National Debate on Youth Topic: Youth in Conflict with the Law

Statistics suggest that Cape Town is the rape capital of the world. South Africa is ranked in the top 10 as the 7th top country with high crime rates according to Interpol statistics and World of Maps in 2013. This is poses a threat how attractive the country is to foreign investment and is a risk to keeping existing foreign investment. 

Youth make up the largest part of our population and they often fall victim to all the socio – economic issues of our countries either as victims or as perpetrators and one of those is crime. In a nutshell, they are the youth that are in conflict with the law.

To unpack this topic, the youth who are in conflict with the law need to be categorised into two groups as not all of them have committed serious crimes. There are those who have committed crime due to aggravating factors – major crimes fall under this category and those who have committed due to mitigating factors – this relates the minor cases.

Despite this categorisation, these crimes have to be dealt with according to the law and any resolution requires a criminal justice system that is effective and remains decisive. As we are working towards the development of the 2014-2019 National Youth Policy, it is of paramount importance that the government and various stakeholders take a closer look at issues affecting the youth and come up with ways that will keep a balance between the restoration of justice as well as dealing with the youth that are in conflict with the law and also the need to reform the capacity of correctional services in our prisons as the youth are the ones that are dominating the number of prisoners in our prisons across the country. The largest prison is found in the Northern Cape and the youth are the largest number of prisoners in the prisons and in many others around the country.

Currently, our criminal justice system is administered in terms of the Criminal Procedures Act of 1977; this law is not effective in dealing with the cases of the young law perpetrators who are in conflict with the law. These young perpetrators get to commit crimes, get arrested and released on parole. The resulting effect is that we see cases being on the court roll for many years even up until 2015 and beyond and this results in a situation of ‘justice long delayed is justice denied’.

In our quest to promote youth development, we need to take radical decisions and adopt firm policies especially in the development of the National Youth Policy. We need to have a strong clause and section in the policy that speaks against the youth who are in conflict with the law, one that calls for youth action on young criminals and one that calls and puts pressure on government to invest more in youth by reforming and improving the competitiveness of the youth agencies and civil society organisations.

This nation does not need the qualities of criminals and other law perpetrators in the youth of our country. But what this country needs is as Robert Kennedy once said, “a world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”

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