Events

Community enjoys full services at revamped Pietermaritzburg court

Residents from Pietermaritzburg and the surrounding areas witnessed the official opening of the newly revamped Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court, as part of ensuring access to justice service for all.

On 16 April 2014, Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe, officially opened the newly refurbished court in ensuring that people do no longer travel long distances to access such services.

The historic building, which was erected in 1938 and its renovation only began in 2008, was completed in 2013 as one of government’s overall mandate to ensure better services for all.

Delivering his keynote address, Minister Radebe urged community members to make use of the services offered in the court. "This facility that we handover to the community of Pietermaritzburg and the various communities under its jurisdiction are our practical pledge towards that course of a crime free and just society. Crime, violence and all forms of sexual offences can only decrease not because of these facilities working alone, but through the concerted will of all our people as a whole working together to move South Africa forward,” remarked the minister.

He added that the court has dealt with 17 675 criminal cases alone in 2013. “In the same year, there were 1 385 maintenance cases and 18 999 civil cases,” the minister explained, adding that there were 47 970 beneficiaries (are these maintenance beneficiaries?) paid with an amount totaling over R32, 9 million.

The court further dealt with 447 sexual offence cases, 4 249 divorce violence cases, 2 583 small claims cases and 575 children’s’ cases during the same year. “This is certainly a busy court and this is what we mean when we speak of access to justice for all,” Minster Radebe boasted.

The 76-year-old court prides itself on being one of South Africa's historic colonial buildings. It is at this court, where the late former President Nelson Mandela, appeared in 1962 after he was arrested in Howick on charges of leaving the country without a passport and calling on workers to strike.

Over the years, the court sat in three different areas creating challenges for the community. The intention to renovate Pietermaritzburg court was to house all staff and services together as it became a logistical nightmare with regards to operating between the three offices which were apart from each.

For the past 20 years, development has progressively succeeded in building of new 43 courts around the country as part of access to justice for all. Minister Radebe later held a community Imbizo where he told members of the public about the departmental interventions on increasing the number of courts in rural areas where judicial services are still lacking.

Commenting on the opening of the court and how it will assist residents, Ms Nikiwe Masikane of Ward 16 (Where?) concluded by saying: "The opening of this court will assist us a lot in fighting crime in this area. We won’t worry about spending too much transport money for cases that are adjourned anymore. We are happy and criminals will be prosecuted and no time will be wasted."

By Mokgethwa Ngoepe

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Published: 24 April 2014