Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the Introduction of the Stellenbosch Additional Court, 13 May 2016
Ladies and gentlemen,
Access to justice is a constitutional imperative. One of the ways we can improve access to justice is via additional courts, such as the one we are introducing here today.
Pending the finalisation of the rationalisation and re-demarcation process of the courts, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has decided to focus on individual municipalities - on a case-by-case basis - to assess the viability of a partnership in relation to municipal matters that require court attention.
So if the normal district Magistrates’ Courts in a particular court centre has an extremely high workload pertaining to municipal-related matters, an additional Magistrates’ Court can be established to help deal with such matters.
Such an additional court remains a district magisterial court, even though it may have sittings outside the normal court centre precinct. These courts are also sometimes identified as “Magistrates’ Courts dealing with Municipal matters”.
This approach requires of municipalities, in co-operation with their local court, to provide a motivation for an additional court.
The Municipal Manager (after the need for such a court has been identified) needs to consult with the respective Heads of the Judiciary, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Area Court Manager of the specific magisterial district regarding the need for such a court.
As part of the consultations, the Municipal Manager needs to submit a comprehensive Business Plan on the intended establishment of an additional court to the Regional Head via the Area/ Court Manager as well as to the Judicial Head of the district for further action.
What do additional courts seek to achieve?
- To deal more effectively with municipal by-law matters at certain courts where the current infrastructure is either insufficient or over-burdened;
- To provide full-time courts dedicated to Traffic and Municipal by-law cases;
- To ensure that Municipal by-laws are enforced effectively;
- To assist Magistrate’s Courts in reducing the number of criminal cases being placed on the court rolls; and
- To provide fair and speedy justice services to all.
The following factors are taken into consideration when establishing an additional court:
- The quantity of traffic related cases allowed per week on the court rolls of the court;
- Number of court days allocated for traffic offences;
- Number of traffic cases and separate thereto statistics on speeding camera offences;
- Number of cases withdrawn;
- Number of Warrants of Arrest issued;
- Number of Warrant of Arrest cases allowed per court day;
- Warrants of Arrest outstanding; and
- Potential growth in Backlog of Warrant of Arrest cases.
If sufficient infrastructure is available at the court such an additional court can be housed in the court building.
In most instances, the Magistrates’ Courts do not have sufficient infrastructure available for the establishment of an additional court that is dedicated to municipal cases.
The municipality will therefore be responsible to provide such facilities in the proximity of the Magistrate’s Court.
The additional court - whether housed within the Magistrate’s Court building or apart thereof- is deemed to be part and parcel of the Magistrates’ Court.
In most instances, the Chief or Senior Magistrate of the area recommends a retired magistrate to be appointed on contract basis at the additional court.
The magistrate so appointed will then resort under the respective Judicial Head of the Magisterial District. This reporting structure will be to ensure the independence of the judiciary, as enshrined in the Constitution.
Regarding the appointment of a prosecutor, the municipalities usually propose the appointment of a certain official with experience in municipal cases to the Chief Prosecutor of the area for delegation from the DPP to prosecute in these cases.
The Stellenbosch additional court is 1 of 3 functional additional courts in the Western Cape that is not situated within the Cape Town Metro.
The two 2 other functional additional courts are Mossel Bay and Hermanus.
We are pleased to advise that the additional court in George is in the process of being completed and is expected to be operational with effect from July 2016.
Various other Municipalities are also showing great interest in establishing additional courts in partnership with the Department. The Additional Place of Sitting was proclaimed on 28 April 2015.
The Stellenbosch Municipality currently straddles 2 magisterial districts namely Stellenbosch and Paarl, in the area of Franschoek and Pniel.
Arrangements have been made that the additional court could also sit in the periodical court in Franschoek to attend to traffic and municipal by-law cases emanating from this area.
On the days when the additional court facility is therefore vacant, it will be available to be used for regional court divorce cases as well as district court family or civil matters.
I also want to reiterate that, as you may be aware, Stellenbosch has its own Small Claims Court which hears civil claims of up to the value of R15 000.
I want to take this opportunity to urge the community to make use of the Small Claims Court – the services are rendered free of charge and one does not need a lawyer. The procedure is fairly informal and the Clerk of the Small Claims Court can assist a claimant in the process.
I am very pleased to be able to inform you that we now have 44 Small Claims Courts in the Western Cape, which means that we only need to establish 1 more Small Claims Court for the Western Cape to have a functioning Small Claims Court in each and every one of the Western Cape’s 45 magisterial districts.
I also want to express our appreciation to the 4 members of the Stellenbosch Small Claims Court Advisory Board Members and the 35 Commissioners who offer their services and their time, free of charge, to ensure that the Stellenbosch Small Claims Court can function.
All these initiatives are ways in which we bring justice closer to our people.
I thank you.