Justice Department will seek Cabinet’s approval on new extradition Bill

November 7th, 2022

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, accounted to Parliament on the impact of his department and entities falling under the umbrella of the Justice and Correctional Services Department. He said that the departments he represents makes real and meaningful impact in the lives of the people of South Africa (SA). Mr Lamola shared a story of how Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA) helped a woman who had been struggling after her husband stopped supporting her. Mr Lamola pointed out that Legal Aid SA assisted the lady, which resulted in her husband making an arrangement to pay the money that was due to her.

Mr Lamola added that in the previous financial year, 40 085 552 people benefited from the services of Legal Aid SA’s legal practitioners. He pointed out that Legal Aid SA was certified as a Top Employer in South Africa for the 13th consecutive year. ‘The entity has continued to prioritise maintaining excellent people practices in the workplace and strives to meet the challenges of changing the world of work to positively impact on the lives of its staff,’ Mr Lamola said.

Mr Lamola said that corruption remains a major threat to SA. He added Transparency International made an observation – which may be relevant in context – that corruption increases inequality, decreases popular accountability and political responsiveness, and thus produces rising frustration and hardship among citizens, who are then more likely to accept (or even demand) hard-handed and illiberal tactics. He added that those tactics shift blame for economic insecurity and political decline onto immigrants or other minority groups, and onto economic and political elites, who must be dealt with swiftly and decisively.

In its efforts to fighting corruption, Mr Lamola said that the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit finalised 380 cases with 344 convictions ­– a conviction rate of 90,5%. He added that several government officials convicted of corruption increased by 38,4% (from 86 to 119) year-on-year. Corruption prosecution in the private sector has improved by 39,5% (from 147 to 205 people convicted). Meanwhile, Mr Lamola pointed out that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has filled all senior vacancies and the next step is to intensify the skill sets of prosecutors and police officers.

Mr Lamola mentioned some of the cases that the NPA has been working on, which include, gender-based violence and cable theft. He noted the NPA obtained 193 convictions from 210 verdict cases, recording a 91,9% conviction rate in cable theft, as well as a 97,4% conviction rate for cybercrime. He said that the NPA in collaborating with other stakeholders nationally and internationally during the phased implementation of the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020, which came into effect in 2021, will provide guidance and clarity on the identification and prosecution of high complex matters of cybercrimes.

Mr Lamola touched on international cooperation in criminal matters in mutual legal assistance matters. He said that the new Extradition Bill, 2022 (the Bill) has been prepared, and provides for the extradition of persons sought for extraditable offences to and from SA to requested States with which SA has conclude an agreement and for the surrender of persons sought to international entities having jurisdiction in respect of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He added that the Bill is aimed at ensuring that SA is not a haven for criminals or said to be acting with impunity. Mr Lamola pointed out that the Bill has been processed through the relevant clusters and the Department is to obtain Cabinet’s approval to introduce the Bill into Parliament.

In regard to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Lamola said that in this financial year the department recorded the highest level of performance in four years. He added that the department’s overall performance is on an upward trajectory, with 79% of the planned targets achieved, compared to 66% in the previous financial year. He pointed out that the modernising of justice services by using digital capabilities continues to be a priority, despite the challenges posed by aging information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and ransomware attacks. ‘The department continues to prioritise and enhance the system security and build on a strong foundation of ICT infrastructure,’ he said.

When speaking about the Department of Correctional Services, Mr Lamola said that the institution continues to implement the Strategic Framework on Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability across all its regions. He announced that Correctional Services recorded a second consecutive unqualified opinion where the Auditor-General South Africa commended the institution for submitting financial statements that were free from material misstatement.

Regarding the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ), Mr Lamola said that the OCJ achieved 87,5% of its annual targets and spent 93,1% of its final appropriation. He added that in ensuring improved court performance the OCJ conducted 168 skills-enhancing judicial education courses for judicial officers and aspiring judicial officers, which was attended by 4 343 delegates. In ensuring improved court efficiency during 2021/22, 86% of default judgments were finalised by Registrars within 14 days from date of receipt of application; 99% of taxation bills of costs were finalised within 60 days from date set down and 100% of the warrants of release were delivered. Regarding court modernisation, Mr Lamola added that the OCJ embarked on the following projects: Infrastructure Refresh, Upgrading of End-User Equipment and Roll out of Wi-Fi to all Superior Courts.

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