During a trial, if someone knows crucial information about the accused party or a deed that they committed, they are considered as essential witnesses. However, these people sometimes fail to tell about information that can play a significant role in trials. The SA's witness protection program is meant to ensure that these individuals confidently speak out without the fear of intimidation or getting hurt.
The successful and fair prosecution of crimes is significantly dependent on the reliability of the available evidence. The testimonies provided by different individuals play a crucial role in court cases; hence, they play a pivotal point in the process. However, many times witnesses withdraw from proceedings for several reasons, among them is the fear of getting harmed or intimidated. These reasons call for the need to have a program that ensures the security of these individuals. How about delving in for more details about SA's witness protection program?
Witness protection meaning
If you have vital information about a court case and you are worried about your safety and the safety of your family, you can apply for protection. If you are afraid of coming out to apply, you can have someone else do it for you. It is a voluntary program that can be accessed by any of the following individuals:
- Anyone who testifies in court.
- Anyone who has to give evidence in the future.
- Anyone who is making an affidavit.
- Anyone who has given evidence in the past.
Temporary witness protection
When you come out to apply for this program, an officer is assigned to you to protect you from any dangerous situations. The officer will require you to fill in a form and will also examine the situation to determine whether you require protection or not. Then, the Director of the Witness Protection Unit will be informed that you have been placed on temporary witness protection for 48 hours.
You will be placed under temporary security for not more than two weeks. During this time, the witness protection officer will go through the application to assess the level of risk. You will also be placed under psychological assessment. The officer will then get back to the director who will decide whether or not to extend the duration of the protection or to place you under permanent witness protection.
Permanent witness protection
This kind of security is offered in cases where the level of risk is high. For you to receive this protection, you have to sign a couple of documents to prove that you will not reveal information about the program. Signing the documents ensures your safety and that of those who are offering the protection. However, it does not last for the rest of your life. It lasts for as long as the threat against your life lasts.
Witness protection for a minor
A parent or a guardian can apply for protection for their child if:
- He or she suspects that the child is a suspect.
- If the guardian cannot be found.
- If the child does not have a guardian.
How does witness protection work?
Permanent witness protection involves the following:
- The individual and his extended family are provided safe housing (the program takes care of the accommodation charges).
- The individual is relocated from where they live if it is necessary.
- Access to a clinical psychologist who will conduct an assessment of any forms of traumas related to the case.
- The witness will have to go through an induction program to highlight what is expected of them.
- Funding for basic needs in the case that witness is unemployed
- Replacement salary in the case that the witness is employed
- If your children are accompanying you to the program, the program will arrange for them to go to school.
Discharge from the program
The discharge from the program depends on two factors;
- When the individual discloses information about the program since it discourages information peddling. Therefore, if one breaks the witness protection program rules, they are automatically sent away.
- When the individual feels confident about their security. The Witness Protection Unit South Africa provides after-care for individuals to adjust back to their lives.
Witness protection program South Africa
The National Prosecuting Authority's witness protection program is a special unit that offers a safe space for individuals who have information that can be used in cracking criminal activities. For the past sixteen years, it has been in operation, and it boasts of a clean record of no witness being hurt. Not only does it ensure the safety of individuals during the progress of the prosecution, but it also ensures that they integrated back into society after the prosecution.
The answers to these questions will help you learn more about the program.
How do I apply for protection in South Africa?
You can apply for the protection to the detective investing the case or anyone in charge of the police station.
How long are you in the witness protection program?
The duration of temporary protection is two weeks, while permanent protection lasts for as long as the risk lasts.
What happens if you go into witness protection?
The process involves being put in a safe house, and during this time, the officers will conduct a risk assessment. The individual will also go through a psychological evaluation to help with the trauma caused by the incident.
Can a witness refuse to testify in South Africa?
In cases where privilege is accorded, the witness is only allowed not to answer a couple of questions, although they cannot fail to testify in court.
Do you get paid to be in witness protection?
If you are not employed, the program takes care of your basic needs, and if you are employed, it offers you your salary.
How long does a person stay in witness protection?
One stays in temporary protection for two weeks, although the risk level determines the duration of permanent protection; however, it cannot last for a lifetime.
Can you come out of witness protection?
Yes, you can leave the program once you are confident about your security.
The South African judicial system aims at ensuring that there is a fair trial for cases. Thus, it encourages individuals who have any information that can be beneficial in cracking court cases to come forward. The witness protection program facilitates the security of these individuals. It also ensures that they are not intimidated in any way during the process.
Vtjie Mentor, the former member of the parliament of the ANC, is known by many to be the party's whistleblower. He was one of the individuals who exposed the state capture in the country. Herman Mashaba reacted to his move by stating that more influential political figures would join his political party.