n Law, Democracy & Development - Ethics and the problem of evil :

Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



In , the accused, Makwanyane and Mchunu, were convicted by the court on four counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances. Upon appeal the Appellate Division came to the conclusion that the circumstances of the murders were such that the accused should receive the heaviest sentence permissible by law, at that stage, the death penalty. In the Constitutional Court Kentridge J described the acts of the accused as 'murders of horrifying callousness motivated by nothing but greed'. Although the case is generally regarded as a landmark decision in South African legal history, the facts are sadly, in general terms, neither new nor unique. Throughout most of human history, it has been the difficult and distressing task of judges to deal with inhuman acts committed by humans and to make decisions about the fate of those members of society who have committed 'evil' acts. Historically, this judgment upon evil is the traditional, perhaps most traditional, duty of judges. It may therefore be fitting that the Constitutional Court started its career performing this rather unenviable but time-honoured function.

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