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Death penalty returning to South Africa? Chance 'close to zero'

“South Africa to introduce death penalty for rapists and murderers,” a headline on the HINNews website proclaimed.

The article said the country was following the example of India, where convicted rapists of girls under the age of 12 could face the death penalty.

The HINNews article has so far been shared over 20,000 times on Facebook. Earlier in October 2018, News24 identified the founder of HINNews as a Nigerian businessman from Port Harcourt called Elvis Gosife Udofia. (Note: “HIN” is an acronym for “Happenings in Nigeria”.)

“Udofia uses the traffic generated by the websites to monetise the misinformation, thereby making money off gullible users,” News24 explained.

‘It’s a lot of nonsense’

A call to the department of justice showed that this story was also made up. Spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said no law to bring the death penalty back to South Africa had been tabled.

“It’s a lot of nonsense,” Ratshitanga told Africa Check. “The death penalty is not going to be reintroduced. It’s not even being considered.”

Mia Swart, research director at the Human Sciences Research Council’s democracy and governance unit, told Africa Check “the chances of [the death penalty] being reintroduced is at the moment very close to zero”.

It could only happen if the Constitutional Court’s 1995 decision in the landmark Makwanyane case was overturned.

“It was declared unconstitutional in a unanimous judgment of the court,” Swart said. “So, it cannot be reintroduced in light of the fact that the Constitutional Court declared it unconstitutional. It would be illegal to do so. And it would violate every single understanding of our constitutional democracy.” - Gopolang Makou (24/10/2018)

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