Unabriged budget address: Minister of Justice


Budget Vote Speech by Mr JT Radebe, MP, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development

5 May 2010

Mr Speaker/Madam Deputy Speaker

Honourable members

Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary

Heads of the Constitutional Institutions

Distinguished guests

Comrades and friends

Ladies and gentlemen

This coming Saturday, on 8 May, exactly 14 years later, we will be remembering the historic day of the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Some at home and abroad have given it a description of the “soul of the nation”.

Others have drawn the analogy of a “birth certificate” signifying the emergence of our rainbow nation, united in its diversities. We in the justice family confirm and remain committed to the wise words of our icon, President Nelson Mandela, when he addressed the Constitutional Assembly on the occasion of the adoption of the Constitution of South Africa on the 8th of May 1996, when he stated:
“This constitution is our own humble contribution to democracy and the culture of human rights world-wide: it is our pledge to humanity that nothing will steer us from this course.”

As we take stock of the road we have traversed since then, it gives me pleasure to highlight our periodic forecasts as afforded through our national and subsequently departmental budget, to further buttress our democratic order by bringing hope for the cause for justice for all our people regardless of age, status, gender or race.

This year, 2010, has been appropriately declared by our President, Mr Jacob Zuma, as the year of action. It is the year in which we in the justice family have come to the edge of our defining moment in the long journey leading to a transformed judicial system. When we addressed this House during our budget vote in 2009, we made a firm commitment to finalise the outstanding aspects relating to the Superior Courts Bill and the accompanying Constitutional Amendment Bill. This morning I presented the fruits of our labour to Cabinet and I am pleased to announce that Cabinet has approved both of these Bills.

In terms of these bills, the Constitutional Court will be the Apex Court in the Republic and the Supreme Court of Appeal will be the Appeal Court; the Chief Justice will be the Head of the whole Judiciary and the capacity of his office shall be enhanced as a transition towards the establishment of a fully-fledged court administration under one Judiciary; the judiciary shall develop the rules of court.

These measures which provide the governance framework for the Judiciary will go a long way in enhancing the independence of the Judiciary as a separate branch of government. The bills also addresses the need for the establishment of a single high court with divisions in all provinces, including decoupling Limpopo from the North Gauteng High Court and stepping up our efforts to find appropriate court infrastructure for the High Court in Mpumalanga.

Except for a very few aspects, there is consensus between us and the judiciary on the provisions of the Bills. I wish to extend my gratitude to the Chief Justice for his sterling leadership in consolidating the work started by his predecessors, former Chief Justices Arthur Chaskalson and Pius Langa. He, together with the Heads of Courts, made a significant contribution to this process. I also wish to thank my predecessors, the late Dullar Omar, Mr Pennuel Maduna, Ms Bridgette Mabandla and Mr Enver Surty whose contributions have been part of the ongoing chain link in the transformation of the judiciary.

Race and gender transformation of the Bench remains an important constitutional imperative. While the Judicial Service Commission continues to play an important role in establishing a judiciary which is representative of the South African society, and has now for the first time since its establishment in 1994, recommended the appointment of the first woman to the office of Judge President, this still remains an area of much concern.

I congratulate Judge Leeuw and the other judges on their appointment by the President, and trust that she will not be a lone voice among those in leadership for long. The special programme introduced in 2007 to fast track the appointment of women to the Bench has started to bear fruit, but evidently not at the pace that we all envisaged. We are aware that since academic institutions, corporate entities, public institutions, private individuals, as well as the judiciary, fish in the same pond for expertise, we need to be innovative in cultivating a new corps of legal and judicial officers. The South African Judicial Education Institute, about which we will further address this House, will be key to the unearthing of new talent.

The legal profession is one of the pillars of the justice system and an indispensable element of access to justice. We have defined, in the Legal Practice Bill, the parameters for reform in the legal sector. The Bill aims to create equal opportunities for all who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Braam Fischer, Duma Nokwe, Griffiths Mxenge and Oliver Tambo.

The bill provides various ways of reducing the costs of justice to ordinary citizens, and introduces the concept of Legal Community Service in terms of which legal practitioners would be required to render legal services for a certain minimum period on a pro bono basis for the benefit of the poor. We share Justice Lewis Powell Junior’s sentiment that:
“Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building; it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”

We are indebted to the bar and the side bar, whose representatives persevered in the negotiations in good faith on the contents of the Bill. I am pleased to announce that Cabinet has also approved this Bill. I am confident that this House will give further guidance on the aspects where, due to our policy choices, we took a different view from that of the legal profession.

To address the unequal allocation of government legal work we have set ourselves a target of 65% of the value of briefs to be allocated to historically disadvantaged individuals and firms by 2015. The department is also considering various ways of increasing its internal capacity in handling litigation work to reduce the huge costs expended on litigation against government.

We have made significant strides to turn the tide against crime and corruption. Through the Criminal Justice System (CJS), we have adopted an integrated approach to ensure that the CJS is a holistic continuum that stretches from where a crime is committed, to the police, to the prosecutors, to the courts, to Social Development and Correctional Services, and to restoration and integration back into the communities. We have strengthened the bail management and the use of information technology systems to provide an integrated management information to the cluster departments and the JCPS overall.

We have also developed protocols to enhance the integration and effectiveness of the CJS, screening mechanisms and the trial readiness of cases; the taking and processing of forensic samples, and the Court Protocol on Legal Aid Cases.

I wish to assure members of this House that the Chief Justice, the Heads of Courts and the Judicial Service Commission are considering the most effective ways to deal with the challenge of case backlogs. The Judicial Service Commission Amendment Act, 2008, the date of commencement of which I have already requested the President to announce, will assist a great deal in addressing the matter. This Act provides for a Code of Judicial Conduct which has to be approved by this House. I have received the draft Code from the Chief Justice and the inputs of the judiciary on the draft Regulations that provide for the disclosure of financial interests by judges.

A month ago we celebrated the implementation of the Child Justice Act of 2008 that will revolutionise the way the Criminal Justice System deals with cases involving children in conflict with the law. Although it is a robust Act, whose efficacy is being tested in the current case in Ventersdorp, it in no way attempts to trivialise all kinds of misdemeanours by children.

In appropriate cases children will still be dealt with firmly by means of the new processes and procedures which have been built into this legislation. I would like the House to acknowledge the presence in the public gallery of children from Vredelus House in Elsies River. Some of them are in conflict with the law and others need care and this law is to address their predicament.

Together with the National Prosecuting Authority and the departments of Health, Social Development, Police and Correctional Services, we shall continue to establish Thuthuzela Care Centres and Child Care facilities. I have, this past Monday, launched the Bellville Thuthuzela Care Centre which becomes the 21st care centre country wide. With the help of our social partners, we hope to have established 35 centres by 2015.

The units that fall under the National Prosecuting Authority continue to be the key pillars in our fight against crime and corruption. I have therefore taken a decision that the Asset Forfeiture Unit would not be disbanded as had been reported. On the contrary, Government will support the efforts by the National Director of Public Prosecutions to strengthen the unit’s work in this regard.

We are continuing with the programme of upgrading and converting the Branch Courts in the former townships and rural areas into fully equipped courts to provide all court-related services. Four of these Branch Courts, namely Atteridgeville and Mamelodi in Gauteng, Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal and Northam in Limpopo, will operate as full services courts with effect from 1 June 2010.

Cabinet has approved the review of the civil justice system, which we will undertake with the judiciary. This review will assist in overhauling old legislation and the cumbersome rules of courts that frustrate the prompt processing of civil disputes. This project, together with the Jurisdiction of Regional Courts Amendment Act of 2008 due to be promulgated soon, will go a long way in addressing the backlog of civil cases.

The Office of the Master remains one of our key service delivery programmes as it impacts on the vulnerable members of society. We are providing appropriate skills to the staff in the masters’ offices to improve turnaround times. On the Guardian’s Fund we aim to ensure that 80% of the beneficiaries receive their entitlements within 40 days of submitting their applications.

We will improve our ability to deal with the long and time-consuming queues for maintenance services at our courts. We are increasing capacity at the courts to reduce the waiting periods. Our preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup are complete. The department has designated 56 court rooms within the vicinity of the host cities for the hearing of cases for the duration of the tournament.

These courts will be adequately resourced and they will sit outside normal hours in order to finalise cases involving non-nationals to minimise the costs of having to bring them back later for their testimony.

A total budget of R12,180 billion is allocated to the department for the 2010/11 financial year. Of this budget allocation:
* R3,871 billion is allocated to the court services programme
* R2,4 billion is for the National Prosecuting Authority
* R1,4 billion for Public entities and Chapter 9 institutions.

The budget sets out additional allocations of R459,8 million in 2010/11, R680,3 million in 2011/12 and R887,3 million in 2012/13 to cater for the implementation of legislation concerning vulnerable groups, the Child Justice and Children’s Acts; the building of new courts and the upgrading of existing infrastructure; the appointment of additional judges, magistrates and public defenders to the Legal Aid South Africa and increased capacity and office accommodation for the South African Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Public Protector.

On 29 April 2010, I had the opportunity to discuss and sign my Performance Agreement with the President. This contract will be cascaded down to all the personnel in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and entities that report to it, based on its key pillar of the outcomes-based monitoring and evaluation. Needless to say, those who fall short of what is expected of them will be subjected to appropriate censure.

For my accountability to the President, my coordination responsibilities of the outcome with the requirement that “All People in South Africa are and feel safe”, I will work with the various heads within the department and more broadly within the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to achieve the following outputs:
* Addressing overall levels of crime and reducing the levels of trio crimes.
* Improving the effectiveness and ensuring the integration of the Criminal Justice System.
* Combating corruption within the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster to enhance its effectiveness and its ability to serve as a deterrent against crime.
* Managing perceptions of crime among the population.
* Ensuring security at the border environment.
* Securing the identity and status of citizens.
* Integrating ICT systems and combat cyber crimes.
* Fighting Corruption.

To achieve these outcomes, I will be convening an implementation forum comprising of Cabinet colleagues. This Forum should develop a Delivery Agreement by July 2010. This delivery agreement shall provide more detail on the outputs, targets, indicators and key activities which are enshrined in my performance agreement.

I have also emphasised upon the Director-General the need to improve our organisational efficiency to address performance related challenges that led to the negative audit reports and non-compliance in the past. We are also putting measures to improve the court recording system and our information management systems to address the loss, deliberate or otherwise, of court records.

We will also embark on regular unannounced in loco inspection of service delivery points as we did on Monday by visiting Masters Office in Cape Town and the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court. In this approach we are driven by our credo “Justice For All”, because we realise the relevance to our circumstances of the view of the 75th Anniversary celebration of the Legal Aid Society of New York on 16 February 1951, that:
“It is the daily; it is the small; it is the cumulative injuries of little people that we are here to protect if we are able to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: “Thou shall not ration justice”.

We shall be steadfast in our championing of the cause of an independent judiciary and shall be in the trenches of protecting the separation of powers as required by our Constitution. The application of the principle of non- encroachment should continue to be the oxygen of our democracy.

We shall do all these things, and more, being very much alive to the observation by the African-American Frederick Douglass, former slave, abolitionist, women’s suffragist, orator and statesman, who lived between 1818 and 1895, that:
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

We are also driven by the wise words of President Mandela’s at the G8 Summit in July 2005, when he stated that:
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of the fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom”

Before I conclude, I would like to pass my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mrs Sheena Duncan and call upon all South Africans to pay tribute to this gallant fighter for human rights in our country. Without selfless individuals like Mrs Duncan, we would not be enjoying our democracy today. I also wish to pass my condolences to the family of Judge Mohamed Jajbhay of the South Gauteng High Court who passed on this morning and our hearts are with his family during their time of bereavement.

In conclusion I wish to thank my Deputy Minister Mr Andries Nel, my Director-General, Ms Nonkululeko Msomi and her management and staff; the Chairpersons of the statutory bodies, the Chief Justice, Heads of Courts and the Judiciary as a whole, Human Rights Commission, Public Protector, the Rules Board, the South African law Commission, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Menzi Simelane, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, various members of the judiciary, and all those working in the justice sector. Without their support and industry, I would not be so bold as to lay down our tasks as covered in this budget vote.

Lastly and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, Bridgette and my family who have been my pillar of strength through the many challenges I have faced in the execution of my responsibilities.

Thank you.

Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
5 May 2010

Source: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (http://www.justice.gov.za)