Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster update

May 1st, 2014

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe gave an update on the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster in parliament in March where he outlined various accomplishments of the cluster in the 2012/13 financial year.

Minister Radebe said that the new democratic government inherited a dysfunctional and polarised system that deliberately denied the fundamental rights of the majority of people. He added that the challenge that confronted the JCPS was to unite and help transform a nation that was divided across race, class, sex, creed and economic status. ‘In addition, we were faced with the urgent task of ensuring a safer and secure South Africa,’ he said.

Minister Radebe said that the criminal justice system that existed pre-1994 served the interests of the apartheid government and as a result, there was a disparity in delivery of services, dependent on race and geographic location.  And added that the Justice Department needed to remodel the criminal justice system and align it with the values of the Constitution.

Institutional reform 

Minister Radebe said that the Justice Department had made substantial progress in changing the face of the criminal justice system, establishing the rule of law and transforming institutions that had previously served the apartheid state.

According to Minister Radebe, measures have been taken to strengthen bodies such as the Office of the Public Protector; the South African Human Rights Commission; the National Prosecuting Authority and Legal Aid South Africa, which help citizens enjoy the rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Minister Radebe said that the judiciary has further strengthened as a separate branch of the state with the Superior Courts Act 10 of 2013. The Act accords the Office of the Chief Justice an identity and responsibility separate from the Justice Department. ‘The Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Act [2012] also confers on the Chief Justice the power to lead and guide the judiciary,’ he said.

‘Another huge task that confronted us was the transformation of the judicial system,’ said Minister Radebe, adding that one of the initiatives to transform the judiciary and the legal sector was to establish a judiciary that broadly represent the racial and gender demographics of South Africa.

‘Black judges (black, coloured and Indians) now constitute 61% of all judges. We are currently looking at various ways to nourish the pool from which female judges can be appointed. The finalisation of the Legal Practice Bill … will assist in the transformation of the legal profession and broaden the pool from which potential judicial officers can be selected,’ Minister Radebe said.

Serious crimes

Minister Radebe said that the JCPS cluster has intensified the fight against crime so that citizens are and feel safe.

He then went on to give statistics saying that over the past nine years (2004/5 to 2012/13) incidents of crime declined against the increase in population figures. ‘Murder reduced by 27,2% over nine years, with a further reduction of 16,6% during the past four years’, he said.

Minister Radebe said that conviction rates have increased in the past five years in organised crime, sexual offences and trio crimes (hijacking, murder and business robberies).  He added that most of the people arrested for serious crimes have received harsher sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment.

Some of the long sentences imposed were –

  • 12 104 people sentenced to 15 to 20 years;
  • 9 438 sentenced for more than 20 years; and
  • 12 443 sentenced to life.

Minister Radebe said that some of the categories of crimes that have impacted on society were –

  • organised crime 87,9%;
  • trio crimes 84,7%; and
  • sexual offences cases 66,7%.

Minister Radebe stated that several South African surveys have shown that more people are beginning to feel safer. He said that in October 2013, the largest global economics consultancy in the world, IHS, released its Crime Index report, which found that crime in South Africa was at its lowest level in 15 years. The report further stated that crime rates dropped 38% since its peak during the 2002/2003 financial year.

According to Minister Radebe, over the past five years, several interventions were introduced to address gender-based violence and sexual offences against vulnerable groups. These interventions include the adoption and ascent of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 and the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008. These Acts provided for expanded definitions of crimes such as rape and provided greater protection for children. He added that 176 specialised Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences units are operational throughout the country.

Minister Radebe said: ‘We are encouraged by our courts, which have demonstrated an aggressive stance in addressing the scourge of sexual violence in our country. Our courts have imposed severe sentences in two prominent cases with the rapist and killer of Anene Booysen being sentenced to 25 years and the Tholeni serial rapist and killer from Butterworth in the Eastern Cape to 25 life terms. This was hardly a week after the re-introduction of the sexual offences courts in the Eastern Cape.’

Minister Radebe said that the number of convicted sex offenders on the National Register for Sex Offenders has increased from 2 792 names as at 31 March 2013 to 13 216 as at 31 December 2013. He added that in October 2013, alone, 3 384 current and historic convictions were registered.

According to Minister Radebe, new initiatives such as the Victim-Offender Dialogues (VOD) have been introduced to place the victims of crime at the centre of the correctional process. He said that the VOD programme was implemented to ensure that victims of crime are not erased from public memory once the courts sentence the offender. ‘As government we acknowledge that the loss suffered by victims is irreplaceable and that the healing of wounds and pain is a process that does not end once guilt is established by the courts,’ he said.

Minister Radebe said that over the past five years, the Justice Department has intensified focus on the education of offenders in order to help break the cycle of crime. He added that the prisons were now correctional centres of rehabilitation and that offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens.

The fight against corruption

Minister Radebe said that the cluster has established the Anti-Corruption Task Team, which prioritises the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases. He said that by the end of December 2013, 48 people were convicted in cases where more than R 5 million in illicit gains were involved and freezing orders amounting to R 1,3 billion were obtained against 67 people.

Minister Radebe added that in the first six months of 2013/14, a total of R149 million was paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account Fund. The fund was established to redirect the proceeds of criminal activity to enhance the fight against crime.

Strengthening the criminal justice system 

Minister Radebe said that the cluster has developed various business plans to improve investigative, prosecuting, court and case management systems and according to him, the most comprehensive initiative in this regard is the Integrated Justice System Programme, which aims to manage inter-departmental information exchange within the cluster.

Because of this programme, Minister Radebe said, it was now possible to deal with electronic exchanges of docket ready data and information at 99 police stations and 20 courts with further rollout continuing.

New legislation

‘Another key development is that South Africa has become the 57th country worldwide to pass criminal offender DNA database legislation [in the form of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013]. This legislation will help to solve and prevent crime in South Africa,’ he said.

This Act was enacted in January 2014 and it amends the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, so as to –

  • provide for the taking of specified bodily samples from certain categories of persons for the purposes of forensic DNA analysis;
  • to provide for the conditions under which the samples or forensic DNA profiles derived from the samples may be retained or the periods within which they may be destroyed;
  • to further regulate proof of certain facts by affidavit or certificate;
  • to amend the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995,
  • to establish and regulate the administration and maintenance of the National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa;
  • to amend the Firearms Control Act, 2000, so as to further regulate the powers in respect of taking of bodily samples for investigation purposes; and
  • to amend the Explosives Act, 2003, so as to further regulate the powers in respect of taking of bodily samples for investigation purposes; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

The Act is consistent with global DNA database trends and requires most people convicted or arrested for crimes to submit a DNA sample. Also consistent with global trends, arrestee samples and profiles will be destroyed if not convicted.

Case backlog

Minister Radebe said that there has been an improvement in the finalisation of cases as there has been a significant reduction of criminal court case backlogs through the 82 Backlog Courts.  ‘At the end of December 2013, the total number of criminal case backlogs across all courts (that is, those cases that are longer than six months on the district court rolls, nine months on the regional court rolls and 12 months on the High Court rolls) have been reduced from 34 327 cases (in 2007) to 25 762 backlog cases which is 13,8% of all outstanding cases country-wide (186 420 cases),’ he said. Minister Radebe added that 42 of the regional backlog courts have been created as additional permanent courts to ensure the backlog reduction is sustained, adding that justice delayed was justice denied.

Access to justice 

Speaking on access to justice, Minister Radebe stated that 43 new courts had been built since 1994. He said that nine of these were built in the 2009 to 2013 period. Minister Radebe stated that 24 Branch Courts have been elevated into full service courts as part of the re-demarcation of magisterial districts and that the outstanding 65 Branch Courts are also earmarked for upgrade gradually in line with the National Development Plan.

Border security

According to Minister Radebe the deployment of the South African National Defence Force across the county’s border from 2010 to 2013 has resulted in the following –

  • over R 100 million worth of contraband confiscated which was mainly cigarettes and liquor;
  • 15,42 tons of dagga with a value of over R 50 million confiscated;
  • 103 weapons confiscated;
  • 80 000 undocumented persons apprehended;
  • over 300 stolen vehicles recovered;
  • 2 000 suspected criminals arrested; and
  • 18 000 livestock recovered.


Minister Radebe said that the National Cyber Security Policy Framework was developed and approved by cabinet as part of government’s response to new forms of crime. He added that during 2012/13, the courts finalised 136 cybercrime-related cases with a conviction rate of 97,8%.


Minister Radebe concluded by saying: ‘Today, as we look back at the road travelled since 1994, we can reflect that though the journey has not been easy, the cluster has made tremendous progress in the fight against crime and corruption.’

‘The past five years were spent consolidating legislation and other measures aimed at the deepening democracy; enhancing access to justice; transforming the administration of justice including the judiciary and the courts; improving court performance; strengthening coordination through the cluster system and the outcomes-based approach of government to deal with priorities; and strengthening the rule of law,’ he said.

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele, nomfundo@derebus.org.za

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (May) DR 12.


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