Author: Saul Leal
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)
Stephen Bantu Biko occupies a singular place in South African history, precisely because of the manner in which his legacy affected South African constitutionalism.
Biko fought for equal treatment under the law, and proudly founded the Black Consciousness Movement in order to achieve this goal. Biko engaged in a fearless debate related to the victims of racism and colonialism which encompassed the degradation of self-esteem and the inflicted inferiority complex of black South Africans. Biko’s struggle against white authority in order to promote and defend democracy has left a legacy of ideas which would influence future South African generations, including the sentiment of “one man, one vote”.
In 1970, Steve Biko stated that “in order to achieve real action you must yourself be a living part of Africa and of her thought; you must be an element of that popular energy which is entirely called forth for freeing, the progress and the happiness of Africa”. At the time, Biko was a doctoral student and political activist. He was arrested in August 1977. Biko was kept naked and manacled, and died twenty-five days later from brain damage.
Biko envisioned a more inclusive and deeper interpretation of democracy, as opposed to its purely material application. For him, “material want is bad enough, but coupled with spiritual poverty it kills. And this latter effect is probably the one that creates mountains of obstacles in the normal course of emancipation of the black people”.
In many developing countries in Asia and Africa, the judicial system is yet to catch up with the perpetrators of crimes. The time has come for the respective authorities to change this notion and prepare themselves to adopt cutting-edge technologies like biometrics to accelerate the pace of the judiciary process. They have to remember the saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’.
In developing countries people have a stereotypical view about judicial systems being slow, rigid, and secretive. This impression exists largely because of the slow judicial process and corruption within the system due to unavailability of modern age technologies to establish accountability of judicial personnel. On the other hand, since there is no effective system for keeping track of day-to-day judicial activities or cross-checking with previous case histories, problems like suspect identity theft and the use of stock witness are frequently taking place. Biometric identification technology can help to establish more accurate and secure identification and thus help the judicial system become more efficient, fast, responsible, and user-friendly.
In a judicial system the accurate identification of subjects is of major importance for effective administration. The public’s faith and trust of the judicial system relies largely on the ability to administer the right justice to the right person in a timely manner. Biometric identification systems can help the judicial system to accurately identify a crime suspect without a shadow of a doubt to determine guilt or innocence in a timely manner by a quick scan of a physiological attribute.