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South Africa did not become a republic until 1994. It began with Apartheid, arguably the first constitution. This resulted in a long period of a segregated society with a white supremacist, racially biased Parliament. South Africa continued to uphold segregation laws well into the 1960s. Various amendments championed by the populace were enacted by Parliament, introducing basic human rights for black citizens. The police department held many different positions with several amendments bolstering some departments’ authority. The administrative structure of South Africa’s police force is composed of several organizations.
The Police Department operates as a cabinet-level unit, with the minister of police appointed by the president. There have been many changes within the police department over time. The manner in which the police are managed is governed by the Service Act of 1995, which authorized the creation of a secretariat to support policing demands. Civilian Secretaries provide advice to the minister on the extent of his powers, duties, and functions. The National Commissioner of Police is tasked with delivering police services based on policy directives given by the minister of police. Municipal Police are deployed when a municipality opts to establish its own police department. This concept is not new to South Africa; Durban city had its own police department as far back as 1854.
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The Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act of 2011 boosted the authority of the Independent Complaints Directorate, tasked with police oversight. The police department’s responsibilities are outlined in Section 13. The section states, “They may exercise such powers and perform such duties and functions as are by law conferred on or assigned to a police official (Terrill 2016).” The established rule of thumb for a police officer stipulates employing a reasonable approach to the task at hand. Police are not permitted to seize property without a warrant, save for situations falling under the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, such as erecting a roadblock. According to Terrill (2016), South Africa’s criminal procedure is divided into five components. The first relates to the rights of an arrested person, similar to the Miranda Rights in the United States. This includes the right to remain silent and the corresponding consequences of not asserting this right. The second element pertains to the rights of a detained person, encompassing those already in incarceration. The third component deals with the right to a fair trial, emphasizing the principle of innocence until proven guilty. The fourth aspect necessitates all information presented to the accused in a language they understand.
The fifth part posits that any evidence obtained in a manner violating any rights in the Bill of Rights ought to be excluded on the grounds that it would compromise the trial and the interests of justice. South Africa’s judiciary is divided into superior courts and lower courts, supplemented by the Judicial Service Commission, which advises the government on matters concerning the judiciary and the administration of justice. South Africa’s justice system comprises various types of courts. The Constitutional Court determines whether legal issues concern constitutional matters. The Supreme Court of Appeals serves as the highest court of appeal with authority to hear any appeal, while the High Courts can only hear appeals from a magistrate’s court, contingent upon the presence of two judges. The Magistrates’ Court presides over civil matters involving cases more than 100,000 rand.
The specialized court has two different categories: non-criminal matters and criminal matters. The non-criminal courts include labor courts, labor appeal courts, divorce courts, land claims courts, water tribunals, and small claims court. The criminal courts consist of community courts and sexual offense courts. Community courts deal with petty theft, shoplifting, drunkenness, and minor traffic offenses. They also have Child Justice Courts for juveniles intended to assist children and other victims of abuse. The legal profession has many employees. Attorneys handle all the legal paperwork, and advocates are legal specialists in verbal argument in court. Each of these titles requires a bachelor’s degree in law. Judges are selected by the president and serve as the heads of the national executive. Magistrates are chosen by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development.
They serve in the lower courts and are not referred to as judges. Assessors are retired magistrates who decide issues of fact for the court and are sometimes selected for their expertise in certain areas. The trials in South Africa have a pre-trial, bail, plea bargaining, and then the actual trial. Sentencing is categorized into retribution, isolation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. The history of South Africa’s laws begins with the first constitution, which was not official, and was called Apartheid. The apartheid followed Roman-Germanic Law and was targeted at a racially biased white society. The constitution for the Republic didn’t begin until 1961, when South Africa left the Commonwealth.
Part one stated that Parliament had full power to make laws for peace, law, and the Republic. The second part stated that no court could veto any law passed by Parliament. In 1970, the Bantu Homelands Citizens Act stated that all black people had to become citizens of the homeland associated with their ethnic group or forfeit their citizenship. Fast forward to 1994, and now the Republic of South Africa is founded on the values of human dignity, non-racialism, non-sexism, the rule of law, and universal adult suffrage. The native people finally have human rights and are treated like the rest of society. The white, privileged part of South Africa is being held accountable. “The reformed criminal justice system would merge indigenous traditions and Western standards for the rule of law. Law enforcement teams from Western democracies would provide sophisticated training in criminal investigation and other functions that had been neglected in apartheid policing, and international donors would help South Africans develop and regulate innovative forms of social control and divert lesser offenders from prison” (Gordon, 2006). Crime was one of the biggest challenges of this new government. Although South Africa’s laws have changed a lot, there is still room for change.
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