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Pro-death Penalty Arguments for Serious Crimes in South Africa

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definition of Death Penalty
  3. Common methods of Death Punishment
  4. History of the Death Penalty in South Africa
  5. Crime Statistics of Rape and Murder in South Africa and Other Countries
  6. The Case of Karabo Mokoena
  7. Conclusion


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

According to Amnesty International (2016) and Webb, Christodoulou and Rogers (2018) the death penalty is still practised in 52 countries, the methods of punishment consist of the 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 essay aims to discuss pro-death penalty arguments 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.

Definition of 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 crime/s they trialed and found guilty of. Only serious crimes are punishable by death; however, every country has a law of its own and the law is practiced based on the constitution of the country in question. Commonly, serious crimes which are punishable by death include murder, rape, aggravated assault, terrorism, drug trafficking, genocide, war crimes and crimes against the country.

Common methods of Death Punishment


Gorvett (2018) reveals that till this today beheading is still a norm, especially in Saudi Arabia where a total number of 146 offenders were executed in this manner in 2017. In any case, by a long shot the dominant method of execution today is hanging. There are two different ways this is practised: the ‘long drop’ and the ‘short drop’.

The short drop involves dipping 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 axis bone on the offender’s neck, the axis bone is the second bone which 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 15 minutes for cardiac arrest.

Firing Squad

The method is often associated with 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.

Electric Chair

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

Lethal Injection

The lethal injection is the favoured technique for the death penalty utilized in China, the United States, Thailand, Guatemala and Vietnam. The infusion is injected into the detainee’s body which puts them to sleep before euthanizing 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.

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.

There are little 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.

Crime Statistics of Rape and Murder in South Africa and Other Countries

According to McCafferty (2003) rape was an offence punishable by death, but the trends are progressively hard to distinguish as rape is no longer individually classified. Since 2007 it has been categorised 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 have also decreased from 71 to 49. Although, numerous organisations 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.

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. 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 pro-death penalty position is the same as approving state brutality which structures some portion of planning murder. The death penalty thus brutalises 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 most cruel and undignified manner, her killer physically abused her for month leading up to her untimely death. Individuals who commit such crimes should not have a place in society.

It is unclear to what degree a 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 usually entice such a sentence. According to Mehlkop and Graeff (2010) offenders apply the same values of cost-benefit analysis when choosing lawful behaviours. 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 ruining by committing such a cruel crime. The death penalty is the 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.


It is surely a remorseless and strange discipline which goes 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.

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Pro-Death Penalty Arguments For Serious Crimes In South Africa. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
“Pro-Death Penalty Arguments For Serious Crimes In South Africa.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
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