United Nations set to adopt Sustainable Development Goals 2016-2030 today

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly is convening today in New York, where its 193 member states are expected to formally adopt the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as Global Goals, and 169 accompanying targets. This new set of goals, following in the footsteps of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aims to end extreme poverty and hunger, address the impact of climate change and reduce inequality by 2030.

UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon stated that “The new programme… consists of (…) 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, a section on means of implementation and renewed global partnership, all seeking to build on and expand the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

The MDGs are a set of eight goals aimed at eradicating extreme poverty hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion – while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability – were adopted at by the UN in 2000 and are set to expire at the end of 2015.  The Global Goals and targets will be accompanied by a set of 300 indicators to measure progress towards these goals and provide data on each country’s performance in relation to these.

The SDGs’ main difference with the MDGs is that they include both developing and developed countries. The SDGs are aligned with South Africa’s own National Development Plan 2030. More importantly, they include access to justice whereas the MDGs did not.

Goal 16 of the SDG is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.

The Wits Justice Project supports this goal in particular because our primary objective is to contribute towards the improvement of the criminal justice system in South Africa and its conformity with the Constitution and international law.

Goal 16 recognises that the judiciary and the police are among the institutions most affected by corruption. It also recognises that “the rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing, making it essential for sustainable development at the national and international level”.

Some of the targets for goal 16 are to;

  • Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all
  • Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
  • Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

The full list of SDGs and their targets is available here.

The inclusion of ‘access to justice’ as a goal for development reaffirms what the WJP stands for as criminal justice organisation. The South African criminal justice system is not without its flaws and challenges, mostly related to its efficiency and effectiveness.

But great strides have already been taken and plans are in motion to improve the current state of the system to make it more equitable and accessible. The National Development Plan (NDP) under the objective of “building safer communities” states that “A safe South Africa needs a strong criminal justice system”.  On a more practical level the government adopted a Seven Point Plan in 2007 which aims to modernise and transform the criminal justice system.

If the South African government adopts the SDGs, coupled with current internal processes to address weaknesses within the criminal justice system and its NDP goals, The SDGs could potentially form a step towards access to justice for all. However, the influence of these goals on the justice system remains to be seen.  The fact that access to justice has now been included in this international set of principles might provide a standard to which civil society can hold the government accountable.

The UN calls on everyone including governments, the private sector, civil society and individuals to get involved in working towards achieving these goals

Pollsmoor prisoners treated ‘worse than animals’

Pollsmoor 2

Infographic: Mail&Guardian

The next day, we visited Robert*. After his conviction in April, he was moved to the sentenced section of the prison. Hopes of a shorter waiting period at this part of Pollsmoor are dashed when a steady queue builds up at dawn, as the first sun rays pierce through the grey clouds above Cape Town. Six hours later, Robert appears on the other side of a chipped and grimy cubicle.

Robert’s parents live in a run-down house in Mitchell’s Plain. “I get up at 4am to catch a taxi to Pollsmoor, I get there at 6am and then have to wait another six hours,” says his father, who wants to remain anonymous to protect his son’s identity. “We haven’t seen him in three months because we can’t afford the R80 taxi fare. I live on a disability grant.”

His son struggles to get by in Pollsmoor. “There were not enough guards to take me to the doctor,” Robert says in reference to the remand section of the prison. “I hear voices in my head and if I don’t get my tablets, the voices get louder and they keep me up at night.”

Read Ruth Hopkins’ – WJP Senior Journalist – latest piece on conditions in Pollsmoor prison as it appeared in the Mail&Guardian. Download the PDF version, here. Catch Ruth live tonight on eNCA at 18h30.

Related links:

South Africa needs an effective legal remedy for wrongful convictions

Thembekile Molaudzi spent 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit

Thembekile Molaudzi spent 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit

























“Thembekile Molaudzi spent 11 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the murder of a policeman. While the only evidence against him was the statement of a co-accused who later recanted his testimony, his appeals were nevertheless dismissed.

Fusi Mofokeng and Tshokolo Mokoena are two friends who were at the wrong time and the wrong place after a police officer was killed by a self-defence unit just outside Bethlehem in the Free State, at the tail end of apartheid …there was no evidence against them except for a witness statement that was later recanted because that witness claimed the police had pressured him …”

In a recent Op-Ed, WJP Senior Journalist Ruth Hopkins gives an overview of wrongful conviction cases (in South Africa, the Netherland, and the United Kingdom) to illustrate the need of an independent body of experts to cross-check cases of wrongful convictions and refer those cases back to the appeals court. The commission would be independent of the executive and judiciary and function as a “diagnostic tool” for South Africa’s criminal justice system, which is inherently flawed. Read the article as it appeared in the Daily Maverick, here. Read the piece as it appeared as a guest post in Fair Trials, here.

Related Readings

Judging the Judging: Transitional Justice & Criminal Justice Reform

Fusi Mofokeng (left) and Tshokolo Mokoena

Fusi Mofokeng (left) and Tshokolo Mokoena

New podcast: Welcome Home Thembekile

In this new podcast we welcome home Thembekile Molaudzi (after spending 11 years wrongfully imprisoned) at a special celebration at Wits University.

Click on the podcast above and you’ll hear the joy Thembekile’s family feels since he’s been granted his freedom, stories from the journalist who tirelessly helped him and words of wisdom from the Wits Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib.

Thembekile Party 25 Aug 2015 (25)

Thembekile Molaudzi with WJP Senior Journalist Carolyn Raphaely.

Read the full story by our senior journalist Carolyn Raphaely on Daily Maverick here.

Read Professor Anton Harber’s opinion piece in Business Day here.


Thembekile Party 25 Aug 2015 (114)

Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib.

UK Telegraph’s coverage of mystery deaths in G4S-run prison

This weekend leading UK newspaper, the Telegraph, also published the story on mystery deaths and alleged cover-ups at Mangaung prison in South Africa – an investigation conducted and written by our senior journalist, Ruth Hopkins. The South African coverage, and links to the series of pieces she has had published on the G4S-run private prison, are available on this blog, click here.

Read the full story published by the Telegraph here.


ConCourt judge’s damning report on Pollsmoor


Justice Edwin Cameron. (Source Mail & Guardian)

Justice Edwin Cameron has recently published a report on his visit to Pollsmoor Prison in April. He said he was “deeply shocked” by the “extent of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, sickness, emaciated physical appearance of detainees”, and that the “overall deplorable living conditions were profoundly disturbing”.

The inspection was part of the “prison visits and monitoring programme” of the Constitutional Court. Some of his findings include:

  • Abominable conditions in the awaiting trial section of the prison. The visited cells were “filthy and cramped” due to severe overcrowding – at 300 percent, it is the highest rate of overcrowding in the country.
  • Systemic problems with plumbing caused blocked drains – which meant a bucket had to be used to flush the toilet – and some inmates had to use a sink to bathe and urinate in.
  • Detainees were sleeping three to a bed or on the floor, and bed sheets and blankets were either missing or filthy and lice-infested.

“Some detainees displayed rashes, boils, wounds and sores to us,” wrote the judge, who was accompanied by his clerks and 15 officials from the Department of Correctional Services.

The Detention Justice Forum (DJF) released a statement applauding Justice Cameron for undertaking this in-depth inspection of Pollsmoor Remand Detention and Women’s Correctional Centre, and producing a detailed and direct report of the conditions.

DJF promised to monitor the implementation of the recommendations: “The Forum commits itself to using this report to hold the Department of Correctional Services accountable to the plan of action detailed therein”. It then makes a call to all South Africans to respond to the dire conditions:

The members of the Detention Justice Forum would like to register their deepest condemnation of the state of affairs described in the report, and call on all South Africans of good conscience, especially those working in the branches of the justice system, to ensure such human rights violations are stopped.

The DJF consists of civil society organisations concerned with detainees’ rights.  It was established in March 2012 with the explicit aim to ensure that the rights and well-being of those who are detained are respected and upheld, as enshrined under the South African Constitution, laws, and international human rights norms and standards. Read full statement here.

Read Ruth Hopkins’ – WJP senior journalist –piece on Justice Cameron report, as it was published in The Star and the Cape Argus front page.

Justice Johan Froneman and Johann Van Der Westhuizen had also visited Pollsmoor Prison in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Both judges criticized the facility for not doing enough to deal with overcrowding in the awaiting trial sections. Links of full report are included below.

Watch the video below of the living conditions at the Pollsmor Prison:

Related readings:

Conditions at Pollsmoor “profoundly disturbing”, says judge – GroundUp

Read, Justice Johan Froneman report in 2010, here.

Read, Justice Johann Van Der Westhuizen report in 2012, here.

Mangaung prison inmate ‘tortured to death’

Manguang Correctional

“On a cold winter day in 2005, inmate Isaac Nelani asked wardens at Mangaung prison, run by British security firm G4S, for an extra blanket to keep him warm. The prison walls emitted a chill that crept into his joints and bones. Nelani, a 47-year old inmate at Mangaung prison, was HIV-positive, which made him more susceptible to the cold.

Other than his insistence on an extra blanket that day, not much else is known about Nelani. Inmates who spoke to the Wits Justice Project (WJP), say he was a gentle guy, others claim he was emotionally unstable. Why he had been placed in a cell in Mangaung’s notorious “Broadway” isolation section remains unknown. Nelani himself is no longer around to connect the dots, because he died under suspicious circumstances on that cold day, May 18 2005. G4S officials registered the death as suicide in their internal records, which the WJP has in its possession.”

So what happened in “Broadway” on that fateful day, May 18 2005?

Read, Ruth Hopkins’ – WJP senior journalist – latest piece on the deaths of two inmates at Mangaung Correctional Centre, as it was published in the Mail & Guardian today, here. A PDF version is available to download, here.

Read the Canadian news site – Facts&Opinions’ – coverage of the story, here.

Additionally, listen to Hopkins and former inmate, Tebogo Meje, shed light on the cruel practice of solitary confinement and gross violation of human rights at Mangaung prison, here.

Related Readings

G4S accused of holding South African prisoners in isolation illegally

South African prisoners sue G4S over torture claims

British law firm acts for Bloem prisoners

Private security industry under fire



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