More than 3,000 sex offenders have been added the country’s ever-growing list of transgressors over the past four years, with recent responses received in the National Assembly revealing not only a countrywide, but a provincial breakdown.
Democratic Alliance (DA) Limpopo Provincial Legislature member Désirée van der Walt requested updated information on the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO), from between January 2017 and November 2021.
Van der Walt also wanted to know how many of these offenders had applied for their names to be removed from the register, through a process called Form 8, figures The Citizen has seen.
In his response, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola said data sets of the NRSO were constantly changing due to “day-to-day activities made in the register, which include entries and removals of particulars of sex offenders.”
What is the NRSO?
The NRSO, established by an Act of Parliament in 2007, is a record of the names of those found guilty of sexual offences against children and mentally disabled people.
Employers in the public and private sectors, such as schools, creches, and hospitals, have the right to check the register to ensure the person they are hiring is fit to work with children or those who are mentally disabled.
The NRSO is confidential, and can only be accessed by certain establishments.
The latest NSRO data revealed the most sex offenders currently resided in KwaZulu-Natal.
This was followed by the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, and the Free State.
The most amount of sex offenders added to the list occurred from 1 January to 31 December 2019, and the least from 1 January to 15 November 2021.
Here are the provincial totals, in order of the most amount of offenders:
- KwaZulu-Natal: 640
- Western Cape: 561
- Eastern Cape: 478
- Free State: 422
- Gauteng: 283
- Mpumalanga: 252
- Limpopo: 224
- North West: 197
- Northern Cape: 66
Why are sex offenders taken off the NRSO?
According to section 51 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2007, some registered sex offenders are able to apply to the registrar to have their details removed from the NRSO.
These include anyone not sentenced for longer than 18 months imprisonment, and an offender with only one conviction. Anyone exceeding these requirements is not eligible for NRSO removal.
These applications, received through Form 8, must first be considered by the registrar, before being granted.
The system has since become electronic, which resulted in a delay in issuing clearance certificates.
There was also a delay in data entry from September to November 2021.
Lamola explained the spectrum of applicants, which includes employers of employees who work directly with children or people with mental disabilities.
In total, 14,705 sex offenders have applied to be erased from the database, excluding the backlog of 1,972 applications.
Last year, around 1,044 sex offenders applied for clearance certificates through Form 8 applications.
Why is the NRSO not public?
Calls have long been made to allow the public to access the NRSO, but due to refusals from experts to the department itself, this prospect does not seem likely.
Justice and Correctional Services spokesperson Chrispin Phiri told News24 in 2019 making the register public would mean going through a legislative process in Parliament, to look at if registration and notification laws influenced crime rates in other jurisdictions, and if registration and notification laws influenced factors other than recidivism.
Lamola would have to draft a bill, which would undergo a Parliamentary legislative process.
“The minister is currently looking at the Sexual Offences Act through a victim-centric approach and overhauling it in its entirety,” Phiri added.