Rationalisation Committee appointed to improve access to justice

November 1st, 2021

The Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services has issued a statement noting that the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, has established a Rationalisation Committee that is mandated to assist the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to develop transformative solutions and address systemic barriers that impede on access to justice.

The statement further notes that access to justice in South Africa (SA) is severely curtailed by the lingering effects of Apartheid judicial demarcations and spatial planning. ‘In some instances, the distances travelled by citizens who interact with the justice system, is excessive. In other instances, the proximity of police stations, legal aid, and other state functionaries to a particular seat of a Division of the High Court, has a bearing on the accessibility of the  justice system’, the statement said.

The previously undertaken rationalisation process ensured that SA has a High Court in each province. To ensure that the courts are able to fully service the South African population, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development must assess a number of factors, which includes measuring the population ratio against the number of judicial posts in a division. The statement by the Department of Justice said: ‘The rationalisation of the jurisdictional areas of the High Court comes at the heel of the rationalisation of the lower courts which is now at its final stages of implementation. Amongst other critical activities, the rationalisation committee will assess the judicial establishment of each Division of the High Court of South Africa, with a view to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of judicial posts across all divisions. The Committee commenced its work at the beginning of October, and it is expected to submit within six months, a report with recommendations’.

The Rationalisation Committee is chaired by retired Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, and comprises the following other members, namely –

  • retired Deputy Judge President of the Western Cape Division of the High Court, Judge Jeanette Traverso;
  • retired Chief Magistrate of the Verulam Magistrate’s Court, Renuka Subban; and
  • retired Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, Dr Silas Ramaite.

According to the statement, the committee represents eminent persons with various experience in the judicial sector who will pledge their time in this tedious process as they have been discharged from active service. The committee is established with a view to rationalise areas under the jurisdiction of  the Divisions of the High Court of South Africa and the judicial establishments in order  to enhance access to justice.

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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2021 (Nov) DR 3.

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