Justice budget vote speech 2012

July 1st, 2012
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By Nomfundo Manyathi

Minister Jeff Radebe delivered the Justice Department’s budget vote speech on 17 May 2012. In addition to the budget allocation, the Minister spoke about the discussion document on the transformation of the judicial system, the Legal Practice Bill and the transformation of state legal services, among others.

Discussion document on the transformation of the judicial system

Minister Radebe said that the department had received ‘intriguing’ comments on the ‘Discussion document on the transformation of the judicial system and the role of the judiciary, in a developmental South African state, which provided perspectives on subjects such as the separation of powers and the institutional arrangements geared to safeguard the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

Minister Radebe stressed that the department did not seek to review court decisions and acknowledged that it did not have the power to do so. He said: ‘Legal precedent, expressed in the maxim stare decisis, which is entrenched in our legal system, dictates that decisions of the lower courts are only reviewable by a higher court and that lower courts are bound by the legal precedents of their superior courts. On the contrary, the assessment is aimed at maximising our concerted efforts as the branches of the state to rid this country of its ugly past and to use our evolving jurisprudence as a navigational guide to the ideal society as envisaged by the Constitution.’

The Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster

Minister Radebe said that the JCPS cluster had ‘made strides’ in the integration of information and communication technology systems, which enabled an electronic flow of information between the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the department, adding that the system would be extended to other JCPS departments.

He said that the appointment of Nomgcobo Jiba as acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, in view of the ongoing court action regarding the appointment of Menzi Simelane, had ‘stabilised leadership and management of the NPA.’

Minister Radebe said that the value of assets seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) during the past financial year was R 533,4 million and that the total value of assets seized over the past 13 years was nearing R 5 billion. He said that approximately R 150 million recovered by the AFU had been allocated from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account to build capacity in the Anti-Corruption Task Team to intensify its investigative capacity. He added that a total of 150 officials were convicted of corruption in the past year and that the conviction rate for corruption cases was 73%.

Minister Radebe said that during the 2011/12 financial year the courts had finalised 216 cyber crime cases, with a conviction rate of 87,5%.

Minister Radebe said that the rate of finalisation of court cases was ‘key to the work’ of the JCPS cluster. He said that the performance of the courts was measured in terms of the time in which cases were processed’ the cost of litigation and the quality of the outcome of each case. He added that the number of cases finalised by the lower courts in the 2011/12 financial year had declined compared to the previous financial year. The number of criminal court cases finalised by all courts during 2011/12, which was 448 760, was slightly down from 460 791 in 2010/11, while the average conviction rate in courts for the past year had increased from 88,3% in 2010/11 to 88,8% in 2011/12.

Minister Radebe said that the judicial practice directives developed by the judiciary after the Access to Justice Conference in July 2011 would assist in addressing case-flow challenges. He said that these would also help reduce ‘unnecessary postponement of cases and reserved judgments’.

In addition, Minister Radebe said that court-based mediation would reduce the amount of time spent on, and the cost of, litigation. The Minister said that he would announce the implementation of these rules on a pilot basis after engaging with the Chief Justice and heads of court.

Minister Radebe said that, because of the ‘scourge of rape incidents and other forms of sexual offences’, he would soon convene a JCPS multidisciplinary task team to conduct an urgent investigation for the re-establishment of sexual offences courts, which were successful in the past. He said that the task team would investigate the steps to be taken to ensure that these courts benefited all communities and not only those in select areas as was the position regarding the 62 sexual offences courts piloted during the 2007/8 financial year. The task team will submit its report and recommendations by the end of August 2012.

New Bills

Minister Radebe said that the Justice Department was ‘moving steadfastly’ to create the infrastructure for the enactment of two ‘important’ Bills, namely the Superior Courts Bill (B7 of 2011) and the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Bill (B6 of 2009). He said that the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development had visited the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court to engage with their judges on the Bills.

Minister Radebe said that the interim accommodation for the Mpumalanga High Court would be completed shortly, while the construction of the High Court in Limpopo should be complete by March 2013. He added that the enactment of the Superior Courts Act would bring an end to the hardship endured by residents of these provinces who have to travel to the High Court in Pretoria to seek justice, at high cost and inconvenience.

Minister Radebe also announced during his budget vote speech that the ‘long-awaited’ Legal Practice Bill had been published. He said that the Bill, which is aimed at transforming the legal profession, was ‘a milestone’ as it opened up access to the profession and guaranteed accessible legal services.

Also on transformation, Minister Radebe said that the Judicial Service Commission continued to make progress in the transformation of the judiciary. He said that, of the 243 judges, over 50% were black and 25% were women.

In terms of the Traditional Courts Bill (B1 of 2012), Minister Radebe urged stakeholders, traditional leadership institutions and civil society to participate in the parliamentary process relating to the Bill, which, since its introduction in the National Council of Provinces this year, ‘has elicited extensive commentary and debate on some of the contentious provisions that it proposes’, he said.

Budget

Minister Radebe said that a total budget of R 15 480 billion had been allocated to the department for the 2012/13 financial year. He said that this was R 600 million less than that of the previous year.

Of this amount, R 5, 284 billion had been allocated to the court services programme, R 2, 816 billion to the NPA and R 1, 814 billion to public entities and Chapter Nine institutions.

Minister Radebe said that in this financial year the department intended to spend –

  • R 2 billion on public prosecutions;
  • R 158 million on witness protection;
  • R 130 million on asset forfeiture;
  • R 307 million on the Special Investigating Unit; and
  • R 1,2 billion on Legal Aid South Africa.

He said that the department would also transfer R 101 million to the Human Rights Commission and R 174 million to the Public Protector.

Minister Radebe said that over the next three years the department would spend R 3,2 billion on the construction of courts and other infrastructure projects. A further R 92 million would be spent on day-to-day maintenance and R 279 million on rehabilitation of court facilities in the same period.

Nomfundo Manyathi, nomfundo@derebus.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2012 (July) DR 8.