What does it cost the taxpayer to have foreigners in South African jails?

ANC NEC subcommittee chairperson on Peace and Stability, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula briefs the media on the policy discussion document.


There are about 6 440 sentenced foreign nationals in South African prisons, serving an average of 10.6 years for various crimes they committed in this country.

The South African taxpayer is footing the bill amounting to R845 million per annum and R8.96 billion over their average 10-year sentence period. The costs are based on a per capita cost of R359.49 per offender, per day in terms of the 2016/17 financial year rate.

To this effect, the ANC NEC Subcommittee on Peace and Stability wants a new policy to be urgently finalised to enable bilateral and multilateral Prisoner Transfer Agreements to ease the burden on the already burdened Department of Correctional Services.

Chairperson of the subcommittee, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on 4 June told reporters at a media briefing at Luthuli House that four out of 10 of the 6 440 foreign nationals committed aggressive crimes which include murder and attempted murder.

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At the centre of the committee’s argument is the question whether a developing country like South Africa is in a position to incarcerate and fund the long imprisonment of foreign nationals who commit aggressive crimes such as murder and robbery, or can the convicted criminals be sent back to their country of origin to serve their sentences?

The latter option does come with its challenges which among others include poor prison conditions in other countries, compared to South African prisons, and also different laws on convictions of certain crimes like murder.

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An example used was a comparison between South Africa and Botswana, where it is reported that convicted murderers in Botswana face the death penalty. Justice Minister, Michael Masutha, who is also a member of the subcommittee on Peace and Stability, said the government has been working on policy proposals to address the issue.

He highlighted that the government has been developing a legislative framework for bilateral and multilateral agreements which will create a platform that will facilitate the complexity of the matter.

Masutha further pointed out that the exchanges will be done within the confines of the law and in accordance and consistent with the Constitution. He highlighted that the Constitutional Court has already set out that persons must not be extradited to countries where they are likely to be executed.

According to the ANC policy discussion document on Peace and Stability, South Africans in foreign prisons only constitute 14 per cent of the number of foreign nationals in the care of South Africa.

The document reports that as of May 2016, there were 910 South Africans in foreign prisons, compared to the 6 440 convicted prisoners in the country.

Belinda Pheto

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