Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL) Innovating Justice Boostcamp, held at OPEN Maboneng, 20 Kruger Street, Johannesburg, 13 October 2017
Programme Director, participants, good afternoon.
I am very excited to be part of this event and to see some of the entrepreneurs pitch their justice innovations.
I’ve often wondered what makes innovative thinkers different. What specific qualities or skills do they have?
What makes people like Galileo Galilei, Da Vinci, Einstein, Edison, Bell, Tesla, Ford, Berners-Lee, Jobs, Newton, Branson, Gates, Franklin and Curie different? – are their brains simply “wired” differently, or are they simply creative in ways that the rest of us aren’t?
Some have argued that an innovative mind is a combination of curiosity and persistence, in that one has to be curious enough and patient enough to find the answers.
Some say it is intuition mixed with imagination.
Some have argued that they might possess a form of apophenia. Apophenia is a psychological term which related to the ability to find meaningful patterns between unrelated or random data - in plain English, it means they can connect the dots. However, the jury is still out on whether too much or too little apophenia is a good thing or not…
Be that as it may and whatever the reason for it, innovative thinking has changed our world in ways unimaginable.
Television was only launched in South Africa in January 1976.
Had they told us, then, that a mere 40 years later, in other words in our lifetime, we would be watching and live-streaming content to our iPads and smartphones, wherever and whenever we want, it would have seemed not only impossible, but downright crazy.
Thinking that one could send a letter without putting it in an envelope with a stamp and depositing in a red post box would have been utter insanity. The telegram was the about the fastest mode of communication available.
For us in South Africa, we have no shortage of innovative thinkers: one simply has to look at some of the patents and designs that form part of our intellectual property law to appreciate it.
South Africa has produced people like Mark Shuttleworth and Elon Musk.
Today we have people like Malan and Philip Joubert who have developed SnapScan, which is widely used mobile payment system.
They have also created Apps Against Ebola, which was built for aid-organizations fighting Ebola. It was found that the use of forms and paper created massive delays in getting information out to remote teams. The app replaces paper forms, and provides real-time access to data from the field.
We’ve seen Marlon Parker, grew up in poverty on the Cape Flats, who founded RLabs (Reconstructed Living Lab) in 2008 to try apply those innovative solutions to some of the social problems confounding South Africa, including crime, poverty, and marginalization. Marlon says that he couldn’t afford to go to university so he earned money by pushing trolleys with merchandising stock at the airport, for two years after matric. He saved R1000 after two years and that was enough to allow him to register for an IT course, although he had never touched a computer before in his life.
Today, one of his organization’s most high-profile programs allows community members to earn digital currency for doing charitable deeds, which they can then exchange for things like food at participating stores or courses at RLabs-run “Youth Cafes.”
They offer free computer and technology skilling, social media for social change, entrepreneurship, information literacy and software development to community members for free. It has expanded to 23 countries and has accessed and/or created 81 000 jobs.
I am extremely interested in the Justice Accelerator and justice innovations.
I’ve been told that the justice innovations focus on 3 areas, being,
- firstly, legal education & rights awareness, data and transparency,
- secondly, access to justice, legal services and dispute resolution, and
- thirdly inclusive justice policies in terms of governance, compliance and enforcement, advocacy and corruption fighting.
These are in many ways similar to the focus areas of my department – the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Most important for us, is enhancing access to justice.
We often talk about access to justice. Access to justice is about more than just access to courts – it’s also about accessible and affordable legal services, about knowing what your rights are and how to enforce them and about ensuring that constitutional rights become a reality in the daily lives of people.
It’s about ensuring that there are courts and justice services – like maintenance officers, the family advocate and so forth – where people can access them.
It’s about having Small Claims Court where you can bring a dispute, free of charge and without the use of a lawyer, if your claim is R15 000 or less.
It’s about providing medical and counselling services to victims of sexual offences at our Thuthuzela Care Centres.
It’s about running programmes to raise awareness and knowledge of the constitution and about capacitating and involving civil society in our work.
In achieving these our Department is making increasingly optimal and effective use of technology in promoting access to justice – such as increased use of social media communication platforms as well as current court modernisation initiatives.
Implementation of the MojaPay System, designed to facilitate maintenance payments, has successfully been implemented in the Northern Cape, North West and the Free State.
The Master’s Own Verification System Information System (MOVIT) had been implemented to facilitate justice processes and the Paperless Estates Administration System (PEAS) had been successfully rolled out and is being used in the 15 Master’s Offices as well as at 206 service points.
Perhaps to explain some of the challenges we face in the criminal justice system – when the case has been reported and is being investigated it is with the SAPS, then it goes to the National Prosecuting Authority who decides whether or not to prosecute, then it goes to the courts which resort within the justice domain.
During this process, social workers or probation officers may have to be involved, in cases involving children, for example, and these social workers came from the Department of Social Development.
Once an offender is convicted the matter falls within the Department of Correctional Services.
In other words, in the criminal justice system you have various role-players: the SAPS, the NPA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Social Services. The electronic systems of all these role-players have to talk to one another.
Technological advances such as audio-visual remands means that you can postpone a court case via video and audio link-up. This means that the accused does not have to be brought, physically, from the place of detention to the court and back, which obviously then mitigates flight risk and other security concerns and is faster.
The Integrated Justice Strategy is achieving success in integrating electronic systems. Nearly 596 000 court cases had been processed on the IJS case management system which works seamlessly across the SAPS, the NPA and our Department.
The newly developed J7 Warrant of Detention could move directly from the Department of Justice to Correctional Services electronically. The Department of Social Development has implemented a mobile case management app that can be used by social workers across the country in respect of children who were in conflict with the law.
Online access and social media, because of its impact and reach, has an enormous role to play in the area of justice as well as deepening our democracy.
The numbers really speak for themselves. According to Forbes, South Africa has 21-million internet users, the vast majority of which are using mobile.
The number of smartphone users in South Africa is estimated to reach 18.48 million this year and is expected to reach over 25 million by 2022.
WhatsApp alone had 1 billion users worldwide in 2016. In 2017, the number of smartphone users worldwide was estimated to be approximately 2.32 billion and could grow to 2.87 billion by 2020.
We must make use of technology and social media, in particular, when and where we can and also proactively provide information that can assist the public. Some of the government initiatives include measures such “Municipal Money” which is a web-based initiative of National Treasury. It collects extensive municipal financial data and shares this information with the public in order to increase transparency, strengthen civic oversight and promote accountability.
I have looked at some of the justice innovations here in South Africa, such as Legal Legends, which is Africa's first eCommerce website for quality, affordable legal services for entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses, offered at fixed upfront prices, and the Citizen Justice Network which is based in advice offices and community radio stations across the country and which trains community paralegals to be dedicated radio journalists. They also empower community radio stations to engage with legal issues in their communities through training workshops.
Then there is MakeLaw which is a mobile app for citizens to comment new legislation and increase public participation.
These are but some of many exciting justice innovations.
Access to justice is a constitutional imperative. It is a fundamental right that unlocks access to all the other rights enshrined in our Constitution.
This right has the power to transform our society into a just and equitable one.
And yes, it is primarily the responsibility of government, but we can only do it successfully if we partner with civil society, with the legal profession, with academia, with business, and with institutions who share our vision of a better world.
I want to wish the semi-finalists of this year’s HiiL Innovating Justice Challenge the very best of luck.
As Thomas Edison said: “There is a way to do it better – find it.”
In South Africa we have found that many economic, structural, and institutional factors also hinders access to justice, including the complexity and cost of legal processes, time, and geographical and physical constraints.
Importantly, many people — especially those in vulnerable and marginalized groups — neither recognize their problems as legal ones, nor identify the potential legal remedies for those problems. There are many factors which determine whether or not people seek legal assistance, or take action at all, to resolve their legal problems.
These and future justice innovations will empower people to do so.