There is no evidence to support the claim that South Africa is introducing the death penalty

A widely shared post on Facebook claims South Africa is to introduce the death penalty for rapists and murderers. There is no evidence to support this claim. The country abolished the death penalty in 1995 and the constitution is unchanged, continuing to guarantee the right to life.

The Facebook post from “Latest News South Africa” on April 23, 2018 has been shared more than 7,000 times and garnered over 1,000 reactions. The caption reads: “South Africa To Introduce Death Penalty For Rapists And Murderers” accompanied by a picture of South Africa’s former Minister of Home Affairs.

A screenshot of the April 23, 2018 Facebook post with a false headline

The post links to an article which unpacks India’s introduction of the death penalty for child rapists. According to AFP reports from May, India’s government had approved the law amendments two days before the misleading post on South Africa.

The short article reads as a story about India but concludes with an opinion that South Africa should ‘follow suit’.

“South Africa is also experiencing same deadly act of rape by some heartless individuals, so it would be of good interest if South Africa follow suit,” it reads as the single connection to South Africa. 

Misleading headlines such as the above are known as clickbait, each click through of the source article generates advertising-based revenue for the publication and is designed to attract a large number of visitors.

Josephine Matsikiwa, associate with a focus on litigation at Eversheds Sutherland told AFP: “The death penalty is a tough penalty to pass, given South Africa's past, which is why the right to life was so secured in the constitution”.

Chapter 2, section 11 of South Africa’s Bill of Rights states that “everyone has the right to life”, meaning a life cannot be taken by the government. 

The death penalty was abolished in South Africa in 1995, one year after multiracial elections that marked the end of apartheid rule, as a result of the Makwanyane judgement. The court found the death penalty violates the right to life, human dignity and to not be subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment.

Tendai Dube