We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Check Writers' Offers

What's Your Topic?

Hire a Professional Writer Now

The input space is limited by 250 symbols

What's Your Deadline?

Choose 3 Hours or More.
2/4 steps

How Many Pages?

3/4 steps

Sign Up and Get Writers' Offers

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Get Offer

Capital Punishment in South Africa

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 10 (2282 words)
Categories: Africa, Death penalty, Death Penalty Pros And Cons, Is The Death Penalty Effective
Downloads: 47
Views: 7

Discuss the death penalty as a suitable sentencing and punishment option in South Africa for serious crimes.


There is no avoiding the attention fixated on crime in South Africa currently. The amount of violent crimes has sparked interest, both ordinary members and the famous in South African communities’ experience brutal crimes and violent deaths. The media is ridden with rape and murder reports thus the public calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty (Solomon, 2015).

According to Amnesty International (2016) and According to Webb, Christodoulou, and Rogers (2018) the death penalty is still practiced in 52 countries, the methods of punishment include lethal injection, hanging, beheading, electrocution, and shooting. In 2017, Amnesty International revealed that 993 executions were carried out in 23 different countries which was a decline in comparison to other recent years (1,634 executions in 2015 and 1,032 in 2016). This paper aims to discuss the death penalty as a suitable sentencing and punishment option in South Africa for serious crimes. Key definitions will be defined and a short history of the death penalty in South Africa will be provided.

Definitions of key terms

Death penalty

The death penalty also referred to as capital punishment or death sentence is a state-authorized exercise whereby a convicted individual is executed as punishment by the government for the crimes they have committed. Only serious crimes are punishable by death; however, every country has a law of its own and the law is carried out according to the constitution of the country in question. Commonly, serious crimes that are punishable by death include murder, rape, aggravated assault, terrorism, drug trafficking, genocide, war crimes and crimes against the state (Kronenwetter, 2001).

Common methods of Death Punishment


Gorvett (2018) reveals that till this today beheading is still a norm, especially in Saudi Arabia where 146 offenders were executed in this manner in 2017. In any case, by a long shot the most prevalent method of execution today is hanging. There are two different ways this is practiced: the ‘long drop’ and the ‘short drop’. The short drop involves dropping the offender from a low height which results in death by asphyxia. This is commonly viewed as the most unpleasant between the two. Although the ‘long drop’ is believed to be the humane option, things could go wrong, ideally, the rope will break the second bone on the offender’s neck, this bone separates the head from the spinal cord which causes their blood pressure to drop to zero under a second, by this time the victim is unconscious, however, it might take as long as 20 minutes for the heart to stop (Gorvett, 2018).

Firing squad

The method is often associated with military and war crimes, it is usually carried out by five anonymous executioners generally skilled police officers. The executioners position themselves behind a dark curtain or a brick wall (usually has holes for a gun port), the officers stand about 7 meters away from the detainee and fire shots but one of their guns would be loaded with blank so nobody would know out who discharged the fatal shot (Melina, 2018).

Electric chair

The electric chair was created as an alternative option to hanging. Just like the lethal injection and the guillotine, the electric chair is viewed as scientific and more humane. The process involves strapping the sentenced person to a chair specially made for this procedure and then electrocuting them through electrodes attached to their head and legs (Gorvett, 2018).

Lethal Injection

The lethal injection is the favored technique for the death penalty utilized in the United States, China, Thailand, Guatemala and Vietnam. The infusion is injected into the detainee’s body which puts them to sleep before euthanising them. The United States has determined that this method is the most accommodating approach to carry out capital punishment. Be that as it may, it has problems. There have been various records where the injection did not have the ideal outcome and detainees endured pain and suffering before dying (Beasley, 2018).

History of the Death Penalty in South Africa

In June 1995, the Constitutional Court carried out a significant resolution by abolishing the death penalty in South Africa. The court authorized that the death penalty under the Criminal Procedure Act was against South Africa’s newly agreed constitution reached in 1994. Though, the ruling excluded treason committed during the time of war. Speedily the Court also ruled that the State and all its structures are prohibited from executing those who are on death row. The decision followed the Constitutional Court’s hearing on capital punishment which occurred in February 1995. Up until the utilization of capital punishment was deferred in February 1990, South Africa had perhaps the highest number of executions in the world (South African History Online, 2011).

There are very few authentic investigations of the death penalty in South Africa. Our comprehension of the internal workings of the politically sanctioned racial segregation period commonly known as the apartheid-era penitentiaries or the governmental organization of judicial executions is hardly considered as a part of the importance of apartheid. The inadequate assortment of literature on the death penalty in South Africa tends frequently to cling around specific topics, which consists of questions of race and the death penalty as well as the mental impacts of the death penalty. Madeleine Fullard and Robert Turrell are the only historians who have studied the death penalty in South Africa. An extensive accentuation in the literature on the death penalty in South Africa, including the TRC formally known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which pronounced executions for politically motivated crimes a gross human rights infringement, is worried that somehow with a human rights discourse and the cruelty of the death penalty (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, 1988).

Crime Statistics of Rape and Murder in South Africa and other countries

According to McCafferty (2003) rape was an offense punishable by death, but the trends are progressively hard to distinguish as rape is no longer individually classified. Since 2007 it has been categorized together with other “sexual crimes”, whose occurrence from that point forward dropped. However, after increasing for a couple of years, sexual offenses against children and women that were reported to the police have declined since 2010, though it is too soon to state whether this is a fixed descending pattern. Police figures on murder reveal that South Africa’s homicide rate has decreased from 67 for each 100,000 in l994/1995 to 33 in 2014/2015. Moreover, the average number of homicides committed every day has also decreased from 71 to 49. Although, numerous organizations have questioned the descending pattern in homicide rates. In addition, Interpol has proposed that the homicide rate is significantly higher, considering that not all crimes are reported to the police, utilizing information on unnatural deaths, the South African Medical Research Council has also made such a proposal. Official statistics on such deaths, including those which are not because of murder, nonetheless demonstrate a descending pattern. The patterns of homicide since the eradication of capital punishment is thus not clear. As indicated by comparative information by the United Nations, South Africa still has a high homicide figure of 32 for every 100,000, almost equivalent to Colombia, but lower than Jamaica, Honduras, and El Salvador. South Africa’s homicide rate is nonetheless higher than Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Germany, France, Morocco, Australia, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal which all range between of 0.7 and 1.3 per 100,000 (South African Institute of Race Relations, 2016).

The death penalty as a suitable sentencing and punishment option in South Africa for serious crimes.

The history of the death penalty in South Africa cannot be separated from the apartheid-era, only white people imposed judgment which was mostly on black people. In the past, 98% of judges in South African courts were white. Black judges make up 44% while mixed-race and Indian judges constitute 10% respectively. The multi-racial make-up of the courts may provide more noteworthy legitimacy, yet that in itself is no assurance that racial partiality will somehow never be an influence in judicial rulings. Nonetheless, regardless of whether race could be altogether wiped out as a factor in such decisions, this would not eliminate other issues with capital punishment (South African Institute of Race Relations, 2016). Now that South Africa is a democratic country and racial segregation is no longer the order of things, every individual has a right to a fair trial. The death penalty would only be based on the seriousness of the crime. The endorsement of the death penalty is the same as approving state brutality which structures some portion of planning a murder. The death penalty thus brutalizes the general public as a whole and implicates the society in the sort of cruelty that we want the guilty parties to be punished for, however, the public is calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty as offenders continue to commit horrible crimes particularly against the most vulnerable individuals in society, women, and children.

The murder of Karabo Mokoena horrified South Africa. The details of Mokoena’s death are gruesome. Karabo’s youth life was taken away in the cruelest and undignified manner, her killer physically abused her for months leading up to her untimely death. Individuals who commit such crimes should not have a place in society.

It is unclear to what degree of discipline as serious as capital punishment may have on the criminal mind. This is especially evident with regards to the execution of the most merciless and unwarrantedly rough planned crimes that usually entice such a sentence (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, 1988). According to Mehlkop and Graeff (2010), offenders apply the same values of cost-benefit analysis when choosing lawful behaviors. Therefore, the choice to break the law is affected by their attitude toward time discounting, risks involved, and their preferences. Moreover, offenders also have to consider expenses and advantages. Sandile Mantsoe made the decision to murder Karabo and even went as far as covering up the murder and was not entirely co-operative during the investigation, the offender did not take into account the lives he would be ruined by committing such a cruel crime. The death penalty is a suitable punishment.

The case of Karabo Mokoena

Chabalala (2018) reports that Karabo Mokoena was reported missing by her mother, Keabetswe Mokoena after her family and friends did not hear from her for two weeks. Karabo Mokoena’s charred remains were discovered by a construction worker in an open field in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg. The construction worker reported his findings to the police, where constable Madisha Mahwete was assigned the case. Constable Mahwete contacted Keabetswe informing her of an unidentified body in the mortuary which could be that of Karabo’s, and it was later confirmed that the body was indeed Karabo Mokoena. Evidence found pointed to the victim’s former lover, Sandile Mantsoe.
Suspect Sandile Mantsoe pleaded not guilty to the charges of premeditated murder, claiming that Karabo had committed suicide in his apartment and out of panic, he disposed of her body and burnt it. Mantsoe also faced charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Reports suggest that Karabo’s heart was missing from her body. Mantsoe was sentenced to 32years for the murder of Karabo Mokoena (Shange, 2018).


It is surely a remorseless and strange discipline that go against the right to life and dignity. Despite what the court stated, nonetheless, opinions with respect to what is remorseless and unusual almost certainly vary from individual to individual, just as from judge to judge. Opinions can change, as they have since the beginning of crime and punishment. What society at one time may view as reasonable methods of discipline, others at different times may see as merciful: henceforth the contention in some cases heard that the rights of victims ought not to exceed those offenders. Numerous studies have revealed that capital punishment is definitely not a crime deterrent. In spite of the fact that the court did not express this, the ramifications of what a portion of the judges said is that the death penalty is practically unimportant as a preventative method since arrest and conviction are absent and a large number of offenders go unpunished in any occasion. However, the fact that individuals are concerned and discuss capital punishment demonstrates that it likely could be a deterrent in South Africa (South African Institute of Race Relations,2016).

Reference List

  1. Amnesty International. (2015). Death Sentences and Executions in 2015.
  2. Beasley, N. (2018). 6 Examples Of Capital Punishment. Retrieved August 2019, from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/punishment/6-examples-of-capital-punishment/
  3. Chabalala, J. (2018). The police officer tells court about the day Karabo Mokoena’s body was found. Retrieved August 2019, from news24: https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/police-officer-tells-court-about-the-day-karabo-mokoenas-body-was-found-20180419
  4. Kronenwetter, M. (2001). Capital punishment. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
  5. McCafferty, R. (2003). Murder in South Africa: a comparison of past and present. United Christian Action.
  6. Mehlkop, G., & Graeff, P. (2010). Modelling a Rational Choice Theory of Criminal. Rationality and Society, 22, 189-222.
  7. Melina, R. (2018). Death Penalty By Firing Squad: How Is It Carried Out? Retrieved August 2019, from https://www.livescience.com/10710-death-penalty-firing-squad-carried.html
  8. Shange, N. (2018). Sandile Mantsoe sentenced to 32 years in jail for Karabo’s murder. Retrieved August 2019, from Sunday Times: https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2018-05-03-sandile-montsoe-sentenced-to-more-than-3o-years-in-jail-for-karabo-mokoenas-murder/
  9. Solomon, S. (2015). Why the death penalty won’t solve SA’s crime problem. Retrieved August 2019, from https://businesstech.co.za/news/government/86844/why-the-death-penalty-wont-solve-sas-crime-problem/
  10. South African History Online. (2011). The SA Constitutional Court abolishes the death penalty. Retrieved August 2019, from https://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/sa-constitutional-court-abolishes-death-penalty
  11. South African Institute of Race Relations. (2016). Power of ideas. Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations.
  12. Webb, S., Christodoulou, H., & Rogers, J. (2019). ‘LEGAL’ KILLING Which countries have the death penalty and how many people are executed in the world every year? Retrieved August 2019, from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2525739/countries-death-penalty-how-many-people-executed-world/

Cite this essay

Capital Punishment in South Africa. (2020, Oct 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/capital-punishment-in-south-africa-essay

How to Avoid Plagiarism
  • Use multiple resourses when assembling your essay
  • Use Plagiarism Checker to double check your essay
  • Get help from professional writers when not sure you can do it yourself
  • Do not copy and paste free to download essays
Get plagiarism free essay

Not Finding What You Need?

Search for essay samples now


Your Answer is very helpful for Us
Thank you a lot!