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Political Overview by Minister Ronald Lamola, delivered on 13 October 2022, to Parliament Virtually

Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, Honourable John Jeffery;

Deputy Minister for Correctional Services, Honourable Inkosi Phatekile Holomisa;

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Honourable Bulelani Magwanishe;

Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee;

Director General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Adv Doc Mashabane;

National Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Mr Makgothi Thobakgale;

Office of the Chief Justice, Secretary General Sejosengwe;

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Bathoi;

Head of the Special Investigating Unit, Advocate Andy Mothibi;

Chief Executive Officer Legal Aid South Africa;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is an honour to account to this 6th Parliament on the impact of the Departments and entities falling under the broader justice and correctional services umbrella.

The departments and entities represented here today make a real and meaningful impact in the lives of people. I want to share with the story of a 44-year-old third year medical student at Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape.

Very often people think the person with the most money will be the one who wins the case or that if you have money, you can buy justice. 

But, every day, Legal Aid SA shows that this is not true as Legal Aid SA ensures quality access to justice for all through the work they do.

The medical student from the Eastern Cape was married out of community of property and divorce proceedings were pending in the High Court. Her husband is a well-known doctor.

She was struggling financially as her husband had stopped supporting her. She had a financial investment with Provisional Provident Society and approached them as she wanted to make use of the monies – an amount of R30 013.40 that had accrued in the account.

Provisional Provident Society paid out the monies but paid it into the account of the husband who refused to pay the monies to her.  She feared that her husband might spend the money and then approached Legal Aid SA for assistance to get access to the monies. Legal Aid SA’s legal practitioner immediately drafted papers for an urgent application to freeze the husband’s account and made all the arrangements to have the matter heard on an urgent basis.

Legal Aid SA successfully argued the matter and the Court granted the order to freeze the bank account until all monies due to her were paid. As soon as the order was served on the client’s husband, he immediately contacted Legal Aid SA and made arrangements to pay the money over to the client.

Legal Aid SA made sure that she received the monies that she was entitled to and protected her rights to her property – even though she did not have the funds and the resources that her husband had.

And she is not the only one - in the last financial year, four hundred and eighty-seven thousand five hundred and fifty-two people have benefited from the services of Legal Aid SA legal practitioners across the length and breadth of our country. This is a 31% increase in clients when compared to the previous financial year.

Legal Aid SA was also named a Top Employer in South Africa for the 13th consecutive year. The entity has continued to prioritise maintaining excellent people practices in the workplace and strives to meet the challenges of the changing the world of work to positively impact on the lives of its staff.

The current board and executive have been able to sustain the great work of their predecessors.   The entity received its 14th clean and 21st unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor-General South Africa in 2021/22.  The decrease in irregular expenditure by R459 291 is evidence of better controls implemented to ensure compliance with legislation and procurement regulations.

 

Honourable Members:

Corruption remains a major threat to our country.

Transparency International has made an observation which maybe relevant in our context as a country and that is corruption increases inequality, decreases popular accountability and political responsiveness, and thus produces rising frustration and hardship among citizens, who are then more likely to accept (or even demand) hard-handed and illiberal tactics.

Those tactics shift the blame for economic insecurity and political decline onto immigrants or other minority groups, and onto economic and political elites, who must, the theory goes, be dealt with swiftly and decisively. The rule of law and liberal values of tolerance and human dignity then become obstacles to needed change.

At the start of the 6th administration, we set out our stall to strengthen the National Prosecuting Authority's human and financial capacity as an instrument to entrench the rule of law and the fight against fraud and corruption both in the public and private sector.

Our efforts in the fight against fraud and corruption both in the public and private sector, is beginning to yield significant progress and results.

In this regard, I want to highlight that the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit finalised 380 cases with 344 convictions – a conviction rate of 90.5%.

The number of government officials convicted of corruption increased by 38.4% (from 86 to 119) year- on-year.  Our performance in private sector corruption prosecutions has improved by 39.5% (from 147 to 205 people convicted).

All the senior vacancies in the NPA have been filled and our next phase is to intensify the skill set of our prosecutors and police officers. Here we envision attracting data analysts, forensic analysts, and cybercrime experts.

Progress in the capacity of the NPA to date is demonstrated by several seminal cases which are before the courts for prosecution. These cases feature prominent South Africans, multinational companies, and recent white-collar crime syndicates.

Our country’s prosecutors have shown great bravery and tenacity for justice.

The effects of corruption in our state-owned enterprises can be felt right down to level of service delivery.  Let’s take the matter of the State vs Moraka and another. Accused 1 was employed by Eskom as Financial Controller for Primary Energy in Gauteng. Accused 2 was a sole member/director of Megra Transport CC. Acting together, accused 1 and 2 submitted fraudulent claims on the basis that Megra Transport CC had transported and delivered coal to Eskom power stations, which was not the case. The total loss to Eskom amounted to R356 million. Both accused pleaded guilty and were sentenced to an effective term of 20 years imprisonment.

 

Honourable Members,

We are tackling domestic violence against women, men or children living in the same domestic unit. Although women and girls are the main victims of gender-based violence, it also causes severe harm to families and communities as a whole.

The SOCA Unit of the NPA facilitates access to justice, safety, and protection in response to the needs of GBV victims using legislation, policies, international and regional protocols, and through addressing the infrastructural and resourcing challenges that obstruct the optimal delivery of justice to survivors.

This is achieved through the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs), which improve access to survivor support services and victim-centric criminal justice services by being sensitive to and meeting victims’ needs.

Five additional Thutuzela Care Centre sites were established during this financial year, bringing the total to 60. During the reporting period 34 456 matters were reported at the Thutuzela Care Centres. A conviction rate of 76.7% was obtained for cases reported at the Thutuzela Care Centres. Some 201 accused were sentenced to life imprisonment, 106 accused were sentenced to 20–25 years imprisonment and 378 accused were sentenced to imprisonment between 10 and 19 years.

A special mention is reserved for all the prosecutors in the matter of S v Nikana - A 36-year-old man from Clocolan was sentenced to six life terms in the Free State High Court after he was found guilty of raping his 14-year-old daughter six times between May and July 2021.

The victim lived with the accused, his wife (who is her stepmother) and two other siblings. In May 2021, the accused told his wife that his late brother told him in a dream, “to get rid of the tokoloshe that was inside the victim”. On the same night, the accused raped the victim. The wife tried to reprimand him, but he assaulted her. He threatened to kill both if they told anyone what he did. The last rape incident took place on 25 July 2021. A day later, the accused’s sister visited the family, and the wife told her what the husband had done. The sister reported her brother to the police, and he was arrested.

 

Honourable Members

Cable theft is highly organised and has a significantly negative impact on businesses, communities and ordinary crime committed within cyber space, where information and communication technologies (ICTs) are used as an instrument, target or means of perpetuating further crimes.

It is estimated that cable theft costs the South African economy between R5 billion and R7 billion a year. The NPA obtained 193 convictions from 210 verdict cases, recording a 91.9% conviction rate in cable theft matters.

Despite these cases being complex in nature and encompassing a high level of technical evidence, a special focus on the prosecution of cybercrime cases resulted in a high conviction rate of 97.4% (149 convictions from 153 verdict cases).

The cases prosecuted in copper theft and essential infrastructure has increased from 409 to 959 in the last financial year.  That is an increase of over 500 matters.

The NPA is collaborating with other stakeholders nationally and internationally during the phased implementation of the Cybercrimes Act, 19 of 2020. This Act, which came into effect in 2021, will provide guidance and clarity on the identification and prosecution of these matters.

Prosecutions during the current financial year were mostly conducted in terms of common law offences and other existing statutory crimes, where crimes were committed with the use of technology.

Under the auspices of the FIC, the NPA is an active the economy.

Money laundering The NPA has enhanced its focus on addressing money-laundering linked to illegal wildlife trafficking (IWT). The NPA participated in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) typology study pertaining to this subject matter in 2020, resulting in the release of a FATF report in 2021.

International and Co-operation in criminal matters in Mutual Legal Assistance Matters:

I know that Honourable Members will want to know about international co-operation in criminal matters and in mutual legal assistance matters.

One of the legs of the investigation into the Steinhoff matter has been finalised. A Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) request to one of the foreign authorities was submitted and another MLA, to a different foreign authority, is in the process of being transmitted. In this financial year, we are addressing the weaknesses in our international cooperation in criminal matters and legislative framework which does not address all the necessary aspects.

A new Bill has been prepared providing for the extradition of persons sought for extraditable offences to and from South Africa to requested States with which South Africa has concluded an agreement and for the surrender of persons sought to international entities having jurisdiction in respect of international crimes (genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity).

The Bill also seeks to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different functionaries and to put procedures in place to expedite extradition requests. It will greatly enhance efficiency in the investigation and prosecution of cases as the jurisprudence has and continues to be developed in this area of the law.

This Bill is aimed at ensuring that South Africa is not a haven for criminals or said to be acting with impunity. The Bill has been processed through the relevant clusters and the Department is to obtain Cabinet’s approval to introduce the Bill into Parliament.

With regards to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Honourable Members, we have said to this House that we are going to set out our stall to rebuild and renew the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 

The Department in this financial year has recorded the highest level of performance in four years, The Department’s overall performance is on an upward trajectory, with 79% of the planned targets achieved, compared to 66% in the previous financial year. This is an increase of 24% as compared to the 2018/19 financial year.

Modernising of justice services through the use of digital capabilities continues to be a priority, despite the challenges posed by aging ICT infrastructure and the ransomware attack. The Department continues to prioritise and enhance the system security and build on a strong foundation of ICT infrastructure.

During the reporting period, the following online services were developed and piloted:

The department obtained a qualified audit and the Department’s irregular expenditure is relatively high.  The irregular expenditure is driven primarily by the fact that we have not been able to obtain a deviation from National Treasury for the work done by the State Attorney for other state departments.

Correctional Services:

Chairperson and Honourable Members, as you are aware, the Department of Correctional Services continues to implement the Self-Sufficiency Strategic Framework across all its regions. We have produced the first annual report of the SSSF and we want to urge all people to read the report so that they could have a better understanding of our work as correctional services.

During the 2020/21 Financial Year, our farms created a cost saving of approximately R94 million through internal produce. In the 2021/22 Financial Year, the saving was R115 million and the projected saving for the current financial year is R163 million.

There is a process underway to determine the possibility of expansion of current used land in our farms. The Internal Market Analysis for 2021/22 has been developed to determine the self-sufficiency level of the Department, as it is critical for planning of agricultural production.

This is a clear demonstration that the department of correctional services has turned a new leaf and is on a path to create exciting new opportunities for inmates and officials. Often, we are told of allegations of corruption and malfeasance in government, the good work that we do is often ignored, but our work at correctional services speak for itself. South Africans can speak of a department that is transformed and will continue with this new approach to ensure that we reach our full potential.

We have also recorded a second consecutive unqualified opinion where the Auditor General commended the Department of Correctional Services for submitting financial statements that were free from material misstatements. We remain committed to attain a clean audit opinion, myself and Deputy Minister Holomisa have impressed upon the National Commissioner to prioritise matters which have been raised by the AG like irregular expenditure and consequence management.

We are also working hard to empower young people. This will enable us to ensure that we broaden opportunities for young people. Currently we have enrolled 1032 learners who are currently undergoing training at Zonderwater and Kroonstad Colleges as part of our learnership programme.

Youth appointments were also prioritised for critical and essential posts in the last financial year, and, as a result, 74% of youth were appointed within the Department which is an overachievement against the target of 20%. The Department will continue to prioritise compliance with the Employment Equity (EE) Plan in the filling of posts.

House chairperson, another matter of great concern to us is committing of crime by our parolees. Even though most of our parolees comply with their parole conditions and our monitoring officials work around the clock to ensure compliance, actions of few parolees undermine our efforts of reintegrating offenders back into society.

The parole review process is underway and it will also look at ways to strengthen our parole granting processes to ensure that those we release are rehabilitated and abhor their previous life of crime. We will work with different stakeholders, including traditional leaders, to assist us with reintegration of offenders and monitoring of our parolees.

We shall continue to condemn in strongest possible terms, parolees who commit heinous crimes in society. These are kind of people who undermine all our rehabilitation efforts and they will be punished severely through the parameters of the law.

However, we equally want to highlight that there are equally good ambassadors of our parole system, these are parolees who established various businesses and initiatives for their communities.

I also want to share with this Committee the stories of two parolees and one ex-parolee, who are having a positive impact in the communities.

One parolee was sentenced to twelve years for murder. He started farming in 2018 after he was given a plot by the family around Lebowakgomo.

Since then he managed to employ two community members. He is planting spinach, beetroot, cabbage and carrots. His production grown to an extent that he is supplying Spar Supermarket in the Lebowakgomo and Ga-Nkoana.

The second parolee was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, robbery, theft and possession of fire-arm. He was placed on parole in 2019 and he started his bakery business in 2021. His bakery is serving communities around Leeufontein, Ga-Moganyaka and Mamphokgo villages.

The ex-parolee has registered a Non-Profitable Organisation (NPO) known as Bashai Ditlou Rams which caters as a Drop-in- Centre for the needy and ailing old people of Makgodu Village in Moletjie area. The Centre is situated in Makgodu Moletjie. The Centre has 98 beneficiaries.

 

Honourable Members,
The Office of the Chief Justice achieved 87.5% of its annual targets and spent 93.1% of its Final Appropriation.

In ensuring an effective and efficient administrative support and contributing towards the MTSF Priority of a Capable, Ethical and Developmental State and chapter 13 of the NDP during the 2021/22 FY the OCJ had vacancy rate of 9.1%, which is below the 10% target set by DPSA. Subsequently, the OCJ had 48% of women representation on SMS level and 32% youth representation of the Department’s staff complement.

In ensuring enhanced judicial performance the OCJ conducted 168 skills-enhancing judicial education courses for Judicial Officers and aspiring Judicial Officers, which was attended by 4 343 delegates.

In ensuring improved court efficiency during 2021/22, 86% of default judgments were finalised by Registrars within 14 days from date of receipt of application; 99% of taxations of legal bills of costs were finalised within 60 days from date of set down and 100% of the warrants of release (were delivered within one day of the release issued.

In promoting accountability and fighting corruption, the OCJ investigated 55% of reported fraud cases within 60 working days and conducted 29 awareness sessions on Fraud Prevention and the Anti-Corruption Strategy.  

As part of court modernisation, the OCJ embarked on the ICT infrastructure refresh project, upgrading of End User Equipment project and roll out of Wi-Fi to all Superior Courts.

Chairperson,

The 80% overall performance of the department of correctional services in the last financial year was impressive, we have instructed the national commissioner to look into few areas of non-achievement so that we can turn around the situation. Performance management is very important and we want to see the department achieving all its targets.

We remain committed to draw from the wisdom of the Portfolio Committee in our work and we appreciate the oversight provided by this committee. We shall continue working with the committee and when called to account, we shall not hesitate to come and appear before the committee.   

 I thank you!