Are the ACDP Policies really aimed at achieving moral regeneration in South Africa?

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South Africa - Pretoria - 22 March 2019 - An ACDP billboard on the N1 near Jean Avenue. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

The ACDP proports itself to be a party which champions moral regeneration. Its vehicle of choice is through the use of the word of (Christian) God in South Africa. This is a party that if elected, will return South Africa to the old values upon which this country was founded upon. However, an inspection of the party’s election manifesto reveals polices which could be argued to be out of line with our constitution.

This article will not deal with the ACDP’s problematic policy stances around issues such as gay marriage and queer rights generally or the right of women to terminate pregnancy. These are topics which have been highlighted and the ACDP policies have been problematized enough on these issues. 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 here raises the issue about the need of separation of church and state. More so, the fact about wherefrom this word of God resides. Within a pluralistic society like South African 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. Firstly, the fact that under the 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.

Secondly, they do not seem to understand the purpose of cash bail, cash bail is used as a mechanism to ensure that an accused (whom has not been found guilty and are 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. Once their trial has concluded this bail money initiated given up by the accused will be returned to them.

The whole construction of bail a system used by our courts and courts worldwide is premised on the underlying principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, cash bail is just an instrument that ensures that the trial process which determines if the individual in question is in fact guilty or not runs smoothly. The rejection of the mechanism bail on behalf of the ACDP shows a departure from this crucial underlying principle that is the cornerstone of our criminal law system. Not to mention it is a departure from Section 35 of our Constitution.

The second problematic policy which the ACDP holds is that is advocates for the re-instatement of the death penalty for serious offences such as pre-meditated 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. Firstly, 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. Therefore, no matter what the consequences which they will endure if caught, they do not believe they will be caught in the first place.  

Secondly globally some 88% of criminologists whom were surveyed from around the world do not believe that that the death penalty is an effective deterrent of violent crime. Instead the majority of these experts believe that the death penalty debates distract government from real crime solutions.

Amnesty International on this issue points to the fact that in America states without the death penalty continue to have significantly lower murder rates than those than do. They also point to the fact that States which have the death penalty have not seen any serious reduction in the presence of homicide. Finally, conservative estimates in the United states show that of all of the those that have been murdered by the state through the death penalty 5% were innocent of the crimes for which they were found guilty.

Finally, the ACDP in their manifesto notes that if they were to be elected, they would erect more minimum-security prisons and that these prisons would be privatized. One need looks no further that the American case for evidence of how this is a bad idea. It’s no co-incidence that the United States has 22% of the world prisoners (whilst only having 4.2 % of the world’s population) and that this nation just happens to have large scale implementation of the privatization of prisons.

From a purely ideological standpoint the inmate and their rehabilitation should be at the Centre of the prison system. Instead once prison privatization is introduced the Centre of the prison becomes the shareholders and board of directors of the company which operates this prison. If this company happens to be publicly traded the stock price is directly linked to the number of offenders housed in their prisons. Within this context it doesn’t take much to realize that the rehabilitation of offenders is not a priority from privatized prisons.

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 and finally the championing of privities prisons we, as citizens should problematize the way this party portrays itself as the party of moral virtue. 

 

Mikhail Petersen holds a Bachelors of Social Science degree in Politics and Economic History as well as an LLB from UCT. Mikhail is an intern within the Sustained Dialogue Programme at the institute for Justice and Reconciliation, based in Cape Town.