October 28, 2002

Discussion on death penalty

Re-introducing the death penalty - which has been raised repeatedly in the Namibian National Assembly during debate on the crime situation - should only be seen as a last-ditch solution, says opposition MP Nora Schimming-Chase. In her contribution, Schimming-Chase cautioned against returning to the morbid pre-Independence practice of the hangman's noose.

The topic has, since CoD leader Ben Ulenga kicked it off at the end of September, turned into one of the Assembly's most active recent debates. Several MPs have suggested that re-introducing capital punishment is what is needed to effectively stop the wave of crime that has rolled over Namibia in recent years. Schimming-Chase responded that she has great respect for those who wrote Namibia's Constitution - in which the death penalty was abolished - and that their decisions were not taken lightly. Emerging from the apartheid system, where the death penalty was used to liquidate political opponents, they knew what they were doing, she said. "Before we even contemplate debating this issue, we should look at it as a last-ditch solution. If all else fails," the CoD MP cautioned. The first step was to try and establish the root causes of crime, she said, adding that poverty and unemployment doubtless played a crucial role.

"If more than 10 000 teenagers drop out of school annually, without prospects of further study or unemployment, what opportunities do they have? Our prisons today are overcrowded with young men who fall in this category. If there is no motivation for the youth, if they see no role for themselves in society, then crime becomes a quick-fix solution." The reason, Schimming-Chase suggested, was because the message sent out from what happened to those in authority who committed offences - where people are put on paid leave, are transferred or promoted - simply is that crime pays.

As long as present shortcomings in the fight against crime were not solved, she added, the death penalty "will not be a magic solution to inadequately trained officials, the death penalty will not replace the destroyed (Police) cars, it will not prevent dockets from disappearing. At best, it will hang those who are too poor to afford legal representation." (THE NAMIBIAN)

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