President Cyril Ramaphosa’s calls for South Africa’s National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO) to be made public after the recent surge in femicide and sexual assaults have been welcomed by many in the country, but the risks of doing so are not negligible. The registrar of the NRSO has subsequently stated that while the register does carry weight and makes certain useful provisions, it will not necessarily prevent those previously convicted from being employed or deny convicts who have served their sentences the right to socio-economic participation.
“The reason for the NRSO is it carries all the details of people, irrespective of gender, who have been convicted of committing sexual offences against children and people who are mentally disabled,” said Registrar of the NRSO, Ntombizodwa Matjila.
“…it ensures that anyone who has been convicted of a sexual offence against a child or person who is mentally disabled cannot work with, have access to, or have any supervisory position over a child or someone mentally disabled.”
According to Matjila, then, the consequences a person listed on the NRSO would be faced with are centred around the prevention of access to, and control over, the most vulnerable in society.
However, despite the risks attached to allowing previously convicted individuals of this nature back into the workplace and society, the NRSO cannot, and will not, deny anyone “the right to socioeconomic participation”.
“In terms of the constitution, we cannot deny anyone the right to socioeconomic participation. Everyone has the right to work, irrespective of whether or not they have a criminal record.”
“Whether or not we make the register public, we are going to have people who have previous convictions working elsewhere,” said Matjila.
The risks of making the register public are not insignificant and the matter will be thoroughly discussed and considered before a decision is made.
Matjila mentioned that one of the arguments for the list to not be released is that families could be threatened as a result of one individual’s actions. Additionally, several pieces of legislation currently protect privacy and personal information.
“The releasing is still to be considered because we have in place a number of pieces of legislation that actually protect a person’s right to privacy…all the pieces of legislation combined deal with the protection of personal information,” said Matjila.