30 October 1998

Organised Crime Bill

New laws dealing with bail, parole and minimum sentences have been implemented this year have targeted violent crime and ensure that these crimes are treated harshly. The Criminal Procedures Second Amendment Act, (also known as the Bail Law) makes it much more difficult for people accused of serious offences to get bail, the Criminal Law Amendment Act ensures that appropriately severe sentences are given to people who would previously have received the death sentence, the Parole and Correctional Supervision Amendment Act ensures that a compulsory period of sentence is served before a prisoner is eligible for bail.

We are beginning to see the results of these harsher laws, with crime levels in most categories either falling or stabilising. While the levels of crime are still way too high, it is heartening to see that our efforts in tackling crime are bearing fruit.

The Prevention of Organised Crime Bill, which will be passed in November, contains even harsher measures aimed at organised crime.

Organised crime is an ongoing problem in South Africa. Government has set up a dedicated Organised Crime Unit, under the National Director of Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, which will deal specifically with this problem.

But one of the problems facing the criminal justice system is that we do not have the legal framework for dealing with organised crime. Under apartheid, the legal system did not keep pace with international development in combatting organised crime.

It has been very difficult to convict gang bosses because they seldom do the dirty work themselves.

The bill aims to correct this by using the methods proved most effective in other democracies.

Main Measures of the Bill

1. It will now be a crime to manage any organisation whose members are committing serious crimes.

This is based on the racketeering legislation that has been used very effectively against the Mafia in the United States of America.

It will be possible to convict gang bosses by proving that they are in a position of authority over those who are committing crime. It is not necessary to prove that they were directly involved in committing a specific crime.

This can lead to a sentence of up to 30 years.

Any person who receives or owns property from illegal activities will be guilty of an offence. The state will only have to prove that they "ought reasonably to have known" that the property comes from illegal activity.

2. The state will be able to seize any asset that has been used to commit a crime or that has been acquired through crime.

This measure will allow the police to act against the houses used on the Cape Flats to sell drugs. All that the state has to prove is a 51% chance that a house is used to sell drugs. No one has to be convicted of drug dealing. More importantly, it will not be necessary to prove that the owner was involved in the crime or even knew about it, so it will not help gang bosses to register the house in the names of others.

In other countries this measure has been very effective. Not only will it hit gang bosses in their pockets, but it will make it more difficult for them to operate because the police will be able to seize their cars, nightclubs, houses and bars used to carry out their operations..

The state will be able to seize any assets that have been obtained as a result of managing a gang or syndicate.

3. The Bill will allow the justice system greater access to information held by the Revenue Services.

4. The Bill makes it a crime to recruit members to a gang or participate in criminal gang activity.

This is an important provision because it will give the justice system the power to act against the recruitment of new gang members. Such activity on or near school premises is regarded as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.

Harsh Penalties for gang activity

The Bill sets harsh sentences for gang bosses, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison or fines of R10 million rand, in addition to loss of property acquired through gang-related activities.

Any person who promotes or assists in criminal gang activity will be liable for a sentence of up to three years and any person recruiting, advising or helping someone to join a gang can go to prison for two years.

Key Political Messages

The ANC will not allow the hard-won gains of our struggle to be derailed by criminal activity. We will take whatever steps are necessary to bring down crime levels.

While the ANC recognises the socio-economic roots of the crime problem, it is also committed to tough measures to deal with the crime problem.

The ANC is tough on crime. We are constantly reforming the criminal justice system by passing tough new laws and making prosecutions more effective.

Under apartheid, police were not trained to operate in a human rights environment. The new dispensation demands that police conduct more effective investigations and use modern policing methods to secure convictions.

All over the country we are seeing success as police are better trained in detective work. We are seeing the turnaround in the successful arrests of major criminal syndicates.

The escalation of crime was far more severe under the old regime. Between 1988 and 1992 murders increased by 89% while between 1984 and 1987 they have decreased by 14.7%.

Step by step the ANC is building a better life for all South Africans.