Tuesday, July 05, 2005

[Africa] S. Africa focuses on crimes of greed not poverty

JOHANNESBURG, July 5 (Xinhuanet) -- South African prosecuting authority will focus increasingly on crimes occasioned by greed rather than those arising out of poverty, the National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli said on Tuesday.

The director stressed: "We must not criminalize poverty." This did not mean that poor people committing crimes would not be prosecuted. But a person should not spend years in jail for a crime committed out of hunger.

He cited recent protests against poor municipal service delivery - for which some were charged with sedition. After his intervention, the charges were changed to public violence and malicious damage to property.

"We know what gave rise to those protests," Pikoli said, "charges of sedition were inappropriate."

Pikoli said that serious economic crimes had not been receiving sufficient attention, and likened fraud and corruption to a cancer eating away at society.

The NPA's emphasis would therefore be on securing "effective custodial sentences" for those committing serious economic offenses.

A new bias towards the poor would not result in an "anti-bias" against criminals who were not poor.

The focus on fraud and corruption was the NPA's way of contributing to economic growth, Pikoli said, as successful prosecution of such crimes would boost foreign and domestic investment.

He said the working of plea bargains and sentencing agreements should be re-examined, as an impression existed that those with enough money have an easy way out of prison.