New justice ministry announced

July 1st, 2014

By Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has been merged with the Correctional Services department to form the Department of Justice and Correctional Services. President Jacob Zuma said that this move was necessary to ‘improve efficiency in the criminal justice system’.

The announcement was made in May when President Zuma announced the new members of the national executive who have been tasked with improving and speeding up the implementation of policies and programmes.

In his speech, President Zuma explained that some of the departments had been reconfigured while others were expanded in order to improve capacity.

Speaking on the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, President Zuma said that the new justice minister was Michael Masutha, adding that the department would have two deputies, namely, the current deputy minister, John Jeffrey, who would be responsible for the justice and constitutional development component and Thabang Makwetla, responsible for the correctional services portfolio.

According to the South Africa Government Online, Mr Masutha did a BIur at the then University of the North (now the University of Limpopo) from 1985 to 1988 and obtained an LLB degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1989. He was admitted as an advocate of the High Court in 1995.

Mr Masutha was the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology from 9 July 2013 until the May 2014 elections and has been a member of parliament for the African National Congress since 1999.

Mr Masutha served on a number of parliamentary committees including Justice and Constitutional Development; Social Development; Auditor General Rules, and Constitutional Review.

The Minister was born with a visual impairment and went to the Siloe School for the Blind in Tzaneen, Limpopo from which he matriculated in 1984.

Mr Jeffery continues in his portfolio as Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development to which he was first appointed in July 2013. He holds the BA and LLB degrees as well as a postgraduate diploma in environmental law from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mr Jeffery commenced his articles in 1993 at Cheadle Thompson & Haysom’s  (CTH) Pietermaritzburg office. These were later transferred to Von Klemperer & Davis in Pietermaritzburg when the CTH office in Pietermaritzburg closed. Mr Jeffery served articles from 1993 to 1995 and was admitted as an attorney in December 1995.

Mr Jeffery was a member of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature from 1994 to 1999. He chaired the Environment and Conservation Portfolio Committee and was also a member of the Economic Affairs and the Safety and Security Portfolio Committee. He also led the African National Congress component of the Constitutional Committee in the provincial legislature, which was tasked with drafting a provincial constitution for KwaZulu-Natal.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) congratulated Minister Masutha on his appointment. In a press release the Co-chairpersons of the LSSA Ettienne Barnard and Max Boqwana said: The LSSA offers its support to Minister Masutha and his deputies, and looks forward to an early meeting with him in order to discuss various issues affecting the legal profession and its service to the public generally; but in particular the LSSA wishes to expedite discussions around setting an agenda for the implementation of the transitional National Forum envisaged in the Legal Practice Bill. Although the Bill is awaiting assent by the President, the LSSA believes that much of the preparatory work can be initiated to start implementing the new legal dispensation as envisaged in the Bill.’

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Nadel) welcomed the new appointments. In a press release, Nadel’s publicity secretary, Gcina Malindi SC said that both the Minister and Mr Jeffery have served diligently and competently in the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development in their many years of service in the National Assembly. He added that Nadel was satisfied that the new combined department would be able to address all matters related to justice.

Mr Malindi stated: ‘We further welcome the President’s announcement that this period of the fifth term of the ANC led government will usher in a radical phase of socio-economic transformation. This signals an important shift from the side of government to be pro-active in the realisation of socio-economic rights rather than being reactive to the many court challenges of the past 20 years of democracy where government was ordered by the courts to afford these rights to many communities.’

The Black Lawyers Association (BLA) also welcomed the appointments. Its president, Busani Mabunda, said that Minister Masutha’s background was ‘firmly rooted in the struggle for human rights.  We believe that he will lead the department with great efficiency, zeal and dedication.’ Mr Mabunda added: ‘We believe that Minister Masutha will continue to champion people’s cause in his new position. Minister Masutha proved his worth in the debates he participated in as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development. We count on his capabilities and believe that he will take forth from where his predecessors left and he will strive to ensure that the Legal Practice Bill gets signed into law without further delay.’

Other changes to the cabinet

According to President Zuma other changes to the national executive included:

  • A ministry of telecommunications and postal services was established, President Zuma said this was because South Africa has a fast-growing telecommunications sector and added that the Post Office has a great developmental capacity especially in delivering financial services to the country’s remote areas.
  • The National Planning Commission as well as the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Ministries in the Presidency have been combined into one ministry to harmonise the planning and monitoring functions. This ministry is also responsible for youth development.
  • The establishment of a new Communications Ministry that will be responsible for overarching communication policy and strategy, information dissemination and publicity as well as the branding of the country abroad. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa; the South African Broadcasting Corporation; Government Communications and Information System; Brand SA; and the Media Development and Diversity Agency will fall under this ministry.

The Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disability is now the Ministry of Women which will be located in The Presidency.

  • The Ministry of Water and Sanitation was established in order to improve the provision of water and sanitation.
  • The Ministry for Small Business Development was established.
  • Two Deputy Ministers were appointed for Rural Development and Land Reform and the labour portfolio gained a deputy minister because of ‘the important role of the department in the economic cluster’.
  • Cyril Ramaphosa was named the new Deputy President and the former Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe, became the Minister in the Presidency.

In total President Zuma appointed 20 men and 15 women ministers, as well as 20 men and 16 women deputy ministers. He concluded his speech by saying that government was happy to be moving closer to its target of having more women in cabinet and the national executive as a whole.

Nomfundo Manyathi-Jele,

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2014 (July) DR 6.