Late at night on 23 August2012 the President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, ordered the executions of nine death row inmates despite international condemnation and even division in his own cabinet. At least three of the death sentences were for the crime of treason; the remaining cases involved murder. Two of the nine were Senegalese nationals, and at least one had been on death row since before the current death penalty law entered into force. These cases are constitutionally troubling and may erode the rule of law in The Gambia, Sub-Saharan Africa’s smallest mainland country with a population of 1,3-million.
Section 1 of the Constitution sets out the founding values of the Republic of South Africa: dignity, equality, human rights, non-racialism, non-sexism, constitutional supremacy, rule of law, regular elections, accountability, responsiveness and openness.
The tragic shootings in Marikana, which took place on 16 August 2012, have led not only to much needed discussion on how equipped and prepared the police are to respond to violent protest, but also discussion about the underlying factors which led to these protests, and why they were so violent. Important questions must be asked about the shootings. Video footage of the incident suggests that it was not a clear cut case of self-defence. Accountability must prevail, both for workers responsible for violence and the police. Hopefully the Commission of Inquiry, established by President Jacob Zuma, will receive a broad mandate to investigate not only the shootings, but also a range of related issues related to what happened before and after.