SA justice system: slow, inefficient – like much of the world

Former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli has finally been jailed – more than two decades after the violent assault for which he was charged. Also this week, Chris Pappas of the Democratic Alliance blamed ANC provincial inaction for a ‘staggeringly low number of arrests and convictions’ for heinous crimes in the province.

The ANC can’t take full responsibility. The country’s high crime and low conviction rates were already a feature of life in SA before the party was voted into power. If anything, there has been a slight easing in the incidence of violent crime. World Bank data (see graph below) suggests that, while the murder rate is still unacceptably high, the number of reported killings has been on a downward trajectory over the past two decades.

Unfortunately, at least 75% of violent crime dossiers do not progress to court, SA Law Commission research suggests. The Institute for Security Studies estimated in 2016 that only six out of every 100 violent crimes resulted in a conviction.

But SA is not an outlier. The ISS’s Ted Leggett compares SA to the US and England in a study, concluding that “while it is frightening to think that three quarters of crimes recorded by the police never make it to court, this phenomenon is not unique to South Africa. Indeed, insofar as the comparison is valid, it appears that South African detectives are doing well by international standards”.

Got any thoughts on why the wheels of justice turn so slowly? Share your ideas, below this article.

justice system

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