Departmental Budget: hearing

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Justice and Correctional Services

29 May 2002
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Meeting report

JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
30 MAY 2002
DEPARTMENTAL BUDGET HEARING

Chairperson:
Adv J H De Lange

SUMMARY
The Director General highlighted a potential problem posed by the Interception and Monitoring Bill. He felt that the Department lacked the capacity and technical expertise to deal with the extensive additions made to the Bill. On the issue of the Moseneke judgement, he said that the problem was being grappled with by the Law Commission who were trying to decide on an applicable law in relation to intestate succession.

The Chair highlighted problems, such as the disciplinary units and the implementation of technology, but felt that the Department's budget was more positive this year than it had been the previous year.

MINUTES
In the Chairperson's absence, Mr Landers (ANC) said that neither he nor the other members present had any questions to put to the Director General concerning the budget. He asked the Director General to highlight problems concerning the Interception and Monitoring Bill (that he had raised as an issue prior to start of the meeting).

Mr Pikoli, the Director General, said that he was concerned by the obligations placed on the Department by the Interception and Monitoring Bill. The original Bill had originated from the Department but that Bill had been changed dramatically, in terms of technical provisions, and had increased from 20 to 54 provisions. He was concerned that the Act would take the Department away from its core functions and that the Department lacked capacity and technical expertise. He no longer felt that the Justice Committee was the appropriate Portfolio Committee to consider the Bill and was worried about the Committee going deeper into the Bill when the Bill may not be assigned to the correct Committee. He pointed out that the concerns were his own and had not been discussed with the Minister.

Mr Landers felt that the financial implications for the department should also be looked at.

The DG was concerned about funding problems, particularly in light of the fact that the Bill obliges the Department to put the Act in place within three months of its enactment.

Imam Solomon (ANC) pointed out that the practicalities of the Act would fall within the scope of the NDPP and special units such as the Scorpions.

The DG said that Mr Solomon was correct, but that he himself had been alluding to the technical nature that the Bill is assuming. He felt that although the Bill does impact directly on crime, the Department lacks the technical expertise and capacity to implement the Bill.

Mr Landers commented on the additional 34 provisions that the Department had not budgeted for. He felt that since the Department was composed of primarily lawyers, technical experts might have to be employed.

The DG said that the issue would be put on the agenda for the cluster.

On a separate issue, Mr Landers noted that he had been made chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the appointment of people to the Human Rights Commission. He had picked up a problem in that the Constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act were both silent on the number of Commissioners that may be appointed and he had found no other information in this regard.

Mr Labuschagne, legal advisor for the Department, said that the Act needed to be looked at and brought in line with the Constitution as it had been drafted at a time when the interim Constitution had still been in place.

Imam Solomon noted that the Masters Office in the Northern Cape had difficulties with, for example, the transfer of property of a deceased estate in rural areas. He asked if the Masters Office was in a position to assist people like that.

Mr Van der Merwe, a representative from the Department, replied that when people could not afford to transfer property, the property remained within the deceased estate until such time as they could. He said that the Department was sympathetic of such cases but that they did fall outside the scope of the Masters Office.

The DG said that he needed to put two issues on record that had been raised the previous day. On the issue of the Steyn judgement relating to automatic appeals, he said that he had agreed to the establishment of a Committee but was not sure if it was necessary to have judges or prosecutors involved as he felt it sufficient to have the Legal Aid Board. He said that the Department was moving in the direction of having a filter mechanism as allowed for in the judgement and a draft of such legislation would be circulated to the Committee.

On demarcation of the Higher and Lower Courts, he said that a memo had been submitted to the Minister advising that he proceed in serving the provinces, although a problem was still being experienced in the Eastern Cape. He felt that it was more practical to cluster the courts to make sure that everyone has access to the courts.

Mr Jiyane added that Supreme Court legislation would not impact on magisterial demarcation because the process could not take a top-down approach.

The DG said that he had no problems with the Moseneke case. The biggest problem facing the Department concerned changing the law, especially African customary law. The Law Commission was dealing with the matter but the process of consultation was problematic. People were currently not barred from going to the magistrates or the Masters Office but a system of law could not be imposed on people who did not want it. The biggest issue lay with the change in law itself and that was the problem that the Law Commission had been grappling with.

Ms Mhlawe (ANC) felt that the views of the people should be obtained.

The DG responded that the Law Commission would consult with the people.

Mr Landers was not sure that the Law Commission would go down to the level of the people on the ground. He felt that the most that the Commission would do was to advertise in newspapers for submissions.

Adv De Lange, the Chairperson, arrived and summarised the issues that had been raised by the Committee. He had been reading the documentation and was worried by the Steyn and Moseneke judgements. He wanted the Department to determine its main priority. In particular, he was concerned by the disciplinary unit. Although he was happy that the Department was coming to grips with the issue, he was concerned that the unit was being run by only one man and felt that there was a need to involve and co-ordinate with people who were lawyers, and who could deal with the problem. The Department appeared serious about the issue but he felt that there was a need to get results as it seemed that there were thousands of people in redundant posts in the system.

On the issue of millions of rands being spent on high tech, he remarked that the President's speech had talked of investing in human power. He said that he almost wanted to see in the next budget that the Department was investing 10% in human capital that would lead to people having good skills development and a capacity building effect. He was not against technology as a principle, but felt it important to have human capacity.

He commented that, compared to the previous year, overall the budget was very positive. He suggested that the Committee take five days during the recess to go to the Department's Head Office and get a grip of how the Department operates. He was particularly concerned with regard to personnel. Although the Department still had huge problems, it had gone far towards turning things around in some aspects and he hoped that it would continue.

Meeting adjourned.

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