Minister of Justice and Correctional Services (Office of Chief Justice Budget Speech), responses by DA, IFP, EFF, FF+


12 May 2022

Watch: Mini-plenary

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, MP Budget Vote Speech for the Office the Chief Justice 2022/23 Delivered Virtual, 12 May 2022

Honourable House Chair,

Honourable Bulelani Magwanishe Portfolio Committee Chairperson

Honourable Members

Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery

Deputy Minister for Correctional Services Patekile Holomisa

Ministers and Deputy Ministers present on the platform

Secretary General of the Office the Chief Justice Mme Sejosengwe

Significant events have occurred in the month of May in our nation.

On the 8th of May 1996, the National Assembly adopted our Constitution.  The world at large witnessed the seminal “I am an African” speech by our then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. 

That Constitution which was adopted by the National Assembly has been celebrated across the globe as a model Constitution and beckon of hope for the advancement of democracy and equality.

It is worth noting that President Mbeki’s statement, “I am an African” still eludes today in our daily lives.  Many of us black and white remain enchanted by psychological constructs of apartheid.  Too many of us think that we can be defined outside of the African continent.

We are Africans, we owe our beings to Queen Nzinga of Angola, King Mansa Musa, to Presidents Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel to our very own President Mandela.

At times the calibre of our leadership has had the pioneering effect of creating a new world order.

Incidentally, house chair May is also the month in which history records the passing of a South African academic, an African National Congress leader, lecturer at the University of Fort Hare and Botswana’s first ambassador to the United States of America and envoy to the United Nations, Zacharia Keodirelang Matthews.

It was ZK Matthews who was the intellectual engine room behind the creation of the Freedom Charter which became the foundation of our Constitution.

As we celebrate our Constitution, we also celebrate our Judiciary, which derives its authority from section 165 of the Constitution.

We are thankful to the crafters of our Constitution for the protections afforded the Judiciary to allow it to apply the law impartially and without fear, favour, or prejudice.

I take this opportunity to extend warm congratulations to Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who was appointed the Head of the Judiciary and the Constitutional Court by His Excellency President Ramaphosa, effective 1 April 2022.

We look forward to working with the Chief Justice in our efforts to assist and protect the courts to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility, and effectiveness, in line with section 165(4) of the Constitution.

The judiciary are the guardians of this Constitution.  To advance a judicial support we are tabling before this democratic institution a budget of R1.266 billion for voted funds and a further direct charge to the National Revenue Fund of R1.122 billion for Judges’ remuneration.

The budget comprises of the OCJ’s core Programmes, Superior Courts and Judicial Education and Support, are allocated 79.8% of the total budget.

The budget cutbacks implemented since 2020/21 financial year have reduced the 2022/23 voted budget allocation of the OCJ by R144.4 million (10.2%). 

The effect of this resource scaling back means that the compensation of employees’ budget of the Department has been reduced by R116.1 million (13%) and the budget of Judges’ salaries has been reduced by R183.3 million (14%) for the 2022/23 financial year.

A 5.5% reduction to the operational budget has also been implemented, translating to an effective R28.3 million reduction.

The prioritisation of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years resulted in the scaling back of budgets across Government.

The impact of these budget cuts continues to be felt today. Further, the country’s economy has been adversely affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and it continues to struggle to grow at the desired rate.

However, most key indicators suggest that the country’s economy is slowly mending; but the pace of recovery has been too slow to translate into a sustained recovery. 

As such, we must be innovative and develop new ways of operating under these constrained conditions for us to keep the courts operational.

The current budget constraints faced by the OCJ necessitate that it finds ways to address its expanding workload by doing more with less and ensure that it delivers the required services despite immediate challenges.

The 2022/23 financial year budget, therefore, considers this important factor and prioritises measures to keep our courts open whilst also ensuring the safety of court users and officials.
The OCJ will continue to reprioritise its budget and operations to ensure that the delivery of core services, namely, support to the courts, is not adversely affected.

The OCJ has put in place measures to ensure that its resources are not misused through fraud and corruption. One of the key priorities of the OCJ is embedding a culture of ethics within its ranks.

To this end, the OCJ has established an Ethics Committee in line with the applicable prescripts. A crucial area of work for this Committee is the monitoring of compliance relating to officials doing remunerative work outside the public service, and officials doing business with the State.

This year marks ten years since the adoption by all parties in Parliament of the National Development Plan 2030, the NDP, which serves as an action plan for securing the future of South Africans as charted in the Constitution. 

The OCJ supports the Judiciary in its contribution to Chapter 14 of the NDP: Promoting Accountability and Fighting Corruption. To this end, the focus area for the Judiciary is in strengthening judicial governance and the rule of law.

Honourable Members,

This focus area is fundamental in guiding the development of the strategic priorities as outlined in the 2022/23 OCJ Annual Performance Plan, the APP.
The OCJ’s 2022/23 APP therefore articulates key priority areas which are central to improving the governance and efficiency of the Department. They are as follows:

Implementing initiatives that contribute to broadening and improving access to justice and the service of the Superior Courts;

Modernisation and Training:

Improving efficiencies in court administration through modernisation of the system, processes, and infrastructure; and Implementing initiatives to address the impact of COVID-19 on the operations of the courts.

The OCJ will also continue providing training to the Judges and aspirant Judges through the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI), in line with the objective of Chapter 14 of the NDP. Incidentally, SAJEI also marks ten years since it commenced with its operations.

To mark this milestone, SAJEI has identified several activities to implement. It has recently held an international webinar under the leadership of the then Acting Chief Justice on judicial training principles attended by 125 representatives from 18 countries, giving SAJEI a regional and international footprint. This is an achievement to be applauded.

SAJEI is also working on a book on judicial training in Africa to mark its tenth anniversary. Other notable achievements by the SAJEI are as follows:

SAJEI publishes a journal on Judicial education related matters annually. To date, SAJEI has published five Issues. The journal is available on the website of the OCJ.

SAJEI launched an annual programme called Human Rights week for Judicial officers during the first week of December. The focus of the programme is on human rights related topics such HIV/TB, AIDS, and Human Rights, LGBTQI+, Gender stereotyping, Judicial Wellness, Socio-Economic Rights, Refugee Rights and Stateless children.

In line with section 5(1) (f) of the SAJEI Act, 2008, which determines that one of the functions of SAJEI is to render such assistance to foreign judicial institutions and courts as may be agreed upon by the SAJEI Council, it has initiated projects in Africa and conducted the following training programmes:

SAJEI initiated the integration of Environmental Law into judicial curricula on the African continent. The initiative led to the establishment of the African Judicial Education Network on Environmental Law (AJENEL), launched in Maputo in 2018.

SAJEI serves as the Secretariat. To date, several institutions in Africa have produced training materials on Environmental Law including on Illegal Wildlife Trade.

SAJEI has invited Judges and Magistrates of foreign judiciaries to its seminars and webinars. For example, members of the judiciary, especially Judicial Educators, were invited to a webinar on implementing training in the new normal times and how to conduct virtual hearings.

The aim of the webinar was to assist in ensuring that training takes place despite the pandemic.

SAJEI has successfully conducted training of newly appointed Judges and Magistrates in Botswana at the request of the honourable Chief Justice of Botswana.

In line with the objectives of the SAJEI Act 14 of 2008, the Institute has called for applications for Aspirant Women Judges programme in January 2022. It is envisaged that the training will be for about a year, including mentoring at various High Courts.

We commend the SAJEI for the sterling work it continues to do in ensuring the capacitation of not only South African Judicial Officers, but of Judicial Officers in other parts of our continent as well.

Honourable Members,

Modernisation and digitisation of the court system remain a key priority for the OCJ to improve access to quality justice for all.

The use of technology to conduct online hearings has proved to be an effective alternative to traditional court sittings, especially during the challenging period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The OCJ will continue to implement the court modernisation strategy as a tool to enhance speedy access to justice. The OCJ’s priority of modernisation and the use of technology will ensure an efficient court system that guarantees access to justice for all.

During the 2022/23 financial year, the OCJ will continue to embrace and leverage on the new technology through digitisation of the court system.

The focus will be to prioritise Court Online and digitization of court records to enable the Judiciary and the courts to continue adjudicating court cases through online platforms even beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

The now fully developed and piloted Court Online system is meant to fully take advantage of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) advancement to minimise not just the physical movement of people and paper-based court documents from parties to the courts, but also to leverage the benefits of electronic storage within the courts (i.e. faster document filing and retrieval, eradication of the misplacement of case files, concurrent access to view the same case filed by different parties).

Over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the OCJ will continue implementing the Court Online system to all Superior Courts as part of its ICT modernisation initiatives.

Honourable Members,

The Judiciary has an important role in safeguarding and protecting the Constitution and its values and in ensuring the consolidation of democracy and the realisation of a better life for all. 

It does this through its constitutionally entrenched judicial authority.  

Over the years, the Judiciary has shown a profound understanding of the constitutional imperatives and set out to defend the basic law of the land. This includes many judgments, particularly by the Constitutional Court, that have reflected a progressive interpretation of the Constitution and social rights in particular.

In terms of section 165 (4) of the Constitution, it is incumbent on organs of State to assist and protect the Courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.

It is vitally important in a democracy that individual Judges and the Judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of all external pressures and of each other so that those who appear before them and the wider public can have confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law. When carrying out their judicial function they must be free of any improper influence.

It is in this spirit that we table this Budget Vote today. The Executive arm of the State is doing everything in its power to ensure the constitutionally enshrined independence of the Judiciary.

As the executive we will be analysing the judicial administration model with a view to give expression a practical and functional expression to the notion of judicial independence in its administrative form.

We call on this House to continue working with us to affirm the role of the Judiciary in the protection of human rights and advancement of democracy in our country.

We must all understand that the judiciary are not in a popularity contest their decisions must be respected or challenged within the available framework.

Chairperson and Honourable Members, I therefore present the 2022/2023 Budget Vote 27 of the Office of the Chief Justice for your support and approval.

I wish to take this opportunity to recognise Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, Justice Mandisa Maya, Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba as the Chairperson of the Magistrates Commission as well as the Heads of Court and all members of our Judiciary for their continued service to people of South Africa.

I also acknowledge the OCJ Audit and Risk Committee for the effective oversight role they continue to play.

Finally, I thank the Secretary General for the OCJ, Ms Memme Sejosengwe, the management team of the OCJ and staff for continuing to serve with distinction.

Thank you.




Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the Debate on Vote 22 (The Office of the Chief Justice), National Assembly, 12 May 2022

Honourable Chairperson,
Minister Ronald Lamola,
Deputy Minister Phatekile Holomisa,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Members of the Judiciary,
Officials of the Office of the Chief Justice,

The Office of the Chief Justice was established in 2010 as a new government department separate from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to, amongst others, support the Chief Justice in executing their administrative and judicial powers and duties as Head of the Judiciary.

It supports the Judicial Services Commission and the South African Judicial Education Institute in the execution of their mandates and administers the Judges’ Remuneration and Conditions of Employment Act.

The OCJ is responsible for running the Superior Courts – the High Courts, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court as well as specialized courts such as the Labour Courts and the Competition Appeal Court.   

The establishment of the OCJ was the first step in ensuring greater independence to the judiciary.
In today’s debate I will be speaking about the Magistrates because, although the Magistrates Courts are still administered by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Magistrates are part of the judiciary.

Section 165(6) of the Constitution, read with section 8 of the Superior Courts Act, provides that the Chief Justice is responsible for the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the exercise of judicial functions of all courts and thus enjoins the Chief Justice to issue protocols or directions to all judicial officers – i.e. both judges and magistrates.

The co-ordination of judicial functions of Magistrates Courts falling within the jurisdiction of the Division of the High Court is the responsibility of the Judge President of that Division.

Many of you may recall that, in the past, Magistrates were public servants, appointed from within the Department of Justice and thus part and parcel of the public service.

Today our magistracy is independent – for example a Magistrate cannot be suspended or fired by the Minister of Justice. This process now involves an investigation and a hearing by the Magistrates Commission as well as the concurrence of Parliament.
The new Magistrates Bill and the new Lower Courts Bill have been long outstanding but, we are pleased that the introduction of these Bills is expected to take place this year.

The purpose of the Magistrates Bill is to provide for the establishment, constitution, objects and functions of the Magistrates Commission and will regulate the appointment, conditions of service, remuneration, retirement, suspension and removal of, magistrates.
The main aims of the Bill are threefold -
Firstly, it aims to replace the current Magistrates Act, 1993, in order to ensure the autonomy of the lower courts judiciary from the Executive.

Secondly, it aims to incorporate all the provisions relating to the appointment of judicial officers of the lower courts in the Bill itself, since some provisions are presently contained in the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1944.
Thirdly, it aims to bring the procedure for dealing with complaints about magistrates’ conduct in line, as for as it is possible and feasible, with the dispensation applicable to judges in the superior courts.
The Bill was published for public comment on the 25th of March, with a due date for comments of 29 April.
We have now extended the due date to 15 June.

The new Lower Courts Bill aims to provide for the establishment, composition and functioning of Lower Courts comprising of Regional Courts, District Courts and Municipal Courts and to make provision for the administration of the judicial functions of the Lower Courts.
At the heart of this Bill is the fact that, before the advent of the democratic constitutional dispensation in 1994, Magistrates' Courts­ were not constitutionally recognised as part of the judicial authority.

The new Lower Courts Bill highlights the fact that the legislative framework relating to the Superior Courts has been rationalised and consolidated through the Superior Courts Act, 2013, which, as I have said, provides that the Judge President of a Division of the High Court of South Africa is also responsible for the co-ordination of the judicial functions of all Magistrates' Courts falling within the jurisdiction of that Division, and that, since the Constitution provides that the judicial authority is vested in all the courts, it is desirable to provide for a uniform framework for judicial management, by the judiciary, of the judicial functions of all courts.
The due date for comments on the Lower Courts Bill is also 15 June 2022.

We will be engaging with the Magistrates’ organizations on the Bills, such as JOASA and ARMSA, but I also want to urge all interested parties and stakeholders to provide comment on these important Bills.
These Bills will, once passed, indeed be the culmination of a significant milestone in the administration of justice in our country.

But, Honourable Members,
Whilst we make very real progress with the legislative framework we must also acknowledge that our Magistrates Courts and the users of these courts face many challenges, such as infrastructural challenges, lengthy court processes, case backlogs and faulty court equipment.
The only way to overcome these challenges is to look at who is responsible for what in our Courts.
There are judicial functions and administrative functions.  

The Constitution contains very specific roles for both the Chief Justice and the Minister of Justice or as they are described in the Constitution as the “member of Cabinet responsible for the administration of justice”.
The Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary and exercises responsibility over the judicial functions of all courts.
The Cabinet member responsible for the administration of justice appoints acting judges to other courts after consulting the senior judge of the court on which the acting judge will serve and exercises final responsibility over the prosecuting authority.  The Superior Courts Act also sets out judicial functions in section 8(6) to be performed by the judiciary as well as sets out the responsibilities of the Minister responsible for the administration of justice.

The issue of case backlogs is one that comes up again and again. There appears to be a perception that whenever there are backlogs in courts, it is the fault of the Department and thus the responsibility of the Executive to fix.  
But such a point of view does not take cognisance of the important fact that court efficiency lies within the purview of the judiciary.  I do note that the Committee Report on the OCJ did acknowledge that the OCJ was unable to provide an input on the backlogs as court performance lies with the Chief Justice and Heads of Court.
There are a number of stakeholders within our court system and for the system to work optimally they must all play their part and work together to reduce backlogs.

The Chief Justice has set Norms and Standards for the exercise of all judicial functions in courts.
In terms of the norms and standards, civil cases in the Magistrates’ Courts should be finalized within 9 months from the date of summons. In criminal matters judicial officers should strive to finalize criminal matters within 6 months after the accused has pleaded.
The Hon Horn recently tabled a Parliamentary Question to the Minister of Justice as to how often the National Efficiency Enhancement Committee (the NEEC) and the Provincial Efficiency Enhancement Committee (the PEEC) have been meeting, but the OCJ, when the Question was referred to them, made it abundantly clear that these are judicial governance stakeholder forums which are chaired by the Chief Justice and the Judges President of the High Courts, respectively – and therefore the Hon Horn’s question was to be referred to the Chief Justice for consideration, and not to the Minister of Justice.

The NEEC, the PEEC as well as the District Efficiency Enhancement Committees play a crucial role in court optimisation where all the relevant role-players meet.

Often many challenges exist in courts because these structures do not meet regularly enough.
The OCJ has set targets and indicators in the OCJ’s Annual Performance Plan which point to improved court efficiency, with specific and measurable output indicators such as the percentage of default judgments to be finalised by Registrars within 14 days from date of receipt of application, the percentage of taxations of legal bills of costs to be finalised within 60 days from date of set down, the percentage of warrants of release to be delivered within one day of the release issued, and the number of Judicial Case Flow Management Performance reports to be produced.

In an attempt to ensure cooperation and better synergy in court performance, and to support our Magistrate courts, we established a Court Optimisation Committee in 2020 to bring together stakeholders and the Magistrates judiciary in order to address challenges and bottlenecks in our courts.

The Court Optimisation Committee consisted of the Court Services and Corporate Services Branches of Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Regional Court Presidents’ Forum, the Chief Magistrates’ Forum, the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority, Legal Aid SA, the Department of Social Development, the Department of Health, the Department of Correctional Services and the nine Regional Offices of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
The Court Optimisation Committee worked well, until the Regional Court Presidents decided to withdraw from the structure, despite our best efforts to convince them to remain.

We will continue to do whatever we can to strengthen and support our Magistrates Courts and our magistrates.
We need to ensure that the Department moves more expeditiously in providing the Magistracy with the necessary tools of trade and the necessary equipment so that courts can function optimally.
We are constitutionally bound to improve our efficiency in this regard.
The creation of inclusive and integrated magisterial districts and sub-districts in respect of the outstanding provinces of the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu- Natal and the Western Cape through the Rationalization of Magisterial Districts Project has been finalised and was gazetted by the Minister and came into effect on 1 April 2022.  
Of paramount importance going forward is the rationalisation of the judicial establishment of the lower courts as it will impact not only on vacant posts in which persons are appointed to act, but also on permanent posts of magistrates that will become vacant in the near future. 

Chairperson, Honourable Members,
As I stated earlier for our courts to function optimally and for cases to be disposed of speedily we also rely on a number of other stakeholders and role-players, such as the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the SAPS, the Department of Correctional Services, Legal Aid SA and the legal profession.
We shall continue our efforts to ensure proper and improved coordination between ourselves and these stakeholders.
We also continue to support the Magistrates Commission in its work.

I feel I want to respond to what the Hon Yako of the EFF has said about the Chief Justice. I think it is something that this House should investigate as members are not to attack the judiciary.
People should refrain from attacking the integrity of the judiciary and should not attack the judiciary without a basis or without facts. We should be protecting the judiciary. Rumours do not help and ultimately it affects the legitimacy of the institution.

We will continue to support and strengthen our courts and our judiciary. In the words of the late Chief Justice Ismail Mahomed –
“The Constitution articulates a culture of rights and freedoms especially meaningful for a people deeply traumatised and agonized for so long by the denial of such rights.
But the articulation of such rights would afford no protection against abuse in the absence of Constitutional agencies with the power to police abuse and to protect the victims of abuse. The judiciary is the cornerstone of that protection. Its Constitutional power is formidable.”

I thank you.