05/30/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/31/2023 02:05
Honourable House Chairperson;
Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa;
Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers from sister Departments;
Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services;
Members of the National Council for Correctional Services;
Members of the Parole Boards;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a great honour to table the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development budget.
I take this opportunity to extend warm congratulations to Madam Justice Mahube Betty Molemela, who has been appointed as the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal by His Excellency President Ramaphosa, effective 1 June 2023.
The appointment of President Molemela to the high echelons of the leadership of the Supreme Court of Appeal and Judiciary bodes well for our collective efforts to transform the Judiciary. Announcing the appointment of Justice Molemela as President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, President Ramaphosa said:
"Justice Molemela's appointment adds impetus to the continuing transformation of key institutions of our democracy, including the Judiciary. Justice Molemela is an outstanding jurist who will play a critical role in entrenching justice for all South Africans."
On this day 30 years ago, the then Appellate Division delivered one of the most significant judgments, which dealt a massive blow to the apartheid scheme of racial segregation in the famous case of Oos-Randse Administrasieraad en 'n Ander v Rikhoto.
Apartheid condemned black families to live in rural areas remote from decent employment.
Black men who found work in urban centres had to leave their families behind. If a man was employed continuously for ten years at the exact location, he could claim that place as his permanent residence, and his wife could join him.
However, employers gave workers successive annual contracts of employment. The then government ruled that ten subsequent yearly contracts at the exact location were not continuous employment for ten years and did not entitle the worker's family to join him.
This law hurt and disembowelled thousands of black family units and black people who could not access permanent resident rights in the country of their birth. To date the country's family unit is still reeling from the Apartheid government policies that were aimed at disintegrating black families.
The judgment in Rikhoto delivered by the then Appellate Division on this day in 1983 reversed the racist policy. It held that ten successive annual contracts were ten years of continuous employment.
Let us acknowledge the lasting effects of this momentous decision on members of our communities and work together towards upholding justice and equality for all. Our past decisions have influenced our present, but we can collaborate to strive towards a brighter future.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development plays a pivotal role, serving as the driving force behind the new society we desire through the lens of our Constitution.
As Minister of Justice and Correctional Services since 2019, Deputy Minister Jeffery and I have been working hard to address our Department's many challenges. Unfortunately, external factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, ransomware attacks, and power outages have harmed our progress.
Despite these obstacles, our efforts have yielded positive results. We have seen an overall improvement in the departmental performance with notable increases. In the 2022/23 financial year, the departmental performance was over 80%.
The Department's performance has increased by 30%. The performance increase is significant compared to our Department's performance in the 2019/20 financial year.
Today we table our budget for the financial year 2023/24, which amounts to R23.2 billion (twenty-three comma two billion). The budget will enable the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to uphold and protect the Constitution and the rule of law and render accessible, fair, speedy, and cost-effective administration of justice in the interests of a safer and more secure South Africa.
The budget allocation to the Department is imperative for promoting safer communities and instilling trust in our criminal justice system. It will enable us to enhance our criminal justice system and effectively apprehend and prosecute criminals who threaten individuals and communities.
We have outlined several priorities to achieve our 2023/24 Financial Year objectives.
These include strengthening institutions involved in fighting crime and corruption, implementing modernisation and digitisation initiatives, increasing access to justice, transforming the legal profession, systematically addressing gender-based violence and femicide, safeguarding the human rights of vulnerable groups, and dismantling outdated apartheid and colonial-era legislation.
We should not be deceived by the prophets of doom that we're a failed state. Where there are challenges, we must confront them, we can't bury our heads in the sand.
Let me quote from Steven Friedman when he wrote:
''The 'failed state' prejudice hides the fact that, in many countries including this one, states do some things well even if they do many others badly. The South African state may get much wrong. But it has free and fair elections, independent courts and enables its citizens to enjoy basic freedoms, even if only some have the means to enjoy them. This makes a real difference to people's lives - millions living with HIV and AIDS are alive today only because democracy's freedoms enabled activists to fight for them. And so, when there are huge problems, there are also possibilities for change which the 'failed state' chorus cannot see.
Making this country into one in which everyone enjoys the rights which being the citizen of a state is meant to offer may seem like a tall order. But it becomes impossible if we allow ourselves to be misled by a prejudice posing as science''.
Today marks the beginning of the Court in Malawi to decide whether Messiers Shipilero Gama well known as Shepperd Bushiri and his wife are extraditable to South Africa or not, the relevant officials are in Malawi to give evidence as per the requirements of the courts in Malawi. We will await the outcomes of the hearing. This is a matter of national interest to the South African government. This shows that the wheels of justice are turning.
We also commend the police for the swift arrest of a fugitive, Rwandan Kayieshma National, this show that you cannot hide from the long arm of the law.
PRIORITY 1: Fight against Corruption
The South African government is firmly committed to fighting crime, fraud, and corruption.
We have allocated a significant portion of our budget towards this critical mission. We must invest in this effort to ensure its success.
To combat crime, fraud and corruption, the National Prosecution Authority's overall allocation for 2023/24 amounts to R5.407 billion (five point four billion rands). This amount includes the additional grant of R915 Million (nine hundred and fifteen million rands) made by government to strengthen our efforts in fighting crime and corruption.
The Investigative Directorate is allocated a portion of 336 million (three hundred and sixty-six million Rands) out of the overall allocation.
The National Prosecution Authority and Special Investigating Unit enforce accountability for crime and maladministration.
Notably, they have made significant progress in investigating corruption-related cases. To further secure this mission, government proposes new policies and legislative amendments to protect whistle-blowers and enhance the powers of the Investigating Directorate.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) effectively deals with over 850,000 criminal cases yearly, with over 600,000 on court dockets. The progress made by the NPA is evident in the numbers. It is encouraging to see that they are growing from strength to strength.
Although there have been some setbacks, they are not insurmountable, and plans are in place to address them.
Holding individuals accountable for their actions is essential. The increase in signed proclamations and civil action instituted in the High Courts and the Special Tribunal is a positive sign. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is also doing a great job investigating allegations of corruption and maladministration in government departments, municipalities, and State-Owned Entities.
Policy and legislative amendments to strengthen our corruption- Fighting institutions
New Policy Proposals for Whistle-Blowers
Ensuring the safety and protection of whistle-blowers is crucial to serving justice. Without their cooperation, obtaining convictions can prove challenging.
Therefore, it is imperative to implement strong measures to safeguard them. Extensive research and evaluation of the protected disclosures and witness protection legislation in South Africa has uncovered gaps and shortcomings in the current system.
The Department conducted a comparative analysis with other jurisdictions to ensure adequate and effective whistle-blower protection. According to our research, there are better ways to promote organisational transparency and accountability than incentivising whistle-blowers.
We intend to release the research paper for public comment in June. The research paper includes recommendations such as providing legal assistance to whistle-blowers, enhancing internal policy oversight, and creating a fund for those experiencing retaliations with financial implications.
NPA Amendment Bill to make Investigative Directorate permanent:
The National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill seeks to amend the legislation to make the Investigating Directorate a permanent agency in the NPA and not one created and disbanded by proclamation. The Bill also aims to enhance the powers of the ID.
Addressing FAFT findings
Government has introduced new laws to address FATF findings and enhance its capacity to prosecute financial crimes.
The Regulation of Trusts Bill seeks to regulate the establishment of trusts and provide for legislative measures on par with the current socio-economic, jurisprudential, and practical landscapes in which trusts are created and operated.
Additionally, the SIU and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are collaborating to enhance the use of technology to fight the scourge of corruption and maladministration in the country. The Department is committed to developing partnerships in the public service, the private sector, professional bodies, media, and international networking to mobilise all sectors to engage in the fight against corruption.
PRIORITY 2: Implement the Department's Modernisation and Digitisation program.
The Department of Justice is taking proactive steps towards modernising and digitising its services to better serve the public, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a focus on upgrading its IT infrastructure, the Department invests in state-of-the-art data centre equipment and essential business applications such as MojaPay and ICMS & Online Services Portals. The Department has also implemented innovative Court Audio Visual Solutions, enabling parties to appear in Court via video, eliminating the need for physical presence.
To further streamline its systems, the Department has connected 11 government departments/entities to the Integrated Justice System Transversal Hub Connectivity, which has successfully implemented a new system catering to enhanced person integration messages. The Department has developed and piloted six online services as part of its ongoing efforts to improve them. During this financial year, the Department is committed to piloting even more online services, such as Online master's Services and Online Protection Orders.
Through its commitment to modernisation and digitisation, the Department seeks to enhance access to justice services and improve efficiency, making it easier for the public to obtain the help they need. By investing in new technologies, the Department stays at the forefront of the digital age, providing safe and reliable services that meet the community's needs.
PRIORITY 3: Increasing Access to Justice
The Department has allocated 589.3 million for its Minimum Service Standards initiative, which aims to provide court users with disabilities reasonable access to the courts. The initiative requires 70 courts to comply with universal access standards for individuals with disabilities in the 2022/23 financial year.
Officials from these courts have received training on disability rights and how to meet the needs of persons with disabilities, which is a significant step towards ensuring equal access to justice. The Department will also continue implementing projects that provide additional accommodations, refurbishments, and upgrades to various courts, ensuring everyone can safely and comfortably access the court system safely and comfortably.
Former Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke led the Committee on the Rationalisation of the High Courts, which has completed the first phase of determining the areas over which the main and local seats of every division of the High Court must exercise jurisdiction.
The Committee will commence Phase 2 in June 2023 to evaluate the judicial establishment of each division of the High Court to ensure an equitable distribution of judicial posts across all the divisions.
I am pleased to announce that the Legal Aid SA Means Test has changed to allow more people to access justice. From April 1, 2023, applicants falling under Regulation 27(2)-(6) of the Legal Aid SA Act 39 of 2014 faced a higher Means Test. The ESTA Eviction matters will also have a new Means Test set at R13,625.00 under the ESTA Act. These changes aim to ensure a fair and accessible legal system for all individuals.
The Department has taken great initiatives to improve the justice system. The Department has prepared three bills to improve the administration of justice: the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, the Divorce Amendment Bill, and the South African Judicial Education Institute Amendment Bill. These bills will bring about effective changes and improve the legal system.
We will also expand our capacity to address the impact of loadshedding in our courts. As of March 2023, 120 courts across the country are equipped with generators or alternative power supply. To ensure that disruptions to court activities resulting from load shedding are kept to a minimum, DOJ&CD has registered additional projects to install generators with Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), at various service points. The projects are at different phases of implementation.
PRIORITY 4: Transformed Legal Profession
The legal profession is undergoing significant changes in our country, thanks to the efforts of the Department. The Legal Practice Council has registered many black legal professionals, including women from disadvantaged communities. We aim to distribute briefs more equitably and recognise those instrumental in bringing about this change.
We are committed to supporting programs like Free Wills Week and expanding them to include free estate advice for disadvantaged individuals. In the last financial year, PDI legal practitioners received 83% of briefs, female practitioners received 28%, and women received 40%. This can be verified through the website of the department of Justice and Constitutional Development that keeps real time data on these stats.
We call upon other organs of state and the private sector to follow suite and publish their briefing par-tens stats.
PRIORITY 5: Systemically Addressing Gender-Based Violence and Femicide
We have implemented Phase 5 of the Femicide Watch, which aims to tackle gender-based violence and femicide. The Department has developed a user-friendly dashboard which enables us to identify systemic issues within national laws and policies across all state departments. Phase 6's efforts to establish a National Strategy for Domestic Violence Court- based support services and measure the percentage of domestic violence protection orders submitted within 4 hours are praiseworthy.
The legislation to repeal provisions that criminalise sex work is at a consultative stage. We prioritise all individuals' safety and well-being, irrespective of gender.
PRIORITY 7: Dismantling apartheid and colonial-era legislation
The South African Law Reform Commission will work diligently with all concerned parties to prepare the Bill to modernise and review the Criminal Procedure Act.
The unconstitutional Riotous Assemblies Act will be a significant focus, and we are confident its repeal and replacement will succeed.
We are also actively addressing the unconstitutional findings of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication Related Information Act.
The International Cooperation in Criminal Matters Amendment and Extradition Bill has been prepared and is ready for introduction.
However, its introduction is pending time allowance and other priorities. Let us hope it will be introduced soon and help fight against criminal activities.
With this budget, the Department and its entities will carry out their constitutional and statutory mandates confidently and efficiently.
This budget enables the Department and its entities to execute their constitutional and statutory mandates.
The Department remains committed to promoting access to economic and business opportunities to Qualifying Small Enterprises (QSEs) and Exempted Micro Enterprises (EMEs).
In the latest financial year, the Department allocated 71% of its discretionary procurement to QSEs and EMEs.
The finance branch will continue to support the Department by allocating 40% of discretionary procurement to Women-owned businesses.
This commitment demonstrates the Department's commitment to promoting equal opportunities within the procurement process and supporting a diverse range of companies.
We take great pride in our commitment to supporting B-BBEE-compliant businesses.
In the financial year 2022/23, we were pleased to report that 91% of our procurement addressable spend was with companies that met the criteria of being classified as B-BBEE Level 1 to Level 4.
Our Department recognises the importance of promoting diversity and inclusivity in our procurement practices, and we will continue to prioritise partnering with businesses that share these values.
In conclusion, I would like to thank Deputy Minister Jeffery for his continued support in leading the programmes in the administration of the justice portfolio, Director-General Advocate Doc Mashabane, the management teams, and the staff in the justice family for their tireless efforts. A special thanks also go to Heads and Chairpersons of statutory bodies, distinguished members of the legal profession and all our social partners.
Work towards a fairer and equitable justice system in the country continues.
I thank you!