Justice budget vote

July 1st, 2013

By Kevin O’Reilly

On 29 May Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe gave the department’s budget vote in parliament.

During his address, Minister Radebe said that a preliminary report on the assessment on the impact of the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal was expected to be completed by 31 March 2014.

In addition, he spoke on progress the department had made and challenges it faced.

Minister Radebe said that since 1994 parliament had passed 1 294 Acts, of which 148 were attributed to the justice sector.

These Acts focus on –

  • building and strengthening state institutions that support constitutional democracy;
  • transforming the judiciary and the justice sector;
  • fighting crime and corruption; and
  • broadening access to justice.

Transformation of the judiciary

The Justice Minister said that government had introduced ‘radical’ reforms aimed at strengthening the judiciary.

As an example, he cited the Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Act of 2012, which he said ‘has broken new ground in our judicial landscape’.

Minister Radebe noted challenges facing the appointment of women judges. ‘This is a matter of grave concern to government and the Judicial Service Commission,’ he said, adding that ‘drastic’ steps were necessary to address this.

Minister Radebe highlighted an increase in the department’s  target for the allocation of briefs to legal practitioners from previously disadvantaged backgrounds from 65% to 70%, which the department was optimistic would benefit more female practitioners.

Strengthening the criminal justice system

Minister Radebe stated that the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster had changed its approach to fighting crime and corruption by working as a team. He said this was evident by the realisation of seven outputs of the cluster, namely –

  • a significant reduction of serious crime;
  • the criminal justice system was functioning more efficiently;
  • corruption was being dealt with severely in a focused manner;
  • perceptions about the work of the cluster were improving;
  • border management had been prioritised;
  • the population registration system had been improved; and
  • a safe cyberspace had been made a focus area.

Minister Radebe said that the JCPS cluster had adopted a ‘zero-tolerance’ attitude towards rape, the violation of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex people, and other forms of violence against women.

He added that 57 regional courts had been identified as dedicated sexual offences courts.

The Justice Minister noted that a separate budget had been allocated to increase the capacity of these courts, which would be used for –

  • creating additional regional magistrates’ posts to increase the capacity of these courts;
  • appointing additional personnel, including intermediaries;
  • skills development programmes and social context training for regional magistrates and personnel of these courts;
  • enhancing services and increasing the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres; and
  • the installation and maintenance of technological equipment, such as closed-circuit television cameras, to ensure the integrity of the judicial process.

Minister Radebe said that the magistrates’ courts were an ‘important cog’ of the judicial system as these were where the average citizen came into contact with the judicial system.

‘It is for this reason that this is where the bulk of our budget and resources are concentrated,’ he said.

The department’s intention is to increase the civil jurisdiction of magistrates’ courts and regional courts beyond their current thresholds, he added.

New courts

Minister Radebe noted the opening of the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court. He added that the Limpopo High Court would be completed by June 2014, while the construction of the Mpumalanga High Court was expected to commence in July, and six new courts were planned for construction in the next three years.

Budget allocation

Minister Radebe reported that a total budget of R 16,7 billion had been allocated to the department for the 2013/14 financial year. Of this –

  • R 5,8 billion has been allocated to the court services programme;
  • R 3 billion has been allocated to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); and
  • R 1,84 billion has been allocated to public entities and Chapter Nine institutions.

The Justice Minister said growth in 2013/14 was driven by –

  • salary increases;
  • investment in Thuthuzela Care Centres;
  • investments in information technology (IT) upgrades and systems development; and
  • additional capacity for Legal Aid South Africa, the Office of the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission over the medium-term expenditure framework period.

A saving of R 230 million had funded the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of Fraud, Corruption, Impropriety or Irregularity in the Strategic Defence Procurement Packages and the cost of finalising the Marikana Commission of Inquiry in 2013/14; as well as the assessment of the impact of the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal; and the transformation of state legal services, said the Minister.

Minister Radebe said that the 2013 budget provided for –

  • additional allocations of R 300 million in the 2013/14 financial year, R 400 million in 2014/15 and R 450 million in 2015/16 for investments in IT upgrades and systems development as part of the criminal justice system revamp;
  • funding improvement on conditions of service in the department, the NPA, Chapter Nine institutions and public entities; and
  • additional funding to increase capacity in Legal Aid South Africa (R 45 million), the Public Protector (R 24 million) and the South African Human Rights Commission (R 24 million).

In addition, in the next three years, the department planned to spend R 3,1 billion on construction of courts and infrastructure projects, R 96 million on day-to-day maintenance and R 291 million on rehabilitation of court facilities.

The Justice Department, the NPA and Legal Aid South Africa have been allocated R 249 million to reduce criminal case backlogs in regional and district courts.

The Justice Minister said the department envisaged spending –

  • R 1,9 billion on public prosecutions;
  • R 159 million on witness protection;
  • R 116 million on asset forfeiture;
  • R 305 million on the Special Investigating Unit; and
  • R 1,36 million on Legal Aid South Africa.

In conclusion, Minister Radebe said that the department would transfer R 116 million to the South African Human Rights Commission and R 199 million to the Public Protector.

Kevin O’Reilly, kevin@derebus.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2013 (July) DR 16.

De Rebus