The Select Committee on Security and Justice was addressed by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development on the recommendation of annual salary increment for Magistrates. The determination of Magistrates salaries came about because Magistrates have complained that they had been receiving less salary despite the increase in work they are now doing. Further, the salary discrepancy between Judges and Magistrates was found to be too high. Members were concerned with the suspension period of Magistrates and the number of Magistrates on suspension. The issue of suspended Magistrates being eligible for the recommended increment was also raised as a concern. Concern was also expressed about the low salary paid to traditional leaders.
The Committee adopted its report on the Justice Administered Fund Bill and its First Term Committee Programme.
Briefing by Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
Mr John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, briefed the Committee on the recommendation of annual salary increment for Magistrates. He said that Magistrate’s have complained because they had been receiving less salary despite the increase in work they are now doing. The salary discrepancy between Judges and Magistrates was high. The Magistrates’ jurisdiction had increased over the years meaning more work for a Magistrate. It was important that their conditions of service were adequate and consistent with the scheme as envisaged under the Constitution. The Remuneration Commission recommended that the salary of magistrates be increased with effect from 1 April 2016. Despite the funding challenges, the Department accepted the need for the increment. The President endorsed the recommendation through a proclamation and the next step is for this to get approval by both houses. The National Assembly approved this on Wednesday 7 December 2016 and now it awaited approval by the National Council of Provinces.
Ms B Engelbrecht (DA; Gauteng) said the Committee is very concerned about the Magistrates on suspension and the time and period it takes to conclude their cases. She asked if this increase in salaries would be applicable to them too as they are permanently appointed. She also asked for any detail or clarification on the suspension of Magistrates as it is a concern to the Committee.
Mr Jeffery responded that the increment would apply to suspended Magistrates too who were suspended and receiving pay. He said he wanted to sketch out the dispensation. Because the Magistrates were independent it meant they needed to be protected from dismissals from the Executive. The Magistrates Commission dealt with complaints about Magistrates. If there was a complaint the Magistrate’s Commission did an investigation and it made a recommendation which can then be actioned on by the Minister but there needed to be approval by both houses of Parliament. He added that Parliament was represented on the Commission, but when it dealt with disciplinary matters the members of Parliament recused themselves because they would consider the outcome. He agreed that it was a problem as there were a number of suspended Magistrates and who continued to be paid. The Department shared the concern about the period of suspension but because of the independence issue the Department did not have control. The Commission has suspended the salary of a suspended Magistrate and that person was bringing legal action against the Magistrates Commission to challenge suspension of his salary. He added that there was nothing that the Department can do because of the independence issue.
Mr S Thobejane (ANC; Limpopo) said one must demonstrate a bit of disappointment as the categories for public office bearers included Traditional Leaders. It was sad that after 22 years of democracy to see what is paid to traditional leaders. This was insulting as they served their people 24/7 and they did not have pension funds. They had absolutely nothing. For Parliament to keep on sitting and saying we are giving them increments when none of us as Members of Parliament can live on the same amount, Parliament is insulting these Leaders. He wanted this message to be recorded and registered accordingly. It seemed Parliament was not willing to make them part of this democracy. He added that they were the leaders of Government’s democratically elected people. They were the government’s Councillors. He asked the Deputy Minister to consider an increment for Traditional Leaders. He was talking on behalf of people who had patience, but asked that the government not push these peace and nature loving people to revolt. He added that the State did not subsidise their children’s school fees they pay for their children’s school fees. He concluded by that it has been too long ‘diddle daddling’, but he felt he needed to say something as it was too hard to swallow. It will then be up to the Ministry to see whether it did something about it or not.
Ms G Manolope (ANC; Northern Cape) said that she also wanted to speak on the issue of Traditional Leaders so she was covered.
Mr Jeffery responded that the issue of Traditional Leaders had nothing to do with the Ministry or the Department of Justice. The Commission made recommendations and it was only the Magistrates that the Minister has consulted on. He suggested that this issue be raised with the Minister of Corporative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
The minutes of 30 November 2016 were adopted.
The programme for the first quarter 2017 was adopted.
Committee Report on Justice Administered Fund Bill
The report on Justice Administered Fund Bill was adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.