Govt prioritises crime, corruption, justice system

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parliament - President Kgalema Motlanthe has agreed that crime, corruption and a revamp of the criminal justice system are critical issues government needs to deal with.

"I would like to agree with Minister of Safety and Security [Nathi Mthethwa] about the interventions required to revamp the criminal justice system.

"In this regard it is worth pointing out that government has adopted the four-pillar approach as a model, which sets out the different areas in which crime prevention should be developed," he told parliamentarians, responding to the debate on his State of the Nation Address on Tuesday.

The four pillars of the revamping of the criminal justice system, which were discussed by Mr Mthethwa on Monday, include the move from crime prevention to crime detection, to prosecution and investigation right through to the rehabilitation of offenders.

This new strategy, the President said, showed government's determination to defeat crime and create safer communities for all South Africans.

Minister Mthethwa, during the Parliamentary debate on Monday, said government believed these initiatives would reduce the level of crime drastically and ensure that corruption was stamped out.

Special attention must be given to the fight against serious and violent crime, Mr Mthethwa said, adding that organised crime and criminal syndicate activity were also of particular concern to his department.

The review of the criminal justice system has resulted in the absorption of the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) into the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).

The minister assured South Africans that government would act speedily to establish the DPCI. The architecture of the unit is such that it takes on board the positive aspects of previous units while shedding off their weaknesses.

"The introduction to Parliament of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act necessitating among others, the examination of issues relating to forensics and DNA databases is a positive step forward in the context of the revamping of the criminal justice system," Mr Mthethwa explained.

The department has also embarked on a nationwide campaign to increase the capacity of the South African Police Service (SAPS) through recruitment, rigorous training and better remuneration.

"Steps are being taken to better equip and increase the capacity of detective services, forensics, prosecution and judicial services. In this regard training is earmarked to commence in earnest this year."

During his State of the Nation Address, President Motlanthe said the scourge of crime remained a major source of insecurity for South Africans. "Daily experience, in poor and affluent neighbourhoods alike, is one of apprehension at the possibility of violent attack."

He further said while the overall crime rate, having peaked in 2002, had consistently declined, it has not been fast enough.

"The fact that incidents of violent robberies in households and businesses have been on the increase; and crimes against women and children have not abated in any significant measure, is a matter of great concern," he said.

He said South Africa's crime situation pointed to weaknesses in building the bonds of community solidarity, weaknesses in the criminal justice system, from investigation of crimes to rehabilitation of offenders as well as weaknesses in the efficiency of the court system, both in terms of technical and other infrastructure and management.