Legal System and Prison Systems
The findings of the TRC hearings on South Africa’s legal institutions
concluded that judges exercised limited independence and therefore did not
function as an effective check and balance to the other two branches of
government. Adherence to the rule of law essentially served as a
powerful legitimizing influence for the exercise of authority.
Justices typically invoked parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law
which are premised on a system of representative government that is
fundamentally representative of all the people subject to that
parliament’s laws. That was not the case in South Africa prior to
1994 since parliament was only elected by the white population.
“The legal profession unwittingly connived in the legislative and
executive pursuit of unjustice.”
Special Hearings, Findings in Final Report, 1998.
“The mere fact that you were black meant your clothing was different, as
if the weather treated you differently. Your food was different, as
if you became hungry in a different way. The food was a problem
because you were with comrades ... who could actually eat bread.
Even the amount of sugar in your porridge was different: the blacks got a
teaspoon, the others two.”
by Mr. Andrew Masondo, describing conditions on Robben Island.
TRC, Special Hearings, Final Report, 1998.
South African judiciary produced the highest capital punishment rate in
the western world by the mid 1980’s and the execution rate
overwhelmingly impacted black males.
Between 1960-1994 more than 2500 people were hung in South Africa.
Of these 95% were black and all of them were sentenced by white judges.
Between 1976-1985, 1,154 people were executed and between 1960-1990 80,000
were detained without charges. Of these nearly 20,000 were tortured
in detention and 73 died while in police custody.
TRC, Final Report, 1998.