Budget Vote speech by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, MP (Adv) National Assembly, Parliament, Thursday, 18 May 2017
Honourable House Chairperson;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers here present;
Members of the Judiciary here present;
Comrades and friends;
Ladies and gentlemen;
House Chairperson - it is a privilege of great distinction that I present to you the Budget Policy Statement of Vote 22 of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, in this “Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo”. Comrade Oliver Tambo always understood that the roots of apartheid had grown so deep that only an enduring and concerted effort would be required to disentangle our society from the trappings of centuries of legislated prejudice, inequality and racism.
The adoption of the Constitution, on 8 May 1996, marked our freedom from the deep affliction of colonialism and apartheid which was implanted in this country by colonial and apartheid regimes. The democratic Constitution sets us on a new path towards the reconstruction from the legacy of our past. It is also a circumstance of happy augury for the Budget Vote Debate of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to be held in the month of May 2017, exactly 90 years since the birth of the late Comrade Duma Nokwe, former Secretary General of the ANC, who was the first Black advocate of the Transvaal Supreme Court on 9 March 1956.
This year, 2017, the Department has adopted the theme: “Towards a Transformed and Accessible Justice System for all” as an embodiment of the objectives we are striving to realise. The mandate of the Department straddles a number of departments and entities that constitute the Justice family. In addition to its role of administering 763 Magistrates Courts country-wide, the Department provides State Legal Services, inclusive of both legal advisory and the management of litigation services for the entire Government, as well as functions relating to services of the Master’s Office. House Chairperson, despite the fiscal the fiscal constraints our country is currently facing, we are optimistic that we will be able to deliver on our broad mandate with the allocated budget totalling R18, 927 billion, for which we are grateful.
The National Development Plan has crystallised the beacons for fundamental renewal of our country’s legal system. As one of the pillars of the renaissance project, Cabinet, in March this year, approved a comprehensive framework for the development of an Integrated Criminal Justice Strategy (ICJS) through which all departments and entities in the criminal justice value chain will integrate their efforts in order to strengthen the efficacy of the entire system. The envisaged strategy will go a long way towards addressing challenges relating to the management of bail, overcrowding in correctional centres and the optimal use of alternative non-custodial sentences, which will alleviate the pressure being experienced by various departments and entities in the Justice and Crime Prevention and Security cluster. We will also, as part of the ICJS, strengthen the Integrated Justice System governance framework and the accountability arrangements relating to the transversal ICT platforms.
We are impelled to place the victim at the centre of the criminal justice system in order to effectively combat the gruesome acts of violence that plague our society today. Sexual Offences Courts provide specialized support services to victims of sexual offences, decrease turnaround times and improve conviction rates. This past Monday, Deputy Minister Jeffery officially launched the 59th Sexual Offences Court in Thembalethu Magistrate’s Court, George, as part of this initiative.
The crime of corruption, which is a global phenomenon, has participants across the private and public sectors of our society. This crime unduly enriches a few, undermines good governance and the rule of law, and ultimately impedes service delivery. As part of our overall fight against crime and corruption, I would like to state that the relationship between the JCPS Cluster and the Financial Cluster is critical in the combatting money laundering, illicit financial flows and terror financing. The Financial Intelligence Centre Act made provision for the establishment of a counter-money laundering advisory council to be constituted by the Heads of Entities and Directors-General from both clusters. A disconcerting feature of the FICA Amendment Act is that it does away with this all important advisory council. The Council would serve as an oversight accountability structure in relation to the functioning of the Financial Intelligence Centre and would advise government on its endeavours in the fight against money laundering, illicit financial flows and terror financing. It is important that future amendments address some of the overlaps that have been identified.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit continues to be a critical part of the State’s arsenal against this scourge and has delivered significant returns in the past few years, showing that crime does not pay. By end of March 2017, the AFU recorded recoveries in the amount of R685 million in respect of corruption cases involving R5 million or more, which is classified as government losses and proceeds of crime. This figure includes an achievement in respect of recoveries assets worth over R543 million from the property of a senior government official in the Department of Transport in KwaZulu-Natal. This recovery was the result of a collaborative effort by various departments that constitute the Anti-Corruption Task Team.
As at 31 December 2016, the NPA maintained good conviction rates in all court platforms, recording 91% in the High Courts, 80% in Regional Courts and 95% in District Courts. At this point let me also allude to the letter addressed to me by the leader of the DA, Mr Mmusi Maimane, urging me to put pressure on the NPA to make a prosecutorial decision on the Nkandla investigation. This request is oblivious of the fact that, though I am enjoined by the Constitution to exercise final responsibility over the NPA as a Cabinet member responsible for the administration of justice, this does not extend to interfering with the independence of the NPA by encroaching on the exercise of its prosecutorial discretion.
As at 31 December 2016, the NPA maintained good conviction rates in all court platforms, recording 91% in the High Courts, 80% in Regional Courts and 95% in District Courts. Similarly, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) continues to play a critical role in government’s commitment to fighting corruption. For the 2016/17 financial year, the President approved 8 proclamations and the SIU submitted 5 reports on completed investigations to the President in which it has recovered R126 million by the end of December 2016. The SIU has now commenced with the process to activate the Special Tribunal provided for in the SIU Act to expedite the finalisation of civil recoveries.
Honourable Members, as a further aspect of the renaissance project, we have identified the need to review the languages used in our courts with a view to enhancing the right of access to justice; defining the role of traditional courts and community courts to ensure that they offer qualitative alternative forms of access to justice at which services are offered freely and expeditiously; promoting access to justice through the services of Advice Offices and the optimal use of paralegals. We will also, through the task team which include the academic institutions and the legal profession, influence the review LLB curriculum in order to include African languages as part of the syllabus. We embrace the proposal by the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to co-host a Conference from which we can harvest thoughts and views on these important themes with a view to accelerating the desired reforms.
Honourable members, family law services of the Department, including the services of the Master’s Office are central to the livelihood of the vulnerable members of society, especially children. Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to improve our service offering in this area of work. The introduction of the Paperless Estates Administration System (PEAS) in the Master has enhanced the efficacy in the management of deceased estates. The system has been rolled out to 15 Masters’ Offices country wide, as well as approximately 206 service points in total. This has resulted in improved accountability and faster turnaround times.
With regard to maintenance beneficiaries are encouraged to receive their maintenance payouts through bank accounts. Thus far this initiative is yielded positive results. During the 2016/17 financial year a total of R1.6 billion was paid to 183 000 maintenance beneficiaries through the EFT systems.
We are also moving steadfastly in rolling out the rationalisation of magisterial districts. We have, in March this year, published notices on new magisterial districts in the Free State and Northern Cape provinces and the date of implementation will take effect after I have consulted with the Judicial Service Commission and Cabinet. This programme ensures that more of our people are able to access justice closer to where they live.
As we have committed ourselves in the Annual Performance Plans we will expand Court Annexed Mediation Services to 30 courts in the current financial year. Mediation not only introduces a less adversarial system but also cut the costs associated with litigation.
The construction of new courts and maintenance of our capital infrastructure is central to our quest to enhance access to justice. As I indicated during the debate of the OCJ budget vote yesterday, the construction of the magnificent seat of the Mpumalanga High Court in Mbombela is nearing completion. We will also be completing the construction of new Magistrates Courts in Dimbaza (Eastern Cape), Mamelodi (Gauteng), Plettenburg Bay (Western Cape) and the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Office (KZN) during the course of this financial year. We are looking at ways in which inmates who have been trained as artisans, as part of the rehabilitation programme of the Department of Correctional Services, can be involved in some of the identified minor works in the construction and maintenance of capital infrastructure projects. This project will alleviate pressure in our overstretched infrastructure budget of the Department.
We are transforming State Legal Services, the aim of which is two-fold. Firstly, to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal services rendered to government at all levels and; Secondly, to use the system to expedite transformation within the profession and building capacity for inclusive participation in the profession, especially by those who were historically marginalized, notably Black people in general and women in particular.
House Chairperson, I am pleased to inform this Honourable House that we have introduced a few Bills of great significance in carrying out our mandate. Among these are the Traditional Courts Bill and The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill. The introduction of the Traditional Courts Bill brings us closer to the finalisation of the long outstanding reform aimed at regulating the role and functions of traditional courts in accordance with the constitutional imperatives and values.
I am heartened by the public response we received in respect of the Hate Crimes Bill which are estimated at 40 000, inclusive of petitions. I want to assure Honourable Members that all the comments received have been considered. We are also forging ahead with the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The NAP has been subjected to intensive public participation process last year. It is envisaged that the NAP will be submitted to Cabinet in this financial year.
As regards the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, I wish to report that the Department has ensured that government policy reflects the redress required, taking into account the extent of the suffering of our nation. The Department is finalizing the Regulations on Community Rehabilitation in line with the decision by Cabinet under the supervision of the Inter-ministerial Committee on the People Empowerment Programme. The objective of Community Rehabilitation, similar to the objective of social cohesion, is a complex one and wide consultations have taken place to ensure that when the regulations are submitted for consideration and approval this financial year, it secures buy-in from the stakeholders and all departments. Currently 1204 beneficiaries receive educational support, funded through the President’s Fund. For the 2016 academic NSFAS administered R8.1 million to higher education beneficiaries.
The budget allocation of R18, 927 billion includes the following transfers to: Legal Aid South Africa – R1, 754 billion; Public Protector South Africa – R301, 1 million; and South African Human Rights Commission – R173, 4 million. The higher growth in SAHRC and Public Protector is attributable to additional allocations amounting to R21, 3 million and R22, 6 million received in 2017/18 and 2018/19, respectively for key positions in the Public Protector, and R11, 4 million and R12, 1 million received in 2017/18 and 2018/19, respectively for advocacy field capacitation and xenophobia investigations in the SAHRC.
I would to take this opportunity to convey our gratitude to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services for their continued support and guidance. I thank the Director-General Mr Vusi Madonsela, Heads of Statutory Bodies, their management teams and the entire staff in the justice family for their tireless efforts. In the same vein, I would like to thank Mr Enver Daniels and Mr Basson, who retired from the public service recently, for the contribution they made in the administration of justice.
Most importantly, I thank my Deputy Ministers, the Honourable John Jeffery (MP) and Honourable Thabang Makwetla (MP) for their profound support and my colleagues in the JCPS Cluster.
I thank you.