Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster media briefing

9659

12 MARCH 2014

Ministers,

Deputy Ministers,

Directors-General and Heads of other institutions present,

Members of the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

The new democratic government inherited a dysfunctional and polarised system which deliberately denied the fundamental rights of the majority of people. The challenge that confronted us was to unite and help transform a nation that was divided across race, class, sex, creed and economic status. In addition, we were faced with the urgent task of ensuring a safer and secure South Africa.

The criminal justice system that existed pre-1994 served the interests of the apartheid government and entrenched the ends of this ideology legally, institutionally and practically. As a result, there was a disparity in delivery of services, dependent on race and geographic location.

As government we knew that we needed to remodel the criminal justice system and align it with the values enshrined in our Constitution. We needed to create a system that is readily-responsive to serve the citizens, to afford them dignity and recourse; one that is able to inspire the confidence of the ordinary South African.

Institutional reform

We have made substantial progress in changing the face of the criminal justice system, establishing the rule of law and transforming institutions that had previously served the apartheid state.

A strong and legitimate body of State institutions has been put in place to promote and advance access to justice and strengthen constitutional democracy. Measures have also been taken to strengthen the Office of the Public Protector; the South African Human Rights Commission; the National Prosecuting Authority; the Independent Police Investigative Directorate; Anti-Corruption Task Team; Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation; Civilian Secretariat for the Police; and Legal Aid South Africa. Through these bodies, our people are now able to enjoy the rights enshrined in our Constitution.

Our commitment to the restoration of the dignity of our people and the preservation of the country’s democracy was highlighted by the establishment of the Constitutional Court, which is the final arbiter in the land.

We have further strengthened the Judiciary as a separate branch of the State. The Superior Courts Act which was passed in 2013 accords the Office of the Chief Justice an identity and responsibility separate from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The Constitution Seventeenth Amendment Act also confers on the Chief Justice the power to lead and guide the judiciary.

Another huge task that confronted us was the transformation of the judicial system.

Amongst the initiatives under way to transform the Judiciary and the legal sector are efforts to realise the imperative of establishing a Judiciary that broadly represent the racial and gender demographics of the South African society. Black judges (Black, Coloured and Indians) now constitute 61% of all judges. We are currently looking at various ways to nourish the pool from which female judges can be appointed. The finalisation of the Legal Practice Bill which was tabled in Parliament in 2013 will assist in the transformation of the legal profession and broaden the pool from which potential judicial officers can be selected.

We have successfully completed the process of reviewing and restructuring the civilian intelligence architecture, resulting in the establishment of the State Security Agency. This led to the improvement in the quality of intelligence services that contribute to the work of the cluster.

Cluster Coordination

The JCPS Cluster has worked as a collective to ensure that the priorities of, amongst others, reducing crime, improving the efficiency of the criminal justice system (CJS), dealing with corruption, managing our borders, improving our population registration system and prioritising the combating and prevention of cyber-crime are achieved.

The fight against serious crimes

We have intensified the fight against crime to protect our hard-won constitutional rights and build a society where people are and feel safe. Our efforts to combat crime jointly have yielded results.

In general, over the past 9 years (2004/5 to 2012/13) incidents of crime declined against the increase in population figures. Murder reduced by 27.2% over 9 years, with a further reduction of 16.6% during the past 4 years.

Reduced crime levels can be attributed to the increase in visible policing and improved crime-combating initiatives, which were part of the National Crime Prevention Strategy. Improvements in investigations, conviction rates and the imposition of harsher sentences also contributed as disincentives to crime.

The conviction rates have increased remarkedly in the past five years in the following categories of crime: organised crime, sexual offences and trio crimes (hijacking, murder and business robberies).

Most of the people arrested for serious crimes have received harsher sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment.

In terms of sentenced persons, the breakdown of some of the longer sentences imposed is as follows:
• Sentenced for 15 – 20 years: 12 104 persons;
• Sentenced for more than 20 years: 9 438 persons; and
• Sentenced to life sentences: 12 443 persons.

The conviction rates of some of the categories of crimes that have an impact on our communities are as follows:
• Conviction rate in relation to organised crime cases: 87.9%
• Conviction rate in relation to trio crimes cases: 84.7%
• Conviction rate in relation to sexual offences cases: 66.7%.

Several South African surveys have shown that more people are beginning to feel safer. In line with our own findings, in October 2013, the US-based IHS Crime Index released a report which found that crime in South Africa is at its lowest level in 15 years. The report further stated that crime rates dropped 38% since its peak during the 2002/2003 financial year. It states and I quote: “Violent crime is at the lowest level seen in a decade, declining some 40% between 2002 and 2013. Property crime experienced a decrease of 24% over the same period. The declining crime rates reflect the overall improvement of conditions in South Africa.” (unquote)

In dealing with crime, government adopted a zero-tolerance approach towards abuse of women and children. Over the past 5 years, several interventions were introduced to address gender-based violence and sexual offences against vulnerable groups.

These interventions include the adoption and ascent of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act and the Child Justice Act which was passed in 2008. These Acts provided for expanded definitions of crimes such as rape and provided greater protection for children. 176 specialised Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) are operational throughout the country. We are encouraged by our courts which have demonstrated an aggressive stance in addressing the scourge of sexual violence in our country. Our courts have imposed severe sentences in two prominent cases with the rapist and killer of Anene Booysen being sentenced to 25 years and the Tholeni serial rapist and kill, from Butterworth in the Eastern Cape to 25 life terms. This was hardly a week after the re-introduction of the sexual offences courts in the Eastern Cape.

The number of convicted sex offenders on the National Register for Sex Offenders has increased from 2 792 names that appeared on the register as at 31 March 2013 to 13 216 names as at 31 December 2013. In the month of October 2013, alone 3 384 current and historic convictions were successfully registered. The convictions affirm that Government’s investments are beginning to yield the desired results.

In support of the investigation of such crimes, 2 139 forensic social workers were appointed. These include 79 forensic social workers appointed to assist in cases of sexual abuse perpetrated against children. Government has also established 39 fully functional Thuthuzela Care Centres, which serve as one-stop centres for incidents of rape. Collectively, these interventions have led to 1 194 life sentences during the past three years.

In order to deal with the secondary victimisation of victims of sexual violence, the cluster introduced 919 victim-friendly facilities at police stations to render support. Government has further re-introduced the sexual offences courts to ensure that victims of these crimes are able to access justice in a victim-friendly environment.

We have, since 1994, laid a solid constitutional, legislative, policy and regulatory framework transforming the repressive prison system of the apartheid era into a correctional system.

Since 2009, we have made great advances towards the democratisation and the creation of opportunities for members of society to participate in the correction of offenders. New initiatives such as the Victim-Offender Dialogues (VOD) have been introduced to place the victims of crime at the centre of the correctional process. The VOD programme is geared towards ensuring that victims of crime are not erased from public memory once the courts sentence the offender. As government we acknowledge that the loss suffered by victims is irreplaceable, and that the healing of wounds and pain is a process that does not end once guilt is established by the courts.

We have in the past five years intensified the focus on the education of offenders to help break the cycle of crime. Flowing from the adoption of compulsory education, illiterate inmates on the pre-ABET programme increased by 100% from 1300 to 2600, a good progress towards covering over 5500 completely illiterate offenders. Over 9700 offenders are on ABET programme, 3525 are on Further Education and Training levels (including grades 10-12), and 1762 offenders are undertaking their post school studies.

Our prisons are now correctional centres of rehabilitation. Offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens.

The fight against corruption

The cluster has established the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) which prioritises the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases. The ACTT coordinates more than 100 dedicated personnel from across several different agencies in the effort to fight corruption. Concerted efforts of the ACTT have led to notable progress in combatting corruption in the public and private sectors.

By end December 2013, 48 persons were convicted in cases where more than R5 million in illicit gains were involved and freezing orders amounting to R1.3 billion were obtained against 67 persons.

In the first six months of 2013/14, a total of R149 million was paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) Fund. The fund was established to redirect the proceeds of criminal activity to enhance the fight against crime.

Strengthening the Criminal Justice System

The JCPS Cluster has developed various business plans to improve investigative, prosecuting, court and case management systems. The most comprehensive initiative in this regard is the Integrated Justice System (IJS) Programme which aims to manage inter-departmental information exchange within the cluster.

We have made the following progress:
1. With regard to the integration of departmental case-related systems across the SAPS, NPA, Justice, Legal Aid SA, DCS, it is now possible to deal with electronic exchanges of docket ready data/information at 99 police stations and 20 courts with further rollout continuing.
2. The establishment of a single person identifier across the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is continuing.
3. The establishment of a single database for the JCPS cluster for statistical purposes and the electronic exchange of management information across the cluster are progressing. At present an IJS Transversal Hub that assists with the data exchanges between departments is at an advanced stage of development.

The JCPS Cluster also invested substantially to ensure increased capacity, training and skills development across the cluster.

The Forensic Services Division has improved its human resource capacity which has led to the speedy finalisation of cases. Despite an increase in demand, the Forensic Services Division managed to reduce related backlogs by 78%.

Another key development is that South Africa has become the 57th country worldwide to pass criminal offender DNA database legislation. This legislation will help to solve and prevent crime in South Africa.

Improvement has been achieved in case finalisation and there has been a significant reduction of criminal court case backlogs through the 82 Backlog Courts. At the end of December 2013, the total number of criminal case backlogs across all courts (that is, those cases that are longer than 6 months on the district court rolls, 9 months on the regional court rolls and 12 months on the High court rolls) have been reduced from 34 327 cases (in 2007) to 25 762 backlog cases which is 13,8% of all outstanding cases country-wide (186 420 cases). To ensure sustainability, 42 of the regional backlog courts have now been created as additional permanent courts to ensure the backlog reduction is sustained. Our commitment to reduce case backlogs is based on the conviction that justice delayed is justice denied.

Access to Justice
43 new courts have been built since 1994 (9 of which were built in the 2009 to 2013 period). A further 24 Branch Courts have been elevated into full service courts as part of the re-demarcation of magisterial districts. Through this project we seek to redress the past racially-based demarcations of the courts and to bring justice closer to the people, especially those located in the rural villages and traditionally Black townships. The outstanding 65 Branch Courts are also earmarked for upgrade gradually in line with the National Development Plan.

Legal Aid South Africa has continued to improve their access to justice footprint country-wide. This now includes a fully functional national call centre where clients can access telephonic legal advice daily from 7am to 7pm. The call centre, which is accessed through a toll free number, (0800 110 110) ensures that even in rural areas, people are also able to access free legal advice. During the previous financial year, over 400 000 people were assisted by Legal Aid SA in criminal matters.

SECURING OUR BORDERS

In compliance with the Cabinet decision of 2009, the SANDF was required to return to the border safe guarding function. With effect from 2010, SANDF adopted a phased in approach and had presence in the border areas ensuring the protection of South Africa’s territorial integrity against cross border crime and illegal activities

The deployment of resources and military personnel has been done in phases over the 5 year period Currently the SANDF is deployed in 7 of the 9 provinces covering Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and the North West Provinces respectively.

As a spin-off of border safeguarding along the Mozambican border within the Kruger National Park an additional force multiplier is deployed in the form of an Intelligence capability to mainly focus on anti-poaching of Rhinos in conjunction with SANPARKS and other security agencies.

This has resulted in operational successes such as confiscation of the following over the period:
• Contraband confiscated (mainly cigarettes and liquor) worth over R100 million;
• Dagga 15,42 tons – value over R50 million
• Weapons confiscated 103
• Undocumented persons apprehended 80 000.
• Stolen vehicles recovered over 300
• Suspected Criminals arrested 2000
• Livestock recovered 18 000.

The deployment of SANDF back to the borderline has resulted in noticeable number of interceptions of various illegal activities and a great improvement of the security of our borders. It must be stated that over the period 2010 till 2013 a lot of work has been done to improve the security of our borders and stamp out criminal activities and the success thereof can be attested to by the statistics that are available.

The JCPS Cluster is finalising policy development that seeks to address illegal immigration, deportation, illegal trading of goods and improve the situation at the borders. The Border Management Agency (BMA) which is currently being established under the leadership of the Department of Home Affairs, will be in place by 2014 and will assist in creating safer borders and ports of entry. We have begun to implement a border management strategy to deal with, amongst others, the illegal trafficking of firearms into the country.

Securing of Identity and Status of Citizens

Since 1 February 2014, the Department of Home Affairs began to roll out the Smart ID card to citizens as part of efforts to consolidate the restoration of citizenship, identity and dignity to all South Africans. 28 offices across the country have been earmarked to process applications for the Smart ID. It is hoped that by April this year, the department will have at least 70 offices to process applications for the Smart ID cards. The roll out of the Smart ID cards is also part of efforts to protect the integrity of our national population register.

Fighting Cybercrime

As part of our response to new forms of crime, the National Cyber security Policy Framework has been developed and approved by Cabinet. To this end, during 2012/13, the courts finalised 136 cybercrime-related cases with a conviction rate of 97.8%.

Conclusion

Today, as we look back at the road travelled since 1994, we can reflect that though the journey has not been easy, the cluster has made tremendous progress in the fight against crime and corruption.

The past 5 years were spent consolidating legislation and other measures aimed at the deepening democracy; enhancing access to justice; transforming the administration of Justice including the Judiciary and the courts; improving court performance; strengthening coordination through the Cluster system and the outcomes-based approach of government to deal with priorities; and strengthening the rule of law.

Our successes are borne out of an incredible amount of hard work, sustained over a long period of time as well as a dedicated integrated and coordinated approach across the cluster.

We also recognize and clearly understand that the task of keeping our country safe cannot be achieved if we operate in silos. That is why a multi-pronged approach in the fight against crime, underpinned by the involvement of the communities we serve, is the only and most effective solution to eradicating crime. As a government, we will continue to consolidate partnerships across society to strengthen social cohesion and ensure that our nation achieves the values of a caring society, inspired by the traits of human compassion, dignity and freedom.

I thank you!

Nikelwa Tengimfene



Chief Director: Cluster Communication (JCPS)