The independence of the judiciary is indispensable

November 28th, 2018
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Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, briefed media at the Constitutional Court on 23 November, after giving a presentation on the Judiciary Annual Report for 2017/2018. This was the first time in the history of South Africa the judiciary held a session to account for the work it is doing.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Delivering the Judiciary Annual Report for 2017/2018, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, noted that the independence of the judiciary is important and indispensable. The historic event took place for the first time at the Constitutional Court on 23 November, the report was delivered by Chief Justice Mogoeng and not through a third party. Chief Justice Mogoeng added that the reason his office held the first Judicial Accountability Session was so that the Chief Justice could be able to account for the performance and other activities of the broader judiciary, to the people of South Africa.

‘We do so not only in recognition of our unique role as an independent arm of the state, but also because of our conviction that with independence comes accountability. We are not self-employed, like functionaries in the other arms of the state. We are employed by the people and as their messenger we owe them an account of what we have exercised the mandate they charged us with the resources availed to us,’ Chief Justice Mogoeng said.

Chief Justice Mogoeng pointed out that the orders of the judiciary are obeyed because of confidence the public has in the judiciary, which generates moral authority. He said if the judiciary were to lose public confidence it would be finished. He added that accountability is, therefore, important because it is a foundational value of democracy, which is applicable to all including the judiciary. Chief Justice Mogoeng noted that the judiciary saw the need to identify challenges that undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of the court system. As a result, a governance structure was established to ensure that the process for identifying areas that impact negatively on the delivery of justice is driven by the judiciary.

Chief Justice Mogoeng said this includes performance monitoring, information and communication technology at the courts, library services, case flow management, court infrastructure and security. ‘For example, to allow for the proper management of judicial functions, the judiciary itself has assumed the responsibility for the monitoring of court performance. Indicators were developed and an ambitious target set,’ Chief Justice Mogoeng added. He pointed out that information obtained from the court performance statistics allows the leadership of the judiciary to interrogate issues relating to broader judicial functions more efficiently.

Chief Justice Mogoeng added that the performance information for magistrate’s courts was not included in the 2017/2018 report. However, he noted that the leadership of magistracy has started a process to identify indicators and targets for court performance information for the magistrate’s courts. He said the information from the magistrate’s courts will in future also be reported on and form part of the composite Annual Report so that the single judiciary of the country accounts for all its performance areas.

Chief Justice Mogoeng noted that from the court performance statistics contained in the report, it clearly shows that the bulk of the work performed at Superior Courts is done by the High Court. Of the 152 944 civil cases received at the High Court, 106 936 were finalised and of the 15 293 criminal matters, 10 411 were finalised. He said the work was done despite limited resources and a judicial establishment, which has remained unchanged despite an increase in workload and responsibilities. He added that the Supreme Court of Appeal performed admirably and 223 appeals of the 235 were finalised during the reporting period. This is above the 1 104 applications of leave to appeal, out of 1 487 applications, which were finalised.

Chief Justice Mogoeng said specialist courts have also ensured that matters were finalised. The Labour and Labour Appeal Courts have finalised 287 of the 427 labour matters brought before them. The Land Claims Court finalised 227 of the 330 matters brought before it during the reporting period. Chief Justice Mogoeng added that the total caseload for the Constitutional Court at the time the report was published, were recorded as 437 of which 295 cases were finalised.

Among other things in the report, Chief Justice Mogoeng spoke about some of the programmes and changes the judiciary will embark on to ensure it excels in the work they do. He said in order to ensure that the courts remain efficient, the judiciary will be introducing win-win court annexed mediation. He pointed out that in July judicial officers from all courts were trained on the practical implementation and benefits of court-annexed mediation as part of a broader judicial case flow management strategy.

For the full report go to www.judiciary.org.za

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

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