Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the Budget Vote Debate on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, National Assembly, 18 May 2017
Deputy Speaker / Chairperson
Ladies and Gentlemen
I recently learnt the tragic news of the deaths of Karabo Mokoena and 3-year old Courtney Pieters. The next day our country heard of the death of Lerato Moloi, an openly lesbian women, stoned to death in Soweto.
And there are others. Since the beginning of the year we have lost -
- Stasha Arendse, 11, raped and killed
- Mananki Annah Boys, 28, stabbed and her body burnt
- Jeannette Cindi, 34, five months pregnant, raped, killed and burnt
- Mavis Mabala, 25, her body was found hidden in a bush
- Nosipho Mandleleni, 24, sjambokked to death
- Sthembile Mdluli, 37, murdered
- Meisie Molefe, 36, murdered, doused with paraffin and set alight
- Akhona Njokana, 31, shot dead
- Bongeka Phungula, 28, body found in Tladi with gunshot wounds to her head
- Nicola Pienaar, 28, murdered, unborn foetus cut from her body
- Popi Qwabe, 24, body found in Naledi on Friday
- Thapelo Ramorotong, 26, killed and burnt
- Rene Tracy Roman, 13, half-naked body found near her Lavender Hill home
- Priska Schalk, 29, stabbed to death
- Iyapha Yamile, 6, mutilated body was discovered stuffed in a plastic bag in a toilet in Khayelitsha three blocks from her home
- Maximo and Octavia Yela, 3 year old twins found murdered in Hout Bay.
These are the names we know. There are, no doubt, others.
Each and every victim is somebody’s child – most of them, it seems, killed by persons close to them or known to them.
From the side of government, and particularly as a parent, I want to offer our heartfelt condolences to these families.
We will do whatever we can to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted.
However we cannot have a police officer protecting every person who has a family violence interdict. We cannot guard every young child, 24/7. We are not there, in people’s homes, behind closed doors, where many of these crimes happen.
But we can and must change attitudes. We must send the message that partner abuse and violence against women and children is unacceptable.
We must look at the way we raise our sons and boy children in our communities – what do we teach them? Do we teach them that women are not their possessions which they can destroy if they are angry with them? As for young men, what types of support do we give them – so that they do not one day explode in a violent rage of pent up emotions.
Our Department runs a number of programs to combat domestic violence, intimate femicide and gender-based and sexual violence which time does not allow me to elaborate on.
We have 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres which provide medical and psychological services to victims of sexual violence in one location whilst statements are taken and evidence is gathered for the criminal case. Nearly 33 000 matters were reported at the 55 TCC sites in 2015/16. These care centres are a best practice model and a pride of our country that should be extended to all victims of gender-based violence.
We will also be engaging relevant government departments and civil society organisations with a view to sharpening and strengthening our implementation of the Sexual Offences Act.
The fight against these forms of violence is a one we must win. We cannot rest until we have won the battle. To paraphrase Bob Marley: “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should we?”
Is it extremely important that we work with stakeholders such as NGOs and community-based organisations and we will be engaging them, and other stakeholders, in this regard.
Stakeholder engagement is a vital element of our Department’s work – and is paying off. We have had some success on the Traditional Courts Bill’s Reference Group – which consisted of government, traditional leaders and civil society.
Also on the Cybercrime Bill, we had a reference group of various stakeholders, which helped us a great deal.
Our National Task Team on LGBTI Rights also consists of various government departments, the NPA, SAPS and civil society bodies. The NTT was named, in a 2016 report of the UN’s Office of the High Commission on Human Rights, as a best practice model and international case study. The NTT continues its efforts to counter the continued discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity against members of the LGBTI community.
The Chairperson and members of the newly established Information Regulator were appointed by the President for a five year period with effect from 1 December 2016. The Regulator has many functions to perform. It does not only enforce compliance. It also has a supervisory function. It must provide education by promoting an understanding and acceptance of the conditions for the lawful processing of personal information and must monitor and enforce compliance by public and private bodies with the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act. We wish the Information Regulator well in the fulfilling of its mandate and look forward to the full implementation of the Protection of Personal Information Act.
Legal Aid South Africa continues to make access to justice a reality for poor and vulnerable groups.
Legal Aid SA has a court coverage plan which ensures that legal representation is available at every criminal court in the country, through their 128 offices country-wide, thus ensuring that all accused persons that qualify for legal aid are able to exercise their constitutional rights to a fair trial, in terms of criminal and civil matters.
Due to high demand and limited budget, the civil law service is prioritised for mainly constitutional rights matters with a focus on women, children and vulnerable groups.
In addition, Legal Aid SA has a national Legal Advice Line which members of the public can access toll free in order to obtain legal advice as required.
The Justice Portfolio Committee has expressed a concern at the slow pace with which land claims are being settled. We are engaging our colleagues in Rural Development and Land Reform regarding the possibility of Legal Aid SA assisting land claimants, subject to us finding the funding for this. An option would be transferring some funding to Legal Aid SA. Legal Aid can similarly also assist in the enforcement of ESTA rights, subject to available funding.
Chairperson, we have greatly improved out compliance with International treaties and reporting. In terms of our treaty obligations we must report to the UN and the African Commission on a regular basis.
In this regard, we have recently reported on our compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women. We have also submitted our Initial Report indicating progress since South Africa’s accession to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in January 2015.
I am also pleased to announce to this House today that we have reached our target in respect of a 100% roll out nationwide of our Small Claims Courts.
There are, at the end of the 2016/17 financial year, 405 Small Claims Courts covering all magisterial districts and sub-districts nationally with another 19 additional places gazetted as places of sitting of these courts. At present we have 1 921 Commissioners presiding in the Courts and 2 090 Advisory Board Members supporting these courts.
The establishment of Small Claims Courts, with at least one in each magisterial district and sub-districts in South Africa, is a major step forward in terms of enhancing access to justice.
Since 2009 we have established 217 SCCs (53%).
The aim of the small claims system is to improve access to justice and make civil justice inexpensive and accessible to those who cannot afford litigation in the ordinary civil courts and whose claims do not exceed R15 000.
I want to sincerely thank every Commissioner who offers his or her time and expertise, free of charge, to render this valuable service to the public. Also a word of thanks to the Advisory Board members and Court staff who ensure that these courts operate optimally.
We are currently working on a comprehensive review of the Small Claims Court Act, which is a 1984 Act and thus pre-dates the Constitution. In addition, we are focusing for the 2017/18 financial year on improving the functioning of these courts and their Advisory Boards. We are now extending the SCCs to branch courts so as to continue with our quest for access to justice - 3 new SCCs (for Colenso, Warden, and Steynsrus) have been approved since 1 April 2017 and will be gazetted before the end of this month.
The sheriffs’ profession continues to pay a very important role in the administration of justice, more especially in civil matters.
The rationalisation and demarcation of magisterial districts with municipalities have also impacted on the service areas of sheriffs, as they are appointed for an area of the high or lower courts within a magisterial district. Generally Sheriffs will keep their original demarcation even if it doesn’t follow the new area as they cannot be disadvantaged without their consent and the change to the Sheriffs demarcation will get made when the office becomes vacant.
Most of the sheriffs are appointed for a magisterial district and in the rural of smaller towns you will find that a sheriff will be appointed to a number of offices as a single office is not economically viable.
The Department has on a number of occasions advertised small vacant offices, especially in the Northern Cape and the Free State, without attracting any suitable candidates. It is for this reason that we have included a provision in the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill - currently before Parliament - to give the Minister the power to appoint an adjacent sheriff, after consultation with the Advisory Committee and the Board.
In cities and large magisterial districts where the sheriffs’ offices are economically viable, one magisterial district may be served by two or more sheriffs, each with his or her own service area. In the past, the description and size of these sheriffs’ areas were often skewed along racial lines.
As part of the demarcation process and, if one of these areas become vacant, the Department will investigate and recommend a more equal division of the sheriffs’ areas.
We have, for example, embarked on this process in Johannesburg, Randburg and Port Elizabeth and the DOJCD gazetted the re-description of these and other areas in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape for it to take effect on 1 June 2017.
The same process is underway in the other provinces. I am pleased to inform you that sheriffs areas in Gauteng that have been vacant for a number of years due to, amongst others, the rationalisation process will be filled with effect from 1 September 2017.
The justice portfolio really is all about having an accountable justice system – a justice system which responds to the needs of all our people, where all people can go for assistance and to enforce their rights.
It’s also about rendering quality service to the public and stake-holders, as OR Tambo said in June 1985, when he delivered his report on the National Executive Committee to the National Consultative Conference of the African National Congress in Kabwe, Zambia, “we have to be in daily contact with our people.”
We must constantly ensure that we work better and do more, so that members of the public know where to go. When we take up their issues they must know that they will be responded to and they will be assisted.
I also want to express our condolences on the passing of Nomboniso Nangu, the leader of NADCAO – the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices. I worked closely with Nomboniso, who was a true embodiment of what an activist should be. Our wish is that NADCAO continues her legacy and good work in assisting our communities.
Our work is dedicated to the public, the mothers claiming their maintenance at the courts, the witnesses testifying in court, the victims of crime, the litigants in civil court – as they are truly the reason for our existence and enable us to do what we do.
We have to be in daily contact with our people.
We must create a society where our people are, and feel, safe.
This morning we also learnt from the Gauteng Regional Court President of the passing of Ms Zelda Moletsane, a regional magistrate in Johannesburg. Ms Moletsane was appointed as one of the first group of presiding officers of the Divorce Court after democracy, prior to its integration into the Regional Court in 2008. We convey our sincere condolences to her family, friends and the judiciary.
I thank you.