Phase 2 of the Rationalisation of the High Courts is underway

June 29th, 2023

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola tabled the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s (the Department’s) Budget Vote in Parliament on 30 May 2023. Mr Lamola started by extending a congratulatory message to the newly appointed President of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), Justice Mahube Betty Molemela. He said that the appointment of Justice Molemela to the high echelons of the leadership of the SCA bodes well for collective efforts to transform the judiciary.

In his address, Mr Lamola continued to say that the Department plays a pivotal role, serving as the driving force behind the new society South Africa desires through the lens of the Constitution. Mr Lamola added since his appointment as Minister of Justice and Correctional Services in 2019, he, together with Deputy Minister John Jeffery, have been working hard to address the Department’s many challenges. However, he said that unfortunately, external factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, ransomware attacks, and power outages have harmed their progress.

Mr Lamola pointed out that despite these obstacles, their efforts have yielded positive results. ‘We have seen an overall improvement in the departmental performance with notable increases.’ He added that in the 2019/20 financial year, the Department’s performance was over 80%. Mr Lamola added that the budget that was tabled on 30 May 2023, is the 2023/24 budget, which amounted to R 23,3 billion. He said that the budget will enable the Department to uphold and protect the Constitution and the rule of law and render accessible, fair, speedy, and cost-effective administration of justice in the interests of a safer and more secure South Africa.

While outlining some of the Department’s priorities, Mr Lamola spoke about a transformed legal profession. He said that the legal profession is undergoing significant changes in the country and thanked the efforts of the Department. He added that the Legal Practice Council has registered many black legal professionals, including women from disadvantaged communities. ‘We aim to distribute briefs more equitably and recognise those instrumental in bringing about this change,’ Mr Lamola said. He added that the Department is also committed to supporting programmes, such as, National Wills Week and expanding them to include free estate advice for disadvantaged individuals.

Mr Lamola said that in the last financial year, PDI legal practitioners received 83% of briefs, female practitioners received 28%, and women received 40% from the Office of the State Attorney. He pointed out that this can be verified through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s website, which keeps real time data on these statistics. Mr Lamola called on other organs of state and private sector to follow suite and publish their briefing patterns statistics.

With regard to increasing access to justice, Mr Lamola said that former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke led the Committee on the Rationalisation of the High Courts, which has completed the first phase of determining the areas over which the main and local seats of every division of the High Court must exercise jurisdiction. He added that the Committee will commence Phase 2 in June 2023 to evaluate the judicial establishment of each division of the High Court to ensure an equitable distribution of judicial posts across all the divisions.

Mr Lamola added that the Department has taken great initiatives to improve the justice system. He said the Department has prepared three Bills to improve the administration of justice, namely, the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, 2023, the Divorce Amendment Bill, 2022, and the Draft South African Judicial Education Institute Amendment Bill. He pointed out that these Bills will bring about effective changes and improve the legal system. Mr Lamola also touched on the issue of loadshedding, saying that the Department will expand their capacity to address the impact of loadshedding in courts. ‘As of March 2023, 120 courts across the country are equipped with generators or alternative power supply. To ensure that disruptions to court activities resulting from loadshedding are kept to a minimum, [the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development] has registered additional projects to install generators with Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, at various service points. The projects are at different phases of implementation.’


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