Death penalty not the solution to our problems

Despite drug scourge, reasons for banning capital punishment in SA remain valid


A few days ago, social media was abuzz with discussion­s about the death penalty sentence imposed on Lesedi Molapisi, a 30-year-old Botswana woman arrested for smuggling drugs into Bangladesh earlier this year.

Molapisi, who was arrested at the Hazrat Shahjalal Internatio­nal Airport, had arrived on a Qatar Airways flight from OR Tambo Internatio­nal Airport, which had arrived in Dhaka via Doha. Airport customs officials and an intelligen­ce agency intercepte­d Molapisi while she was crossing the green channel – the passage for arriving passengers with no goods to declare. Upon searching her luggage, 3kg of heroin was found.

When the story about the imminent execution of Molapisi was reported, many South Africans welcomed the news and suggested SA must also reinstate the death penalty. The argument is that because those who use drugs are often sent to early graves by dependency on the substance, the punishment of death for drug exporters and cultivator­s fits the crime. It’s certainly true that drugs have brought untold misery to our communitie­s. Townships, in particular, have become infested with drugs, particular­ly nyaope, with devastatin­g consequenc­es.

My peers I grew up with in Meadowland­s and Dobsonvill­e, Soweto, today are caught up in a tight grip of drug addiction. It’s devastatin­g to witness and even more painful knowing the trauma it is putting their families through. In the throes of addiction, many go to the extent of stealing furniture at home to sell for a fix.

They are prone to violent outbursts and emotionall­y abusive. The story of Ellen Pakkies, a mother from Lavender Hill on the Cape Flats, who murdered her drug-addict son is well known. After he threatened to rape her Pakkies could no longer bear the torture he was subjecting the family to. Society rallied around Pakkies, and her three-year jail sentence was reflective of how even the courts understood she wasn’t a coldbloode­d murderer, but a victim of an epidemic that SA is losing the battle to.

Despite the horrors addicts put families through, I don t the solution. For one thing,’ believe the death penalty is those who sell drugs, particular­ly in townships, are young people or working-class families trying to make a living.

They are not the ones cultivatin­g or importing the substances. Those running drug cartels are living in multimilli­on-rand mansions in some of the most protected suburbs. They have the added protection of being nationals of China and Eastern Europe. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest drug cartels in SA are not run by Nigerians, but by Chinese triads. Studies such as those of Dr HF Snyman and BJM

Wagener have provided extensive detail on it. The death penalty would target lowly traders, many of them black, while the real criminals remain untouched.

Furthermor­e, there’s evidence law enforcemen­t is complicit in getting drugs into our communitie­s. The cases of police officers arrested for stealing drugs confiscate­d in busts are countless. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, 16 police officers appeared at the Kempton Park magistrate’s court after being arrested by the Hawks for allegedly stealing narcotics confiscate­d at OR Tambo Internatio­nal Airport. Five police officers were recently arrested after they tried to steal drugs seized in a drug bust in Aeroton, south of Johannesbu­rg.

Many such incidents have been reported and, no doubt, more have gone untold.

While I appreciate that everyone is fed up with crime levels, we must be careful of romanticis­ing the death penalty. It was outlawed for the right reasons. Reinstatin­g it when we have such high levels of racialised inequaliti­es that are forcing many into a life of crime, when we have a broken criminal justice system, and when the rich alone access better legal resources, will be setting parameters for genocide.

 ?? / KEVIN SUTHERLAND ?? Ellen Pakkies leaves the Wynberg magistrate’s court in Cape Town where she appeared for sentencing for the murder of her Tik addict son in December 2008.
/ KEVIN SUTHERLAND Ellen Pakkies leaves the Wynberg magistrate’s court in Cape Town where she appeared for sentencing for the murder of her Tik addict son in December 2008.
 ?? ?? Malaika Mahlatsi
Malaika Mahlatsi

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