OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL: PRETORIA
25 February 1998
COMMENTS ON WITNESS PROTECTION BILL, 1997.
1. The fact that the role of the Attorney-General or the prosecutor is totally disregarded in the bill is the biggest lacuna in the proposed legislation.
To provide witness protection is an extremely expensive exercise and there must be a relationship between the amount spent on the witness and the benefit that accrue to the community.
2. The prosecutor is intimately involve and equipped to make the kind of appraisal and evaluation as to the relative worth of a witness in an important prosecution. The problem that was previously experienced is that the prosecutor gets so bogged down with the administration and financial arrangements of witness protection that his real functions suffers. The AG/Prosecution remains a very important role player and this must be reflected in the act. The present position works satisfactorily where the AG or a person designated by him must give his imprimatur during the provisional time of 30 days.
It is thus recommended that the present situation be enacted in the legislation.
The problem with panels is, that the more people that are involved, the more the security is at risk. It provides the necessary check and balances that no oppressive use of the powers of the state exist, but at the same time it can create an expensive bureaucratic and cumbersome procedure.
3. In the ultra sensitive investigations where high placed politicians are implicated - witnesses are very scared and would not voluntarily be part of a scheme where a Justice Official is afforded full access to the statements. Once again the Attorney-General can play an important part in this regard. There is also a need for the use of pseudonym in extreme cases.
4. From time to time the situation does arise where the existing infrastructure cannot be used. The personnel that provides the witness protection services presently are all from the SAPS. Situations does arise where these people cannot be used. Provision must be made for the use of an alternative witness protection scheme, say for instance the National Intelligence Agency where circumstances demand it. Obviously this must be done in conjunction with the Minister. Flexibility is also ensured in this way.
That provision be made in exceptional circumstances to use an alternative witness protection. The relevant Attorney General must liaise with the Minister. In this regard and statutory provision must be made for this.
5. In extra ordinary circumstances there can be a need to protect a witness in a foreign country. Statutory provision must also be made for this.
6. Corruption in government or security force circles is the one offence that can possibly be added to the existing list in the present.
Experience has shown that prisoners do sometimes provide valuable information. Provision must be made in the Correctional Services to provide witness protection in a prison setting for these type of witnesses.
DR. J. P. PRETORIUS
DEPUTY ATTORNEY-GENERAL: PRETORIA