The Committee adopted the determination from the Independent Commission on Remuneration of Public Office Bearers recommending an increase of 6% to magistrates and judges who earn below one million and 5% to those that earn above with effect from April 2014. The lowest rank magistrate will earn R788 155 while special grade chief magistrate will earn R 1.171 million. The lowest paid judge will earn R1.691 million with the Chief Justice earning R2.6 million. Magistrates get a car allowance of R1.2 million serviced for four years. Judges get a continued salary during their lifetime and benefits to spouse after decease.
The Committee discussed its programme and the advertising of the call for public comment on the amendment of the Sexual Offences Act. About 900 submissions had been received.
Dr M Motshekga (ANC) wished the Committee a good year and read its programme for the first term:
- 18 Feb briefing by the department
- 19 February 2015 Introductory briefing to the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill
- 25 February Maintenance Amendment bill public hearings
- 3 March Criminal Sexual offences and Related matters public hearings
- 4 March continuation of public hearings
- 10 March continuation of public hearings
- 11 March continuation of public hearing
- 17 March maintenance Amendment bill deliberations
- 18 March maintenance deliberations (request permission to sit during afternoon plenary)
- 24 March Deliberation (request permission to sit the whole day)
- 25 March Maintenance Amendment Bill (request permission to sit the whole day)
- 26 March Committee week request to sit the whole day
- Briefing by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services
- Briefing by DSC joint meeting with DPW
- Briefing by DCS
- Briefings by the Justice and Correctional Service
- Public hearings on DCS
- Briefing by DCS.
Mr W Horn (DA) pointed out that because of the congested programme of the Justice portfolio with three bills, It means that the Committee will not deal with any correctional services matters. There was a need to look if the Committee was sustainable given that there was no date for any correctional services matters.
Dr Motshekga said the Committee was dealing with current issues facing the country. Justice used to have a racism forum. As it stands, racism was now prevalent in schools. Tribalism in Malamulele was high and he not sure if it was not going to spread to other areas. The South African Constitution provides for dialogue, human rights education, and constitutional literacy. Where were these matters supposed to be attended to? When talking about unity in diversity, he asked if people really understand this. This Committee has identified some legislative initiatives and will prioritise the Traditional Courts Bill and community courts. The Chief Justice had said the courts were not coping with the current work load and finalisation of the Traditional Courts Bill will lessen the burden. There was no indication when this will be discussed, together with paralegals, because they are at the heart of justice.
Adv J Sikhosana, Chief State Law Advisor, Department of Justice, said that the Department will be guided by the Committee to achieve its endeavors. The racism forum has not disappeared. The Minister was to present a national action plan on racism to Cabinet, including ethnicity and tribalism before end of March. On traditional courts, there was need to take lessons gathered from public discourse so as not to find ourselves in the position of Malawi and Ghana where they abolished traditional courts and find it difficult to restore them. On Monday, the Minister launched a programme on dispute resolution targeting the involvement of paralegals, to lessen the burden on the courts. The Minister will give an overarching high level programme to the Committee.
Dr Motshekga said there must clear timelines of when this was to be done. There were serious constraints on the part of the judiciary. There needed to be no misunderstanding between the Committee and the judiciary and the department and the judiciary.
Mr Horn said the Committee had forgotten to handle its own minutes.
Ms Cindy Balie, Committee Secretary, said that she will report on the backlog minutes on 03 March.
Dr Motshekga said the section 75 bill amending the Sexual Offences Act had received 900 submissions and he had prepared a short list of organizations to be invited to this Committee. The Committee has requested parliament to extend the deadline and for the Committee to report to the National Assembly in May 2015. The Committee advertised for public comment and that was closed, but there were some people who still wanted to send submissions, but there must be an end to every process.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) said committee members needed to see the list before deciding on oral submissions and the Chairperson needed to circulate the list he had prepared.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) asked how far afield the Committee has advertised as it seems to be Cape Town organisations only, and the churches and traditional leaders were absent.
Dr Motshekga said adverts were distributed to community radio stations and newspapers and yet still people have a culture of not responding.
Ms Balie said it was advertised on national radio and television and sent to all Members of Parliament to distribute to their constituencies.
Ms S Shope-Sithole said rural people were completely left out.
Mr Vhonani Ramaano, Committee Secretary, said in Limpopo it was advertised in Venda and he heard it being aired.
Ms Shope-Sithole said there were three languages in Limpopo and she listens to Munghana Lonene FM and she did not hear the advert being aired.
Mr Ramaano said that Members need to know that adverts were expensive, and the Committee tried its best to use all media.
Mr Swart said they were organized structures such as the Muslim Judicial Council, the House of Traditional Leaders and faith based organizations which need to be approached.
Dr Motshekga said there was a need to approach the Commission of Religious Affairs and the Interfaith Forum, Muslim Judicial Council and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Ms M Mothapo (ANC) asked if traditional leaders were aware of the Sexual Offences Act.
Mr T Bongo (ANC) said he listens to Ikwekwezi FM and heard it being advertised.
Dr Motshekga said it will be wise to use the Traditional Council because it has offices in districts, Members must advertise in their communities when they go to their respective constituencies.
Determination of Salaries of Judges and Magistrates
Adv Sikhosana said the salaries of judges and magistrates were determined by the President who effected an annual increase. Previously, magistrates have expressed resentment about their salaries. The Independent Commission on Remuneration of Public Office Bearers recommended an increase of 6% to magistrates and judges who earn below one million and 5% to those that earn above, with effect from April 2014. The lowest rank magistrate will earn R788 155 while special grade chief magistrates will earn R 1.171 million. The lowest paid judge will earn R1.691 million with the Chief Justice earning R2.6 million. Magistrates get a car allowance of R1.2 million, serviced for four years. Judges get a continued salary in their lifetime and benefits to the spouse after decease.
Dr Motshekga asked when the Department deals with prosecutors.
Mr Sikhosana replied that the Minister of Justice determines the salaries of prosecutors. Prosecutors follow the public service dispensation and their salaries were determined by DPSA and the Minister of Finance who give guidance to the minister. An act of parliament provided that the top leadership of prosecutors should not earn less than 75% of that of chief judges and this will determine the salary of prosecutors too.
Dr Motshekga said there was need to avoid a situation where public prosecutors become demoralised and went on strike.
Mr Horn said the Commission’s finalisation of remuneration has shifted from early November to February. He was contacted by magistracy bodies before the gazette promulgated this increase, and prepared some documents on the way remuneration had been handled incrementally over the years. The way in which increases need to be done was early so that the independence of the judiciary was not compromised. There was unease amongst the magistracy at the way their salaries were handled.
Dr Motshekga said when contacted on matters that need to be put on the agenda, it would be good to have it put forward to the secretaries and Office of the Chair of the Committee.
Mr Swart said this was the first time the Fifth Parliament was dealing with this issue. Everyone had heard of the unhappiness of magistracy. There was a discrepancy as the increase was 5% but inflation was 6% last year. While the independence of the commission was appreciated, it must learn to finalise its determinations as early as possible, taking into consideration inflationary pressures. He asked if Mr Sikhosana was expecting any issues from the magistrates or was it unfair to ask him about industrial action which impacts on service delivery.
Mr Sikhosana replied that it was in the legislative framework that parliament must have a role in approving the salary increases of judges and magistrates so that the independence of the judiciary was protected, which creates a longer process. The Remuneration Commission must ensure that its review does not leave any category out. The Commission must look into its own internal capacity and come up with clear timeframes that take everyone on board. The same cycle should be used so that the department is not told that parliament had already adjourned towards the end of 2014. He said that the Department keeps on engaging with magistrates and does not expect anything negative from their side.
Ms C Pilane-Majekele (ANC) asked when last the Remuneration Commission reviewed salaries. She asked whether the increase takes into account the departmental budget.
Mr Sikhosana replied that salaries for judicial officers comes from National Revenue Fund to entrench the independence of the judiciary. Cars and cell phones allowances were departmental. The last time review was 2008 and they all had received an 11% increase. The next comprehensive review will be across the public sector. There were suggestions from the judiciary to have the review every three to five years.
Dr Motshekga said the Committee was happy with the decision of the President and asked for adoption.
Mr Swart proposed adoption, Ms Mothapo seconded.
The meeting was adjourned.