It is a remarkable thing to me, in law, the death penalty. It shows my split personality rather clearly I am afraid to say. As a man I like the idea of murders, rapists and drug smugglers being put to death. As a jurist I have serious doubts about such ideas. It has no real deterrence value and brings all sorts of nonsense to be debated in circle arguments. All in all it is a waste of time and energy.
What is remarkable to me is that people read my police books and assume I would support their silly far right wing ideas on life. I have to wonder why because the Mean Streets Series is a clear warning against State abuse which includes death penalties. The Series admits the mistakes made in the past and it blames the nationalist party whose racist policies were executed by the police who had no choice in the matter, legally speaking, they had none. Although I am proud about the record number of dislocated jaws, sore stomach muscles and screeches of laughter from readers (I have such emails from you, thank you) because they laughed so much at our antics, the real message is to warn. Don't let the legal system fall under evil politicians with notions of acting fairly. It always leads to disaster.
It is also interesting to me how many clamour for the death penalty and police floggings to return. Unlike them, I have seen this first hand and let me tell you it is not fifty shades of crap which I believe is borderline abuse on women. And when you ask this clamouring fellow if he would mind if a black police sergeant flogs his boy he rapidly changes his views on the spot. Unlike him I can tell you, the difference is how easy you can see the blood; on a white skin it is much easier.
Ah, you will say to me it is well deserved and retribution is a good thing. Yes, that is true, it is well deserved and as a man I like the idea of taking revenge. It is my right as a man but you know we grew a bit since those days. As an educated man I say "let us look at it a bit deeper and see if it brings any results. Will the floggings and death penalty bring us any results? Will the crimes now stop?"
The answer is unfortunately no. The easy solution of the death penalty as a deterrence is proven time and time again by smarter people than me as useless. This makes sense to me and let me explain. When a man is angry enough to kill, he will do so and it is not easy to get him that angry. After World War Two a book was written by a fellow who claimed that even elite soldiers (the US 101 Paratrooper Division) would, during wartime, deliberately miss the enemy. They felt they had no personal hatred against them and hence no reason to shoot them. That is why basic training is so brutal, to indoctrinate the soldier to kill. Which is also why many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are messed up, their mission, basically, is to kill but then they are subjected to "Rules of Engagement" where they cannot kill as their grandfathers would and could have done. This is what happens when you forget that terrorism is a police matter and not an army matter. Policemen know the difference by the way, of being trained to kill but also being subjected to the law when to kill. The soldier is not, it is a completely different mind-set which most don't get. (Read my book The Egg Breakers - Counter Terrorism in Sub Saharan Africa if the subject interests you.)
This brings me back to the death penalty. Why, if you know the laws of the place, then commit a crime you know is going to have dire consequences. I read this morning of foreigners crying foul in Indonesia for being sentenced to death for drug smuggling. Why cry? Drug smuggling is not done in a moment of anger but for monetary wealth and drugs is one thing I hate with a passion you will find hard to believe. I have seen, first hand, how drug abuse destroy that what is precious to our Lord, the family. I have no time for such people whether "mules" or "growers" or "sellers" or "users" and could not care less about their problems in life. My advice to them is simple, be like Adolf Eichmann now and die like a man. So it annoys me to read the long hair liberal crap on demands for clemency. I ask again, why cry now? You deserve death.
I am on record of being against the death penalty but for other non-liberal reasons which have nothing to do with clemency. I was a lawyer for eight years and have been involved in law for close to twenty five years. I know my mates who studied with me. None of us were particularly gifted academically and being human, lawyers always make mistakes. There are numerous cases where the wrong man is convicted and even executed. It happens a lot in law and I am not willing to take that chance for once dead you stay dead. There are no second chances with this. Your race also plays a part with a black man much more likely to be executed than a white man. This is inherently wrong.
Then the death penalty is obviously and clearly abused by politicians to get rid of others who may not think as they do. Through the ages we have seen this often and especially in Africa. The ones supposed to prevent this from happening is the lawyers who we have already seen, despite rumours to the contrary, are humans and make mistakes like every other profession. If you then don't have a decent and functioning Bill of Human Rights (and ours are working well) you are on a road of no return. Sometimes those judges were politically motivated too though they would deny it, obviously. We know in most countries the judges are not just appointed on legal skills, they are checked out and looked at from other aspects also. I spoke to a senior advocate the other day, we go back decades, and the man said to me he will not even apply to be a judge because of the political interference.
Finally the law changes and quite often to reflect the mood of the people, there was a time when blasphemy (insulting God, the Christian one) was a serious crime. It still is by the way in Muslim country where anything between death and one thousand lashes are the penalty. But we have outgrown such things and rightly so. If a man wants to insult God let him do so, he will explain his views later in person and so it is. But what about rape, for many years a man would and could receive the death penalty for that but not today. Is it not inherently unfair to treat those who commit this crime today differently than those of yester year?
Another thing which people forget is that we do have the death penalty in South Africa but only during a time of war and under a military tribunal. In other words if you are then, at such times, caught spying or whatever falls under it, you may be executed by firing squad. Did that stopped war crimes in Africa? Nope, never did. What about the liberal wet dream of revenge at Nuremberg? Did that stopped the politicians for acting like baboons and barbaric apes? Nope, never did. Do you think executing those foreigners in Indonesia is going to prevent drug smuggling? Nope, never will. It is a waste of time and energy.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.