Indefinite imprisonment in South Africa: The difference between life and indefinite imprisonment
Africa Criminal Justice Reform
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In May 2018, Pieter Van Tonder was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment in the Cape High Court. Van Tonder brutally assaulted and murdered the 16-month old baby of his ex-girlfriend. This case happened shortly after the Grahamstown High Court sentenced Lonwabo Solontsi, dubbed in the media as ‘South Africa's worst serial rapist’ to indefinite imprisonment after being convicted of 39 counts of rape and 28 other serious crimes. In both cases, the accused committed extremely serious offences. However, the imposition of indefinite imprisonment is not commonly heard of. This prompted the question: What is the difference between life imprisonment and indefinite imprisonment? This factsheet seeks to address these differences and also defines the concepts of being declared a dangerous versus a habitual criminal in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.