Meeting with delegation of Justice Committee of German Parliament

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Justice and Correctional Services

18 February 1998
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Meeting report


18 February 1998

The Portfolio Committee was addressed by the German justice committee delegation with the assistance of a translator. The delegation acknowledged the similarities between Germany and South Africa.

After the remarks made by the German delegation, the Chairperson, Advocate De Lange, raised two points concerning the structure of the justice system and the rationalisation of laws.

Prior to 1994, the parliamentary sovereign system based on the Roman Dutch legal framework existed in South Africa (as opposed to the Reichstaat). After 1994, a constitutional state was created, which was based primarily on Canadian and German Reichstaat principles. However Apartheid laws were maintained for the purposes of continuity until it was changed by statute. This implied that human rights were still undermined; for example, women's rights in the Black Administration Act. The challenge would be to move towards a human rights framework in a constitutional state. These conceptions of human rights were a given in German law.

South Africa has been left with 11 justice systems to rationalise into one coherent system, due to the Bantustan justice system of prior years. This is a complex and detailed procedure. The Justice Department does not deal with policing and prisons but prosecuting. With regards to the courts, the Judicial Service Commission and Magistrates Commission appoint the judges having representatives from government and the public.

Problems faced by the Judicial Commission:
1) Legal help for indigent people known as the "Judicare System". The Constitution allows for legal representation if injustice has occurred. This is problematic due to the huge claims raised. Plans are underway to introduce Legal Aid Clinics.
2) Legal education: to change the law degree to a 4-year LLB program with the emphasis on practical experience.
3) Discretion of the courts regarding bail has to be addressed so as to create a structured discretion, thereby limiting total discretion.

Ms Camerer (NP) addressed the issue that even though human rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, they have to be concurrently curtailed by introducing legislation, such as minimum sentences, due to the crime wave descending on the country. This did create a dichotomy. Ms Camerer also commented that emphasis was now placed on gender issues, especially crime against women. A Gender Desk has now been created in all departments but with a low budget.

The German delegation asked the committee what measures were being taken to fight crime. The Chairperson informed the delegation about the National Crime Prevention Strategy, which was formed so that the policies of the various departments (police, prosecutions, prisons, rehabilitation) would correlate and, in so doing, work together in combatting crime.


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