Justice and Constitutional Development: Minister's Budget Speech
06 Jun 2011
Budget Vote speech by Minister JT Radebe,Minister Justice and Constitutional Development, National Assembly Parliament
7 Jun 2011
Mr Speaker/Madam Deputy Speaker
Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary
Heads of the constitutional institutions
Comrades and friends
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is with honour and privilege, that I am afforded this opportunity to present to you the Budget of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, for the coming year. But firstly, allow me to pay tribute to one of the heroines of the liberation struggle. The sudden and very sad passing on of the African National Congress (ANC) struggle veteran u Mama u Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu, took all of us by surprise, just weeks after she had cast her vote during the recent local government elections. May her selfless fighting spirit inspire all of us in our endeavour to ensure access to justice to all our people.
Honourable members and distinguished guests,
As a department charged with the mandate to entrench and protect the Constitution for the common good of society, we can say without fear of contradiction that the recent Local Government elections have further strengthened our work in consolidating our constitutionally driven democratic transformation.
Allow me also, honourable members, to make mention that this budget vote is presented during National Youth Month, when we as a nation pay even greater attention to the integration of youth in the various programmes of our development.
Honourable members and distinguished guests,
We, in the department and the justice family, are indebted to the able and guided oversight of the Portfolio Committee and this House without which we would not have been able to make any visible strides in our performance outcomes, or overcome some of the difficult challenges we encounter in executing our constitutional and legislative mandate.
It is through the guidance of the Portfolio Committee of this House that we are able to reflect on our significant achievements and successes, acknowledge missed performance targets and outcomes and make appropriate interventions to address them, tackle the challenges that lie in our path head-on and reaffirm and pledge our commitments into the future in which All South Africans will enjoy equal justice.
The qualified audit reports that the department has suffered over the years is a matter of concern to me. I have had meetings with the Auditor-General in order to understand the magnitude of the problem and the Department's officials have also appeared before Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). We are now in the course of implementing a financial turnaround strategy to improve our financial management as we work towards a No Audit Qualification by 2012/13.
The elements of the turnaround strategy are:
- Implementation of accounting systems to enable the department to produce credible financial statements.
- Implementation of human resources system that will improve the management of leave, performance, etc.
- Implementation of policies, processes, and procedures to controls across the department
- Implementation of internal audit processes to provide early warnings and carefully monitor higher risk areas.
- Full use of the support offered by National Treasury to improve the financial maturity of the department.
The focus of this budget will be mainly on the transformation of the judicial system and Access to Justice.
We have made visible progress regarding the transformation of the judicial system and the legal sector, which are at the Apex of our transformation-orientated projects. I am sure that the Judiciary, particularly the judges as well as the legal practitioners in the advocates' and attorneys' profession, respectively, are waiting anxiously for the long overdue reconstruction of their respective professions which, hitherto, are steeped in inequality, division and fragmentation that is reminiscent of the apartheid policies of the past. The current legislative framework that regulates the courts and the profession, are not suited for the post 1994 non racial and non-sexist society democratic society founded on equality and human dignity.
I take the opportunity to convey our gratitude to the Chief Justice and Heads of Courts for their constructive views on the Bills as well as commentators from the judicial and legal fraternity broadly speaking, as well as the Provincial Legislatures and other sectors of society for their invaluable submissions on the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill and the Superior Courts Bill after they were approved by Cabinet in 2010. Both these Bills have been tabled in Parliament and I trust that the submission made in respect of these Bills will enhance the final product.
The Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill provides a constitutional framework for the judiciary to take charge of court administration. It affirms the Chief Justice as the head of the judiciary and entrusts the incumbent of this highest office in the judiciary, with the authority to develop norms and standards for all courts. Flowing from the envisaged constitutional amendments, a court administration framework that is commensurate with the model of separation of powers in our Constitution will be developed.
I will seek guidance of Cabinet and this House at the appropriate time once we have come up with firm proposals from both our research and those undertaken by the Chief Justice and his office. In the interim, the President has, by Proclamation, enhanced the status of the Office of the Chief Justice to that of a national department. This has enabled his office to recruit competent professionals who will assist in developing an appropriate model of court administration.
Similarly, the revised Legal Practice Bill was approved by Cabinet in December 2010, following continued engagement with the legal profession on the initial Bill approved by Cabinet in May 2010. A ground-breaking compromise which enjoys the support of many in the profession relates to the legislative mandate proposed for the Transitional Legal Practice Council to deal with the outstanding areas of contention in the Bill within a period of 18 months.
These areas of contention are, among others, the type of regulatory structures for the profession, the appointment mechanism for the members of the regulatory structures, disciplinary mechanisms and assets and financial arrangements relating to the profession. within a prescribed period of 18 months. I am pleased to inform the House that the department and the State Law Advisers have addressed all the concerns that would have likely obstructed the certification of the Bill, and I am confident that these Bill will soon be ready for introduction into Parliament. The certification process will be finalised in a matter of days to pave the way for the introduction of this important Bill to Parliament.
A new legislative framework is needed to manage litigation against and on behalf of the State. Needless to say, the transformation of the State Legal Services forms an integral part of the transformation of the legal profession and the administration of justice broadly speaking. We have initiated a process that will culminate in the overhaul of the State
Attorney's dispensation establishment, and provide an alternative legislative framework informed by the ethos and values of the Constitution for effective institutional efficiency.
I will soon submit to Cabinet a Framework on the State's Legal Services' Reform to initiate a debate that will lead to a new legislation that will in turn provide for the establishment of a unified, development-orientated public sector legal practice, that is founded on a common vision and which is underpinned by cooperative governance principles as embodied in the Constitution. These measures will enable government to address the challenges in the management of Government's legal services.
I have requested the Rules Board for Courts of Law to develop appropriate rules to facilitate the use of court-connected mediation and court connected arbitration programmes, which have proven to be a huge success in other foreign jurisdictions. We plan to pilot these programmes in a few selected courts before the end of this year as part of the Civil Justice Reform Programme sanctioned by Cabinet.
Honourable members, with regards to the gender and racial composition of the judiciary, of the total 230 judges in all the Superior Courts, there are only 60 women judges of which 22 are African. These figures include the recent appointments made by the President after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) sitting in April 2011.
Overall, there are 94 White and 136 Black judges. It is therefore important that the as the JSC, considers we are considering other innovative ways, to encourage more women to pursue a legal career so as to create an adequate pool for eligible female judges' candidates apart from the usual practice of drawing candidates for the bench from the legal profession to replenish the pool since the legal profession, as a feeder to the judiciary, also faces the danger of consequently drying up, and that has the negative potential of diminishing the depth of jurisprudence.
The integrated interventions of the Justice Crime and Prevention cluster to fight Crime and Corruption have begun to bear fruits. The programmes of the various cluster departments respond to the eight outputs that constitute the priority interventions in the fight against crime.
In designing the programmes and legislative measures to fight Crime and Corruption, the cluster is guided by Outcome 3, namely that "A" people in South Africa are and feel safe". The Delivery Agreement in this regard sets out the joint performance targets we have set ourselves for the Cluster and we continue to measure our outcomes against the set targets. The cluster adopted the following Of the eight outputs: the following have shown visible impact on the efforts of the cluster:
- Reducing the overall levels of serious crime - in this respect serious crimes, particularly trio crimes, have considerably gone down.
- An effective criminal justice system - particular emphasis is paid to the operation and efficiency of courts at all levels.
- Corruption within the cluster combated to ensure its effectiveness and ability to serve as deterrent against crime - a corruption-based line report indicating information on cases of corruption within the JCPS has been compiled and verified.
- Perceptions of crime among the population managed and improved - annual crime survey conducted and a report will be finalised by July 2011.
- Levels of corruption reduced thus improving investor perception, trust and willingness to invest in South Africa- the Asset Forfeiture Unit as of Quarter four, seized assets to the value in excess of R468 million in 13 cases. This demonstrates Government's determination to fight corruption.
- South African Board effectively guarded and secured - Through the Inter-Agency Clearing Forum, we have phased the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at borderlines with neighbouring countries.
- Integrity of identity and status of citizens and residence secured - the National Population Register (NPR) campaign for early registration is bearing fruits.
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems integrated and cyber crime combated, the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) management turnaround strategy is earmarked to increasing the pace of integration across the CJS partners improving the efficiency of the courts and combating violence against vulnerable members of society.
- Strengthening crime combating legislation.
- Strengthening the Bail dispensation
- Systems integration and modernisation.
One of the major challenges facing the criminal justice system is the case finalisation rate which undermines the right to a fair trial. This constitutional right is expressed in the well known adage "justice delayed is justice denied".
I am hopeful that the Access to Justice Conference, initiated by the judiciary and which will take place from 7 to 11 July 2011, will go a long way in addressing the challenges facing the courts in dispensing justice. The conference, unlike past conferences which involved judges only, will also involve all the three branches of the State, the Legislature, the Executive and of course the Judiciary itself. With regards to case backlogs, which undermines the right to a fair trial, the Chief Justice has established a coordinating committee dealing with case-flow management and in particular, backlogs and delays of cases. This will in future assist in ensuring greater interaction between the Criminal Justice System role players and the judiciary.
In respect of the lower courts, between April 2010 and March 2011, the 56 Regional Court Backlog disposed off 8 111 cases, of which 5 272 cases were finalised, 2 444 withdrawn and 395 transferred. The District Backlog Courts disposed off 8 915 cases in the same period, of which 5 813 cases were finalised, 2 943 withdrawn and 159 transferred. Since 1 November 2006 until the end of March 2011, 46 127 cases were in total disposed off by the Backlog Courts. The Lower Courts and the High Courts were able to dispose off more cases than the total number of new cases enrolled. A total of 962 317 new cases were enrolled and 988 451 cases disposed off. A total of 26 134 more cases were therefore disposed than received. This is sign of very commendable progress in this regard.
Honourable members, it would be an injustice to fail to appraise the dedication by many officials in order to ensure speedy access to justice. Of particular note is the example from the Molopo district of the North West, where a number of court officials joined forces, in the true spirit of Batho Pele, to convene Saturday Courts on a voluntary basis. These courts started functioning on the ih of May 2011. In this short period, 29 out of 32 matters have been disposed off.
This team has now set itself a target of disposing off 50 matters a month from June 2011. I profusely congratulate the team in the North West, and intend encouraging such initiatives throughout all provinces to ensure that case backlogs are significantly reduced. Many of these cases would still have been on the rolls if it were not for the hard work performed by the officials in the additional backlog courts. The total number of cases disposed off from the Regional and District Court rolls, including the outputs of these backlog courts since 1 April 2010 until the end of March 2011 was a total of 17 026 cases.
We have established a National Task Team consisting of the relevant role-players from Government and the NGO's, to develop and implement an Integrated Intervention Strategy to address the rights of the LGBTI community. I expect the report of the Task Team very soon, and will engage the public on its recommendations.
As part of implementing the criminal justice system's seven point plan, the JCPS cluster is rolling out the Audio Video Remand (AVR) system for Awaiting Trial Detainees. Yesterday I launched the Mitchells Plein's AVR system. The launching of these AVR initiatives was after noting that 80% of awaiting trial detainees transported to courts are for the mere purpose of postponement. The chain duties of signing them out from correctional centres, their transportation to Courts and back to correctional centres, is not only time consuming and thereby delay court hearings due to late arrivals, but also take up many of the human resources which could optimally used otherwise. Section 159 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 was amended to enable this innovative solution.
Honourable members, it would be injustice to fail to appraise the dedication by many officials in order to ensure speedy access to justice. Of particular note is the example from the Molopo district of the North West, where a number of court officials joined forces, in the true spirit of Batho Pele, to convene Saturday Courts on a voluntary basis. These courts started functioning on 7 May 2011.
In this short period, 29 out of 32 matters have been disposed off. This team has now set itself a target of disposing off 50 matters a month from June 2011. I profusely congratulate the team in the North West, and intend encouraging such initiatives throughout all provinces to ensure that case backlogs are significantly reduced.
The overall court performance outputs for the 2010/11 indicate a clearance ration of 2.7%. The Lower Courts and the High Courts were able to dispose off more cases than the total number of new cases enrolled. A total of 962 317 new cases were enrolled and 988 451 cases disposed off. A total of 26 134 more cases were therefore disposed than received. This is sign of very commendable progress in this regard.
We have established a National Task Team consisting of the relevant role-players from Government and the NGO's, to develop and implement an Integrated Intervention Strategy to address the rights of the LGBTI community. I expect the report of the Task Team very soon, and will engage the public on its recommendations. A special team to investigate the attacks against non nationals has been established.
Access to Justice remains our primary focus. It is for that reason that we channel the bulk of our budget, (70%) to service-delivery programmes to ensure that these services are within the reach of the indigent.
The courts and the Masters' offices are the department's service delivery points that consume the bigger slice of the department's budget allocation. There are 9 on-going capital projects which have been carried forward from the 2010 MTEF, namely, the construction of new courts and the rehabilitation of existing courts, to meet the increased demands for court and office accommodation.
Three new courts have been completed, namely i.e. Galeshewe, which we launched exactly a week ago. The which has been opened, Colesburg, and Lutzville magistrates' courts which will be opened soon. The expansion of the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has also been completed will be inaugurated by the President in September 2011. New courts which are under construction are the Katlehong and Ntuzuma magistrates' courts and the Polokwane High Court. Further six projects are being have been undertaken to expand offices based in Stanger, Thembalethu, Swellendam, Riversdale, Bredasdorp.
Projects in the planning phase include the new High Court in Mpumalanga, Magistrates Courts in Mamelodi, Port Shepstone, Richards Bay, Tshilwavhusiku and Plattenberg Bay. The planned courts are in line with our principle of access to the court coined in the slogan: "Lower Court for Every Municipality or District Municipality".
The preliminary results of an audit underway on the status of the courts in the 234 Metros and Local Municipalities, undertaken as part of our Rationalisation of the Areas of Jurisdiction of the Lower Courts (formerly known as the Re-demarcation Project), has revealed that there are 14 municipalities which do not have any court infrastructure and have to access justice services, including maintenance and deceased estates, from the courts in the adjacent municipalities.
We also continue with our Programme of the Re-designation of Branch Courts as proper full services courts. I am pleased to announce that the conversion into fully fledged courts of Attridgeville, Mamelodi, Northam and Ntuzuma Branch Courts, which had to be delayed due to financial constraints, will be with effect from 1 August 2011.
All magistrates' courts in the 384 magisterial districts have now been designated as Equality Courts as part of ensuring access to justice for all our people. This has resulted in an increase in the number of cases enrolled at these courts from 447 in 2008/9 to 508 in 2009/10.
In respect of the High Courts, the principle of a "Division of the High Court for every Province" applies equally. It is in the context of this principle that the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces will each have a High Court. The construction of the court in Limpopo is underway while that an interim accommodation for the High Court for the Mpumalanga Province is being procured, pending the construction of a permanent High Court for the Province.
Closely linked with the Rationalisation of the Areas of Jurisdiction of the Lower Courts is the Programme for the Re-designation of Branch Courts as proper full services courts. Before August 2009, there were 90 Branch Courts, the largest number being in former Black township and rural areas. Fifteen of these Branch Courts have been rehabilitated and turned into proper self-standing courts. I am pleased to announce that the conversion into fully fledged courts of Attridgeville, Mamelodi, Northam and Ntuzuma Branch Courts, which had to be delayed due to financial constraints, will be with effect from 1 August 2011.
From an infrastructure point of view, office accommodation is a major challenge as we continue to appoint more personnel at the courts to deal with the increased mandates arising from new legislation. The Court Records Off-Site Storage has been introduced was introduced as part of the departments modernisation programme, as a solution to provide a system that improves the management of court records. It creates an opportunity to alleviate filing space challenges in the courts, and it provides easy access to court records for the public, the judiciary and members of the legal fraternity.
Honourable Members we have identified Maintenance and Masters' services as areas that will receive our priority focus in the 2011/12 financial year. An effective maintenance recovery and payment system has the effect of reducing the dependence of children on social security as more and more parents will be compelled to support their children.
Closely associated with our modernisation programme is the virtual library project that makes it more convenient for judicial officers and other court officials at all courts to obtain court judgments and publications on line, without the need to having to have a hard copy in court.
We are also putting more efforts to turn around the Master's offices to improve services relating to the winding up of deceased estates, the administration of insolvent estates and payments from the Guardian's Fund. The turnaround project will focus on working with clients in distress and the speedy finalisation of matters.
Interventions that form part of the turnaround strategy include the implementation of drastic measures to stamp out corruption, the implementation of electronic financial transactions, to improve turnaround times, online databases to address the credibility of the administration of insolvent estates; automation of Master's services, the rollout of the ICMS Masters (Integrated Case Management System) to all Masters offices as well as the implementation of an effective communication strategy on the work of the Master's offices. Our emphasis on the Electronic Fund Transfer payment system for Maintenance and Guardian Fund in terms of which payment are made directly into beneficiaries' bank accounts seeks to increase efficiency while reducing fraud and corruption in the handling of Third Party funds. The Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) has been approached to assist in this regard.
We are also taking initiatives to enhance the capacity of the court administration through the Court Capacitation Project of the Justice Sector Strengthening Program (JSSP), which is an eighteen month USAID funded project being implemented by the National Centre for State Courts (NCSC) to DOJCD. The objective of the project is the provision of operational and technical support with the view of mproving and strengthening Court Management, Integrated Case flow Management System (ICFMS) and Court Automation which are key components of court administration reform. The project will lend support towards crafting a model in line with international best practices on court management which includes developing a cadre of professional court managers and improved court processes and systems.
Three sets of TRC Regulations to effect reparations to the victims and communities of the Apartheid atrocities and gross human rights violations have been drafted and were published in the Gazette in May 2011 for comments.
Honourable Members will no doubt recall that late last year this House approved an amendment to the RICA legislation dealing with the interception of communications for purposes of crime prevention and detection by extending the deadline for the registration of cell phone SIM Cards from 31 December 2010 to 30 June 2011. That is three weeks away. Let all be reminded! Everyone's compliance with this statutory requirement is part of the Government's effort to fight crime. I wish to stress that there will be no further extension.
With regards to the key legislation, the department has also prioritised implementation to enhance efficiency of the administration of justice. Amongst these pieces of legislation are the Judicial Service Commission Amendment Act, 2008, the Child Justice Act of 2008 and the Child Act of 2005.
Apart from the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill, the Superior Courts Bill and the Legal Practice Bill to which I have referred to in my introduction, there are a number of other Bills which we aim to introduce in Parliament this year. These include the Constitution Amendment Bill amending Schedule 4 to the Constitution in so far as it relates to education, the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill which is intended to delink the NPA from the Department from an administrative point of view and legislation to address hate speech, xenophobia and related intolerance.
I must also mention the Muslim Marriages Bill which is part of on-going has been subjected to a broad consultation process. The Bill aims to give statutory recognition to Muslim marriages, the absence of which gives rise to countless instances of hardship, particularly in the case of women and children who find themselves in distressing situations when these marriages fail and are terminated.
Honourable members will probably have already noted that the Traditional Courts Bill has been withdrawn from this House and will be re-introduced in the NCOP soon. The NCOP, because the Bill impacts on provinces and is a legislative competence referred to in Schedule 4 to the Constitution, is probably better placed to deal with the crucial issues that emanate from the Bill.
Allow me to provide you with the budget allocations relative to the Programmes and commitments I have outlined in my address. A total budget of R13, 518 billion has been allocated to the department for the 2011/12 financial year. Of this budget allocation, R4, 342 billion is allocated to the Court Services programme, R2, 640 billion is for the NPA and R1,656 billion for Public Entities and Chapterand Chapter 9 Institutions. Much of this increase has been set aside for improving the capacity at our courts, the improved implementation of legislation that addresses rights of the most vulnerable and providing court services, hence the large increases in the Court Services (35.7 percent), State Legal Services (14.0 percent) and National Prosecuting Authority (9.2 percent) programmes over the MTEF period.
Savings of R33.3 million in the 2011/12 financial year and R35.2 million in 2012/13 and R37.1 million in 2013/14 have been identified in selected goods and services items, by reducing spending in advertising, communication, catering and entertainment, stationery and printing, travel and subsistence, venues and facilities.
The 2011 Budget sets out additional allocations of R477.0 million in the 2011/12 financial year, R1.2 billion in 2012/13 and R1.4 million in 2013/14 for: increasing regional capacity (R180 million); building new courts (R490 million); implementing legislation concerning vulnerable groups (R175 million); renewing ICT infrastructure (R210 million); the United in Diversity presidential initiative (R45 million); improving conditions of service and implementing the second phase of the occupation specific dispensation for legally qualified professionals (R938.4 million); increasing the department's baseline for accommodation charges (R240.9 million); appointing more judges and magistrates, including secretarial support (R437.5 million); and adding capacity in Legal Aid South Africa, the Special Investigating Unit, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Public Protector (R405.6 million).
Over the next three years, the department will spend R2,5 billion on the construction of courts and other infrastructure projects. A further R87 million will be spent on day to day maintenance and R265 million on rehabilitation of court facilities over the next three years.
An amount of R225 million has been earmarked in 2011/12 for DOJ&CD, NPA and the Legal Aid Board for the reduction in criminal case backlogs in regional and district courts. R86 million, R202 million and R214 million has been allocated over the next 3 years for the implementation of the Children Act, Child Justice act and Sexual Offences act.
A total amount of R2,7 billion has been allocated in 2010/11 for regional operations to fund operations of lower and high courts. In 2011/12 the department envisage to spend R1,9 billion on Public Prosecutions, R138 million on witness protection, R106 million on Asset Forfeiture, R194 million on the Special Investigating Unit and R1,1 billion on the Legal Aid Board. In support for constitutional institution, the department will transfer R89 million to the Human Rights Commission and R143 million to the Public Protector.
In line with the Government's commitment to Job Creation, we have, earmarked the following:
- R450 million will be spent on the filling of 200 new positions at the courts
- R29 million for 90 new positions in the CFO's office
- R13 million to appoint 65 additional Maintenance Investigators
- R23 million for the appointment of 130 Intermediaries
- R17,4 million for Children's Court Clerks
- R12 million for 111 new posts of Child Justice Courts clerks
- R40 million for Legal Aid South Africa candidate attorneys
Honourable members, this Budget that we have presented here today is our firm commitment towards achieving the various goals that we have set for ourselves as I have alreadyarticulated. It is the blue print against which we will be assessed as to the strides we are making in ensuring access to justice for all our people, and that all our people are and feel safe.
Honourable members might recall that in the Departmental Strategy that we tabled in the House early this year, we have identified Maintenance and Masters' services as two of the three areas that would receive our priority focus in the 2011/12 financial year. The third relates to audit compliance. An effective maintenancerecovery and payment system will reduce the dependence of children on social security as more and more parents will be compelled to support their children.
We continue to appoint more maintenance investigators to trace and locate errant parents and hidden assets to provide for their children as part of improving the maintenance system. In this regard, I have met with the Auditor-General in order to understand the magnitude of the audit compliance challenge and have impressed upon the Director-General and her management the urgency of improving financial management and compliance.
Appropriate interventions, which include the increased capacity to deal with Third Party funds which have been a thorny issue for years, the enhancement of the accountability arrangements of the National Prosecuting Authority and the improvement of our organisational efficiency, form part of the department's 2012/13 No Audit Qualification Goal.
As I conclude, Allow me to convey my gratitude to Chief Justice Ngcobo for his profound sterling leadership in making remarkable progress with regard to the transformation of the judiciary. We congratulate him on the extension of his tenure as Chief Justice for a further period of five years.
Please allow me also to thank my Deputy Minister, Mr Andries Nel for his continued sterling support, my colleagues in the JCPS Cluster, my Director-General, Ms Nonkululeko Sindane, and her management for their tireless support, the Heads and Chairpersons of statutory bodies, Heads of Courts and members of the judiciary and the entire staff in the justice family.
Lastly and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, Bridgette and my family who have always been at by my side through the many challenges I have faced in the execution of my responsibilities.
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
7 Jun 2011
Address by Mr Andries Nel, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development during the Debate on Budget Vote: Justice And Constitutional Development
7 Jun 2011
Heads of Court and Members of the Judiciary
Heads of Constitutional Institutions
Comrades and friends
Ladies and gentlemen
Chairperson, 27 years ago in 1984 the people of South Africa marked the first anniversary of the United Democratic Front (UDF). On this occasion one of its co-presidents said:
“Sons and daughters
To me today I’m a great big mother
For today our multiracial baby is born
For today our baby that will rule this South Africa in future is born
The multiracial baby, the United Democratic Front
Which is uniting the people to speak with one voice
Which is uniting the people with the truth
Which is uniting the people to say no to the Koornhof Laws
Which is uniting the people to say away with the New Constitution, because it doesn’t give us freedom”
Chairperson, these were the words of the late Ma Albertina Sisulu.
Today, because of the selfless struggle that she and so many others waged, we do have a Constitution seeks to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; a Constitution that provides us with both the vision and the institutional framework to guarantee to all South Africans, united in our diversity, human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.
We must continue to work together to unite all in our society with this truth.
Government’s five priorities of education, health, creating jobs, rural development and land reform as well as fighting crime and corruption are guided by this vision.
Everything we do in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is done in pursuit of making real the vision mandated by our Constitution of a transformed and accessible justice system, which promotes and protects social justice, fundamental human rights and freedoms by providing transparent, responsive and accountable justice for all.
Next week we commemorate the thirty fifth anniversary of the 16 June uprising in 1976 under theme, “Youth Action for Economic Freedom in our Lifetime”, reminding us of the enormous contribution young people have made and continue to make to our struggle for liberation and the need to realise the socio-economic rights contained in our Constitution.
The legislative programme outlined by the Minister will require careful management and co-ordination by and between the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
In this regard, we look forward to regular interaction with the relevant Portfolio and Select Committees. And would like to thank their Mr L Landers and members of the Portfolio Committee.
Significantly, this programme contains the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill, which seeks, among others, to lay the basis for establishing a transformed and unified judiciary.
This will involve, amongst others, harmonisation of the work of the Judicial Service Commission and the Magistrates Commission with a view to establishing uniform norms and standards for the appointment of, and handling of complaints concerning judicial officers.
I would like to thank Judge President Bernard Ngoepe for his sterling contribution over many years to the work of the Magistrates Commission.
Let me also congratulate Judge Frans Legodi on his appointment as the new chairperson. I am confident that under his leadership the commission will travel even further along the transformation highway.
In this regard, it is significant that of the 80 newly appointed district magistrates during the 2010/11 financial year, 66 are Black and 14 are White. Forty-six of these newly appointed magistrates are women. During the same period 26 regional magistrates were appointed of which 23 are black and three white. Ten of these regional magistrates are women.
During this period a total of 2 031 acting appointments of magistrates were made. We are exploring ways of using this process further to accelerate the process of transforming our district and regional court benches, including making this process more open, transparent and structured and also enlarging the pool from which appointments are made.
The South African Judicial Education Institute Act of 2008 has already established a single framework for the training of judges and magistrates.
With effect from April 2011, the judicial training programme of the Justice College has now been formally integrated into the programme of the South African Judicial Education Institute.
The Council of the Institute tasked the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice to direct the work of the Institute with the assistance of appropriately qualified administrative staff.
The first judicial education programmes will be implemented soon after the important Access to Justice Conference scheduled for 7 to 11 July 2011.
Guided by vision contained in the Constitution that Ma Albertina Sisulu struggled for, that of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, we continue to provide strategic support to independent institutions supporting constitutional democracy to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.
We express our gratitude to Advocate Thuli Madonsela and Advocate Lawrence Mushwana and members of the HRC.
We also continue to work with civil society to promote access to justice. The department’s Access to Justice and Promotion of Constitutional Rights Programme has moved with speed in utilising more than R200 million to provide a number of grants to civil society organisations through the Foundation for Human Rights. We thank Ms Yasmin Sooka and other members of the foundation.
Priority is being given to the most vulnerable in society - women and children, rural and urban poor communities, farm workers, people affected by HIV and AIDS, child headed households, people affected by violations of human rights, the aged, persons with disabilities, youth including children in prisons and foreign nationals in need of assistance.
We thank the European Union for their support and partnership in this vitally important programme.
Legal Aid South Africa (LASA) has been very effective in utilising a budget of more than R1 billion to execute the constitutional imperative of providing legal aid to indigent accused persons and vulnerable litigants. LASA now provides legal aid services at all our criminal courts through a national network of 64 Justice Centres and 64 Satellite Offices staffed by 1 600 salaried in-house legal representatives and access to over 4 500 accredited lawyers.
During the 2010/11 financial year LASA provided legal services in 421 365 legal matters, comprising assistance in 389 914 criminal legal matters and 31 451 civil legal matters. Through these legal services 25 586 children were assisted in criminal matters and 2 529 children in civil matters.
The Legal Aid Advice Line was launched in November 2010, facilitating telephonic access of primary legal assistance by persons from across the country and especially from rural areas, thus increasing access to justice. Since then, the Legal Aid Advice line has assisted over 13 926 callers. We thank Judge President of the Labour Court Dunstan Mlambo and CEO Vidu Videlankar.
The South African Law Reform Commission continues to make an invaluable contribution to the development, improvement, modernisation and reform of our law through their research and recommendations. The focus of the statutory law revision project is to ensure the constitutionality of the entire statute book. The Commission will play an important role in the review of the civil justice system, which is our flagship project in the 2011 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) cycle. We thank chairperson Judge Yvonne Mokgoro.
In this regard also, the department will, through the Sheriffs’ Transformation Programme strengthen the regulatory framework to address the transformation challenges in the appointment of sheriffs and the service and execution of civil processes. We will also prioritise the filling of the 230 vacant offices, which are currently filled on acting basis. We thank outgoing chair Judge Nathan Erasmus and Acting Chairperson Ms Charmaine Mabuza.
When it comes to access to justice, Small Claims Courts demonstrate clearly that size does matter and that small is big.
We continue to increase both the number and the capacity of our Small Claims Courts. We have to date established 224 Small Claims Courts - 26 of which during the past year - with the emphasis on rural and remote communities. In addition, 17 inactive Small Claims Courts were revived and 229 Commissioners were appointed during the past year. We are on course to establish a Small Claims Court in each of our 384 magisterial districts.
The monetary jurisdiction of Small Claims Courts has been increased from R7 000 to R12 000, enabling more litigants to institute claims in an informal and cost effective manner.
Awareness of the services offered by Small Claims Courts has increased. During the past year no fewer than 400 000 cases dealt with in our Small Claims Courts.
We will continue to improve legislative and administrative framework of the Small Claims Courts.
We thank the Swiss Agency for Development and all commissioners and clerks of Small Claims Courts.
As Honourable Members know, all magistrates’ courts are now designated as Equality Courts. This has resulted in an increase in the number of cases enrolled at these courts from 447 in 2008/09 to 508 in 2009/10.
Equality Courts dealt with a total of 320 cases and enquiries between 1 April and 30 September 2010. Of these, 100 have been disposed off. The majority of matters relate to hate speech and unfair discrimination.
The United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have adopted a Resolution declaring 2011, the International Year for People of African Descent, to mark the 10th Anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances.
The department will be working with all sectors in our society to finalise our National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances (NAP).
In a fortnight we will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on 27 June 1981 and later this year, on 21 October, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of African Human Rights Day, the day on which the African Charter came into effect.
We have during the past year, together with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation participated in a number of international fora relating to justice matters.
One of these was the Review Conference of the International Criminal Court held in Kampala in June 2010.
Our support for the International Criminal Court is a principled one that reflects our commitment to the foundational values of our own Constitution as well as that of the African Union.
The AU Constitutive Act affirms the sovereignty of the state as represented by the people and not just governments. It grants participation of African people in the activities of the Union and promises never again to be blind, deaf or mute to the evils of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity by granting powers to the Union to intervene in States where these crimes are committed.
Speaking at the second Conference of African National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Durban on 1 July 1998, former President Nelson Mandela said that:
"We have sought to ensure that the International Criminal Court is guaranteed independence and bestowed with adequate powers. Our own continent has suffered enough horrors emanating from the inhumanity of human beings towards human beings. Who knows, many of these might not have occurred, or at least been minimised, had there been an effectively functioning International Criminal Court."
African States were amongst the most ardent proponents of the creation of the International Criminal Court during the negotiations leading to the adoption of the Rome Statute. It is also no accident that with 31 States Parties, Africa remains the biggest single regional block in the Assembly of 115 States Parties to the Rome Statute.
South Africa views the International Criminal Court, not in isolation, but as an important element in a new system of international law and governance.
The importance of the International Criminal Court needs to be seen in the context of the need for the fundamental reform of the system of global governance. As President Jacob Zuma said, "We argue that the affairs of the world of today cannot continue to be managed by the existing institutions of global governance unless they undergo fundamental reform."
In this regard, and in relation to the International Criminal Court, former UN Secretary-General Koffi Anan, speaking during the opening session of the Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala said:
"And questions of credibility will persist so long as three of the five permanent members of the Security Council refuse to reconsider their position and join those who have taken the courageous step to become parties to the Statute. The same is valid for countries that aspire to permanent membership. Indeed, the problem is not limited to the Security Council. Six of the G20 have not ratified the Rome Statute.
"The States Parties to this historic Statute must therefore pose the question, “What kind of leadership is this which would absolve the powerful from the rules they apply to the weak?” A laggard leadership is no excuse.”
It is the lack of transformation of these institutions, the UN Security Council (UNSC), as well as less than judicious pronouncements by certain officials linked to the Court that is responsible for the perception that the ICC focusses exclusively on Africa.
The point has been made by, amongst others, our Chief Justice that this is a wrong perception. Of the five matters before the Court, three were referred by African States, one by the United Nations Security Council (and one was initiated by the Prosecutor. This does not mean that the Prosector should not expedite the investigation of the many other situations elsewhere in the world.
Time does not allow me to address a number of important matters related to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal.
Suffice to say that we have argued in various fora that we must at all times safeguard jealously those institutions that we collectively have created. Where these institutions are found to have shortcomings our responsibility is to address the shortcomings, never to discard or discredit the institutions.
We do so based on the conviction, expressed by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the opening of the Harare Agricultural Show in Zimbabwe on 29 August 2009, that:
"Africa cannot only be defined by geography. We should also come together around a set of values that define our humanity. For this reason the promotion of democracy, the respect for human rights and the improvement of governance are vital for our success as a continent."
In conclusion, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Minister for his comradeship, support and guidance at a personal level as well as his principled and decisive leadership of the Department and the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster. Our ever hard working and even keeled Director-General and the officials of the Department.
Our deep appreciation also goes to the long suffering, ever diligent and also ever sleep deprived officials in the Ministry. Last and most, appreciation to my favourite member of the legal profession, the one I receive most excellent pro bono support from, my wife Kim Robinson.
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
7 Jun 2011
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