The South African government is at odds with the recent constitutional court judgment which barred the country from extraditing murder suspects to Botswana.
South Africa’s Correctional Services Minister S’bu Ndebele, told the National Assembly’s correctional ser-vices committee this week that it was “a sticky problem”. He said South Africa must be careful that its constitutional principle of not extraditing foreign criminals who face the death penalty at home does not turn it into a haven for such fugitives.
He was responding to concerns raised by members of the committee that several foreigners were languish-ing in SA prisons and being looked after by the taxpayers.
Another concern was that foreigners wanted for serious crimes such as murder in their own countries were roaming the streets of South Africa because they had not committed crimes here.
So serious was the matter that it had also been discussed at Southern African Development Community (SADC) level, Ndebele said.
Velaphi Ndlovu, of the IFP, first raised the issue of foreign inmates in SA prisons.
“The issue of foreigners is quite a sticky problem and was discussed when I attended the SADC organ on defence and security.
“It’s a sticky problem because South African law prevents us agreeing to extradite if they might be sen-tenced to death, unless there’s presidential assurance that we will commute it [death sentence],” said Nde-bele.
Botswana was a perfect example, where the president refused to give an assurance on a Motswana wanted for murder but living in SA.
“People can run to South Africa and plead that they can’t go back to California because they might receive the death penalty.
“Many people could be fleeing to South Africa. If they go back they might be hanged. This is not the consti-tution of the world but of South Africa,” said the minister.
Ndebele’s deputy, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, also referred to the case of the Motswana wanted for murder.
“And the irony is that he is not incarcerated in South Africa because he didn’t commit a crime here. We could have murderers walking around South Africa and they might increase and murder us all,” said Ra-matlhodi.