get into tomorrow, traditions versus rights as enshrined in the constitution and where there may be a conflict between the two, can courts pass judgments where the judgments will never be enforced because they can never be policed? But that's a huge issue and we would be here all day. I'll ask you two last quick ones.

DO     Actually we looked at that too. Yes, in the Law Commission we're looking at that.

POM     OK. When will that Law Commission report be out?

DO     I should think over the next couple of months.

POM     Two last quick questions. Does crime in, say, Cape Town differ in character from crime, say, in Johannesburg?

DO     Johannesburg is a hotbed for syndicated crime at a high level where drug trafficking, money laundering, arms trafficking, motor car hijacking, which is part of syndicate crime because there are syndicates that organise these things. So I would say that organised crime with a degree of trans-national organised crime is the main character of the problem in Johannesburg. Of course there is the category of violent crime like rape against women, violence against women, which are also priority crimes in our book. But much of this culture of violence actually emanates from this organised crime because they rely on violence to impose what they want to do. In the Western Cape you've got a tradition of gangsterism which goes back many years but what has changed the quality of that gangsterism is drug trafficking because once these gangs made contact with these drug traffickers who see the local gangs as conduits and markets for their drugs it creates a very dangerous situation and it has created a kind of violence as well as people fight for turf, gangs compete with each other and where anti-crime groups try to deal with them and of course they try to protect their own interests. So gang related crime in the Western Cape is long standing, it goes back decades, but the drug trafficking problem introduced a new quality in it.

POM     PAGAD? Problem?

DO     I think one has got to explain. PAGAD is no threat to the state. They make all kinds of noises but in terms of a threat to the state they are pinpricks, they are nothing. There are many good people in PAGAD who are concerned about gangs and about drugs and who want to participate in gang warfare but there is an element in PAGAD who consist of a clique amongst Muslims who are against the current constitutional order, who have historically been anti-ANC and who have been engaging in activities to undermine the constitution. They openly reject the constitution too. So there is a political agenda on the part of some people who are in the leadership or part of the leadership of PAGAD. Now initially when PAGAD was formed as an anti-crime forum and with all the publicity they got in the newspapers which sensationalised their activities they attracted quite a lot of support but they have lost a great deal of their support because of the perception that they are engaging in violence and that some of the terror activities that we have witnessed emanate from their ranks. I am not in a position to say that those allegations are true but there is that kind of perception in communities. So they have lost most of their support, most of the major Muslim organisations have come out against their activities.

POM     Is there somebody in PAGAD that I want to talk to?

DO     I wouldn't really know who - I don't know. You know, the newspaper journalists are normally in touch with them. Newspapers love them. The best people to talk to is the Western Cape Anti-Crime Forum, a wonderful organisation working within the framework of the law, organising communities all over in the fight against crime. They get no publicity.

POM     Where are they, are they located here in Cape Town?

DO     Yes they are located in Cape Town.

POM     Would they be in the phone book?

DO     I know Sunita will be able to get it, just write down the name Gaynor, surname is Wasser. She is the chairperson of the Forum.

POM     And your secretary is?

DO     Sunita. You can ask her, she can get it for you.

POM     OK. The very last question is a problematical one. If you are Minister of Justice, it's the President's 80th birthday, you pick up the newspaper and you see that 9000 people are to be released some of whom commit crimes shortly after they are released. Here you are spending 24 hours a day fighting crime, trying to bring justice, (a) what do you feel, and (b) what message do you think it sends to people?

DO     Firstly I was consulted about it before the time and I supported it. I still support it. I think it was a correct decision.

POM     Supported it on the grounds?

DO     That from time to time amnesties are granted to prisoners which give prisoners hope because they've got to come back to society. Generally speaking, you know people who are sentenced to imprisonment have to come back into society. The question is what kind of people do you want to come back. Do you want to make criminals of them for life? Do you want them rehabilitated? Do you want to give them a future? Now the reality is, unfortunately our newspapers again have completely distorted the situation, no long term prisoners were released, no persons who had sentences which they had to serve for long periods were released, only people who had six months or less to serve were released which meant most of the people who were released are people who were sentenced to short terms of imprisonment. If they were sentenced to six months imprisonment, there are now many of them four months, five months, they were released. A prisoner who was sentenced to fifteen years and who had served fourteen years six months or fourteen years seven months could have got released now, some of them. In other words everyone who was released in the 9000 we're talking about had no more than six months to serve and they were not released at once, they were released gradually over a period of time.

     I'm not Correctional Services minister but I know this is what they did, they spoke to people, discussed matters with them, warned them, told them to go straight and so on. Thirdly, very few of those 9000 have committed crimes again. From the reports we get you can count the number on your hands. You can go to any country in the world and when you release people who have served their sentences, many of them come back. So it's not unusual that when you release people from prison some of them do commit crime again but in this case very few came back and I think the programme has been a success, I think it's been good.

POM     Thank you for the time.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.