The ACDP purports to be a party which champions moral regeneration. Its vehicle of choice is through the use of the word of the Christian God in South Africa. However, an inspection of the party’s election manifesto reveals policies which could be argued to be out of line with our Constitution. This article will not deal with the ACDP’s problematic stances on issues such as gay marriage and queer rights or the right of women to terminate pregnancy. This paper will instead tackle some more insidious policy stances that the “party rooted in God’s Word” has decided to take. The very notion of a political party being rooted in the Word of God raises the issue of the need for separation of church and state more so, the fact about where this word of God resides. In a pluralistic society like South Africa this isn’t just one source.
The first of these problematic policies is that if elected, the ACDP would deny bail for serious offences and scrap parole for serious crimes. Here the ACDP does not seem to understand two crucial concepts. First is the fact that under South African law, one is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, holding someone in detention without a bail hearing until their guilt has been determined is a fundamental breach of their human rights. Second, they do not seem to under stand the purpose of cash bail. This is used as a mechanism to ensure that an accused who has not been found guilty and is therefore innocent in the eyes of the law appears in court on their trial date. Therefore, in most cases a cash amount is set which the accused is to submit to the court and this amount is to act as an incentive to return to court on their trial dates. If they do not do so, this amount will be forfeited.
The whole construction of bail is a system used by our courts and courts worldwide. It is premised on the underlying principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, cash bail is an instrument that ensures the trial process which determines if the individual in question is in fact guilty or not runs smoothly. The rejection of the mechanism of bail by the ACDP shows a departure from this crucial underlying principle that is the cornerstone of our criminal law system. Not to mention that it is a departure from Section 35 of our Constitution. The second problematic policy of the ACDP is it advocates the re instatement of the death penalty for offences such as premeditated murder. This is premised on the idea that if would be criminals knew the consequences of their crime being state sanctioned murder , they would not engage in the crime in question. This view needs to be laid to rest once and for all. First, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on the ACDP’s part as it relates to the activity of criminals. This is the fact that when criminals engage in illegal activities, they do so because they believe they will get away with them. Second, some 88% of criminologists from around the world do not believe that the death penalty is an effective deterrent of violent crime.
Finally, the ACDP says that if they were to be elected, they would erect more minimum security prisons and these prisons would be privatised. This is a bad idea. From a purely ideological stand point, the inmate and their rehabilitation should be at the centre of the prison system. Instead, once prison privatisation is introduced, responsibility for the prison becomes that of the shareholders and directors of the company which operates the prison. In light of the ACDP’s denial of bail and its associated fundamental principle of law, coupled with its stance on the imposition of state sanctioned murder, we as citizens should see as problematic the way this party portrays itself as the party of moral virtue.
Mikhail Petersen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science and an LLB. He is an intern in the Sustained Dialogue Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation based in Cape Town.
Published by Daily News