Ruth Hopkins reflects on her recent visit to the United States of America, where processes of truth telling reminded her of its history of slavery and lynching. She learned that it can actually be destructive not to acknowledge the pains, horrors and atrocities of the past.
Anyone taking the time to mine the turgid annual reports of SA’s bloated bureaucracy will occasionally be rewarded with a gem – a valuable nugget of information which will make the mostly tedious task worthwhile.
The deadly margin of error in death penalty cases should come as a salutary warning to those wanting to reinstate capital punishment in South Africa.
Consider the case of Anthony Ray Hinton from Alabama, US.
Clearly the use of force behind bars is highly contentious. In terms of the law, the only permissible force is minimum or necessary force, used to stop or prevent a dangerous situation. Any other force is regarded as gratuitous, excessive and unlawful. Yet prison officials operating in the context of the prevailing culture of violence appear to resort to violence as a default position.
Gregory Bright, who spent 27 years in Angola for a crime he did not commit, agrees. “There were always guys who came back injured from the rodeo,” he says. “One guy had severe kidney problems after he was attacked by one of the bulls. He later died from complications. No one talks about that.”
Remand detainees are people who have been arrested, have been refused or cannot afford bail, and are awaiting the start or completion of their trial. South Africa currently has 41,717 people in remand, making up nearly one third of the country’s total prison population
After spending nearly 11 long years behind bars for the gang-rape of 24-year-old Mpho Suping, Sabelo Ngani was released on parole from the Johannesburg Correctional Centre last month while still loudly protesting his innocence and claiming he had been wrongfully convicted.
My friend and New York attorney Beena Ahmad– who worked for nearly a year with the Wits Justice Project – had a quirky habit. In her neighbourhood in Brooklyn, with great enthusiasm, she picked up books that people left out on the street. Sometimes I would share her joy, like when she picked up a battered copy of Long Walk to Freedom, placed on a garden wall. Other finds, like Form Your Own Limited Liability Company, for example, didn’t seem quite as riveting.
RUTH HOPKINS reflects on how language can impinge on a person’s dignity and why it’s important to consider the meaning and impact of the words
we use in the service of justice.
When American police officers shot dead two black men – Anton Sterling (Batton Rouge, Louisiana) and Philando Castile (Falcon Heights, Minnesota) – within 24 hours in the sweltering heat of July, thousands took to the streets to protest against the violence that they say is predominantly aimed at African-Americans. Two days later, a sniper killed five police officers, who were guarding a demonstration in Dallas, Texas. His aim? To kills as many white cops as possible.