Adv Roux is right that s 197 of the Criminal Procedure Act only allows the prosecution to cross-examine the accused as to his bad character if the accused testifies as to his good character. This is the statutory position – but it is not exhaustive of the law on the issue.
At common law (the law made by court judgements), it seems that the prosecution enjoys the right to produce what may be regarded as new evidence of bad character, in response to an accused who testifies as to his/her good character. (Schwikkard, Principles of Evidence, p 61).
Zeffertt & Paizes (South African Law of Evidence) state that: “Although it is most unusual, the prosecution may counter evidence of good character by calling a witness to swear to the accused’s bad character” (p 249). Zeffertt and Paizes cite
R v Rowton ((1865) Le & CA 520, 169, ER 1497) on this point, and, to be fair, the concept of bad character, in this case, was understood in what appears now to be an outdated mode: of character as restricted to general reputation. Nevertheless, and however it is understood, it would seem that since the prosecution may produce new evidence as to bad character from a witness, it may, in principle, produce new evidence in response to an accused who puts his own character in issue.

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