The rule of law requires all individuals, organisations and institutions to adhere to clear and properly promulgated laws. With respect to criminal justice (as opposed to civil justice), the rule of law depends on the efficient functioning of three institutions: policing, prosecution and the judiciary.

South Africa’s judiciary largely managed to weather the storm of state capture despite much pressure to cave in. It stood firm on Constitutional principles when those in charge of the two other branches of government sought to undermine these. The Constitutional Court - South Africa’s supreme court - famously held the then-President Zuma and parliament in breach of their respective Constitutional obligations, which made headlines worldwide. Nevertheless, the other two institutions central to criminal justice – the police and the prosecution authority – were severely impaired under state capture, before which they had already been ailing. The Zuma era provided fertile ground for the flourishing of organised crime and violence.

More than two years since the end of the Zuma era, policing remains acutely dysfunctional. Wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed, as is the purging of corrupt and incompetent individuals. However, far too little is being done far too slowly. The consequences that stem from South Africa’s broken criminal justice system are immense. Many who ought to be behind bars remain in government, active politics and business. This affects South Africans in all kinds of ways, e.g. the lack of proper basic services, education and healthcare. South Africans are however also affected by crime such as murder, rape, robbery and hijacking. It is imperative that South Africa prioritise criminal justice reform. Without such reform, the rule of law - and thus the country’s democracy - will remain greatly imperilled.

“Every day, 58 people are murdered in South Africa. Crime is omnipresent. South Africa must definitely give priority to the reform of the criminal justice system”.

Visit the Constitutional Court in South Africa with former Judge Albie Sachs.

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