South Africa: Minister Ronald Lamola - Justice and Constitutional Development Dept Budget Vote 2019/20

press release

Address by the Minister for Justice and Correctional Services, the honourable, Mr. Ronald Lamola (MP), on the occasion of the Budget Vote Debate of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in the National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town

Honourable Chairperson

Ministers and Deputy Ministers

Honourable Members of the National Assembly

Members of the Judiciary

Heads of Departments and Entities linked to the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services

Distinguished guests present

Greetings to you all!

I have the great honour today of presenting the Budget Policy Statement on Vote 21 of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for the financial year 2019/ 2020. Vote 21 also covers the budgets of several entities and institutions linked to the overall mandate of the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services.

This being my inaugural Budget Policy Statement in my capacity as Minister for Justice and Correctional Services, with profound humility, I wish to dedicate this address to a special compatriot, a champion for youth development and meaningful participation in the economy; the late Comrade Sindiso Magaqa, indoda emadodeni, the former Secretary-General of the African National Congress Youth League, who was cowardly gunned down two years ago. Last Friday, July 12, 2019, marked the second anniversary of his demise. The trial of his murder will commence this October.

The unhappy augury of the circumstances surrounding his death remains with us as the killing of political activists and ordinary citizens runs contrary to the ideals of our democracy. This state of affairs endures as various typologies of violent and contact crimes continue to afflict many families in our country. We are reminded that the victims of these crimes are not mere statistics; families are left devastated and communities impoverished by the loss.

The department and some of the entities linked to this Budget Vote 21 play a critical role in the criminal justice value chain: the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) which investigates maladministration and corruption, the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) which prosecutes the offenders, and the department which provides administration for the courts that adjudicate over these cases.

The budget allocation of the department amounts to R21,1 billion, which is inclusive of the allocation for the NPA and transfers to the two constitutional bodies, namely the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission. Additionally, the budget allocation also provides for transfers to the Information Regulator, the Legal Aid South Africa and the SIU. This budget enables the Department and its entities to execute their respective constitutional and statutory mandates. Vatsonga vari vana va munhu vatsemelana nhloko ya njiya. Ku pfumaleka kamali swiyendla hi ntirha hi leswi ntsongo hi nga na swona.

Honourable chairperson,

The revelations of high levels of brazen corruption that have come to the fore at the various Commissions of Inquiry are serious affront to our constitutional democracy. As you know, these include the Commission of Inquiry into Tax Administration and Governance at the South African Revenue Services, the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation and the Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, are very chilling. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will continue to provide the necessary administrative support to enable these Commissions of Inquiry to do their work and thereby strengthen the rule of law and our constitutional democracy.

Further, the department will also provide budgetary support to the establishment of the Investigative Directorate under the auspices of the NPA to enable it to deal with the relevant cases emanating from these commissions. The Investigative Directorate will work collaboratively with a range of entities, both governmental as well as non-governmental including, the SIU, the SIU Special Tribunal and the South African Police Services, in particular the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI), the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS), to ensure that perpetrators of fraud and corruption are brought to book speedily. In order to ensure the speedy civil recovery of the proceeds of crime, I intend to finalise the regulations of the SIU Special Tribunal during the course of this week.

Recognising the key role of the NPA in the fight against crime and the restoration of respect for the rule of law, the President, during his State of the Nation address, stated: "We have asked the National Director of Public Prosecutions to develop a plan to significantly increase the capacity and effectiveness of the NPA, including to ensure effective asset forfeiture". In order to strengthen the human resource capacity at the NPA we have approved the hiring of prosecutors in 19 one-person stations, and resuscitated the Aspirant Prosecutors Programme. For this year, we have admitted 97 Justice and NPA officials, combined, who have appropriate legal qualifications and have expressed interest to participate in the programme.

However, much more needs to be done to resource the NPA to enable it to meet the demands for its services. For example, the fiscally-induced freeze on all hiring of staff since 2015, resulting in 685 vacant prosecutor posts as at the end of June, needs to be reconsidered so that the NPA can recruit much needed middle-to-senior level positions as a matter of urgency, especially in the specialised units. While recognising the current fiscal constraints, the Department will need to engage with National Treasury regarding measures to enable the adequate capacitation of the NPA. As the Department will further engage the NPA and National Treasury to understand better the request and implications of private donor funding because as we leave no stone unturned to ensure all criminal cases are prosecuted, we will nonetheless endeavour to do nothing that will undermine the independence and integrity of prosecution in our courts.

Furthermore, we've noted the recent judgment on the Rodrigues matter related to TRC cases. We assure victims with similar cases that interference with prosecutorial independence of the NPA will not be tolerated. We continue towards a durable and sustainable solution to all TRC related cases including consideration of interest of victims.

Chairperson,

Let us remind ourselves that Foreign Direct Investment thrives where the rule of law triumphs. Accordingly, the role of the JCPS Cluster constitutes an important pillar of our country's economic revival and growth strategy. The functioning of the criminal justice value chain is analogous with a relay race: The handing over of the baton by one athlete to another represents the different stages in the criminal justice system. The court's outcome resembles the finishing line, and the spectators as end users of the system, among them, the victims of various crimes. We, as different relay athletes in the criminal justice race have often dropped the baton at various stages in the value chain and in the process, developed the habit of blaming other athletes. The success of our justice system depends on an unbroken relay through the faithful stewardship of all involved.

It is in this context that the comprehensive reform of the justice system includes the overhauling of the old-era Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 to ensure that is attuned to the constitutional democracy of our time. In this regard, we will draft a Bill that will culminate in the enactment of new legislation which will flow from the Integrated Criminal Justice Framework which was approved by Cabinet in 2017. The envisaged legislation will also consider the victims of crime and witnesses as the main beneficiaries of the system.

Invariably, the modernisation of the justice system lies at the heart of our transformation trajectory, which is guided by the National Development Plan and the seven-point plan approved by Cabinet. The Integrated Justice System (IJS) is an important programme through which the JCPS cluster seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. It is driving a multi-departmental effort aimed at increasing the probability of successful crime investigation, prosecution, sentencing and rehabilitation of offenders.

The Court Recording Technology (CRT) system is another important tool of the IJS, which has been rolled out in over 2000 court rooms across the country. A further 146 mobile recorders are used in periodical courts. The CRT enables the efficient recording and retrieval of court proceedings, improved quality of audio recordings and secure storage and retrieval of the electronic audio recordings at multiple locations. In addition, the CRT system has the ability to provide operational data which will assist in the efficient scheduling of cases. The data captured through the system enables both the Judiciary and court administration to obtain further insights to improve court processes.

Honourable Members,

The modernisation project is also being extended to other programmes of the Department, including the Office of the Master. With the roll-out of the Master's Own Verification Information Technology (MOVIT) system to 292 Magistrates' Courts, members of the public no longer have to travel to the 6 Masters' Offices to lodge applications for deceased estate benefits. The Paperless Estate Administration System (PEAS), has also been rolled out to 278 Magistrates' Offices, making it possible for the deceased estates with a value of two hundred and fifty thousands (R250 000-00) to be reported at local service points which are closest to where the majority of people live. Through these initiatives, access to justice has become a reality for many of our citizens, particularly the poor and those who live in far flung rural areas.

The Office of the Master is also working on a Master's Online project, which is scheduled to be implemented by 2020. This project aims to streamline the Trust registration process and will assist in curbing fraud and improving efficiencies across the Master's services value chain.

Honourable chairperson,

The processing of maintenance payments is a critical area that requires our special attention. In the 2018/2019 financial year, the Department has paid an amount of R1,297 billion to maintenance beneficiaries. This amount translates into an estimated R108 million per month which could have been collected at the courts through cash payments. In order to manage the risks associated with the manual handling of such large amounts of cash in our courts, the Department is encouraging parties to opt for electronic payment of their maintenance benefits. Although the Department has successfully facilitated electronic fund transfers (EFTs), which have reduced long queues at our courts, maintenance payments remain a major challenge for many beneficiaries.

Honourable Members,

It is important that as we embark on the modernisation of our justice system, we embrace the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly in facilities management. A move towards smart buildings and courts that use sophisticated information technology will generate huge savings in energy costs, space usage and indeed personnel, without reducing the opportunities of employment.

The footprint of our courts is in total 723 Magistrates Courts and 21 Superior Courts, which are spread across the length and breadth of our country. These exclude the periodical courts which sit at certain police stations and correctional centres. The majority of these courts, save for the 58 that were built and revamped after the advent of democracy in 1994, still bear the historical baggage and impediments that continue to hinder the Department's endeavour to provide equal access to justice. A total of 25 courts, including all Superior Courts, will be part of the Total Facilities Management solution implemented by the Department of Public Works. This will bring relief to users of our facilities as breakdowns in equipment often disrupt court sittings and contribute to the delay in the finalisation of cases.

We have, in respect of minor repairs and what is termed day-to-day maintenance, come-up with initiatives that will shorten the turn-around time in resolving repeated break-downs to the aging court infrastructure. These measures include appointing personnel with the requisite qualifications in building management and maintenance. The epartment is also implementing an in-source model which allows sentenced inmates and participants in the Expanded Public Works Programme to be engaged for minor maintenance works. For example, the Middleburg local seat of the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court, which commenced work on 1 May 2019, was renovated through the in-source model which involved inmates from a nearby correctional centre. This 12-month project costed the Department less than R2,9 million, compared to initial projections of around R20 million estimated for an outsourced model. An outsourced model could have easily taken more than three years to finish the work.

Honourable Chairperson,

Undoubtedly, the country is experiencing an upsurge in incidents of sexual and gender-based violence. South Africa is one of the countries with the highest rate of femicide in the world. The Department has completed the first phase of the establishment of a Femicide Watch, which is a data-bank which will enable it to collate data and pick up trends, profile the victims and perpetrators in order help develop appropriate preventive and adequate responses to this phenomenon in our society. In addition, the Department will continue to roll-out dedicated sexual offences courts through which we implement a range of measures, including the installation of technology which allows the evidence of minor children to be transmitted in a child-friendly and secure facility.

To date, we have established 92 sexual offences courts and a further 16 will be rolled out in the current financial year. These dedicated sexual offences courts, are backed by 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres and continue to yield impressive conviction rates. For the 2018/ 2019 financial year the convictions recorded in these courts was 74.4%.

Honourable Chairperson,

There is on-going work in transforming the Office of the State Attorney. This area is of significance, given the unprecedented levels of litigation against the State. Some of the known inefficiencies include a shortage of legal trained personnel and the inability of the State to attract competent practitioners. We are giving urgent attention to this area of work and will soon be approaching Cabinet with a Business Case and Draft Bill containing recommendations that will take the Department and the country forward.

An efficient Office of the State Attorney is also essential for the transformation of the legal profession as a whole, particularly in relation to the allocation of State legal work or what is loosely termed 'briefing patterns'. The Department has increased to 80% the target in the 2019/20 Annual Performance Plan for the allocation of State legal work to Previously Disadvantaged Individuals (Practitioners).

Honourable Members,

Legal Aid SA continues to do sterling work in ensuring access to justice and safeguarding the right to a fair trial by people who are indigent and unable to purchase legal services for that purpose. It continues to expand its policy on the coverage civil cases, over and above the extensive coverage of criminal cases. As part of this expansion, Legal Aid SA will continue to engage with the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform on the need for Legal Aid SA to assist land claimants in the prosecution of their claims.

This work, viewed collectively with the plans of the Portfolio, guided by the National Development Plan: Vision 2030, dovetail with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end extreme poverty and fight injustice and inequality during the next 15 years.

Honourable Chairperson,

The coming into effect of the Legal Practice Act on 1 November 2018 which, among others, established the Legal Practice Council and provincial councils, is a real game changer. The Legal Practice Council, as a new regulatory structure for both the advocates and attorneys' professions, is now in place, and provincial councils are following suit.

I have already met with the Council and have agreed on measures and mechanisms that will foster cooperation in respect of matters that require our joint action and intervention. Among these is the Legal Services Charter which will confront the barriers of entry which have prevented our young graduates from entering the profession. The statistics that have been shared with me in preparation of today's debate are appalling as they do not represent the society we have become, a quarter of a century into democracy. For example, only 53 of the total number of 549 silks are women and a mere 11 of them are African women.

Honourable Members,

The Department has a critical role in developing and sustaining our hard-earned constitutional democracy. We have just emerged from successful national and provincial election. In order to sustain our democracy, the Department advances programmes that are geared at improving the lives of all citizens, upholding the rule of law, promoting equality and ensuring the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

One of the efforts of the Department in this regard, is the National Action Plan (NAP) to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The Plan was approved by Cabinet on 27 February 2019. The Deputy Minister will provide more details in this regard.

As part of its legislative programme, the Department will promote the following Bills this financial year:

Revival of The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill which has already been introduced into Parliament the 5th Parliament and was being considered by the Justice and correctional Services Portfolio Committee;

Revival of The Traditional Courts Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly of the 5th Parliament, which was awaiting consideration by the NCOP;

Introduce a Bill which will provide for the establishment of a Land Court which is aimed at promoting land justice and the democratisation of land ownership. Through this Bill, we aim to address some of the challenges that have been experienced with the current Land Claims Court dispensation;

Introduce The Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill to ensure compliance with Courts judgments which found certain provisions to be unconstitutional;

The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill.

Honourable Chairperson,

What I have just outlined is a fraction of the programmes and plans of the Department.

The Department's broad mandate and those of the entities linked to it require a crop of capable and well-equipped staff to bring the all the plans which are articulated in the Department's Annual Performance Plan to fruition. Sidzinga bantfu labatimisele kusebentela ininguzimu africa. To achieve this, the Department must retain a cadre of employees possessed with the requisite skills and competencies. Accordingly, the budget allocation for Compensation of Employees for the Department's staff complement which is in excess of 15,000, is the Department's largest cost driver. This headcount excludes the 1880 permanent magistrates and about 300 acting magistrates whose compensation is a direct charge against the National Revenue Fund.

Honourable Members,

The following is a breakdown of the budget allocation which includes transfers to the five entities which form part of this vote:

R1.958 billion goes to Legal Aid South Africa.

R31.4 million to the Office of Public Protector.

R363 million to the Special Investigating Unit.

R189.2 million to the South African Human Rights Commission.

R2.384 billion as a Direct Charge to the National Revenue Fund in respect of Magistrates' salaries.

The 2019/20 budget allocation represents an overall year-on-year increase of 7% mainly due to an amount of R272.9 million specifically allocated for the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Honourable Members,

Our efforts and, by extension, the health of our nascent and fledgling democracy will be measured by the degree of progress we make towards building an inclusive economy, the substantial reduction of unemployment, especially amongst the youth, the eradication of gender based violence and the creation of a conducive environment for the advancement of the Rule of Law. We are fully conscious of the important role that the Justice sector must play in advancing the agenda of radical socio-economic transformation to realise those transformative ideals and to grow South Africa together. Twenty five years after the advent of our Constitutional democracy, we remain committed to the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

In this context, allow me to express my profound gratitude to my predecessors in this portfolio, in its various configurations, who have since the democratic breakthrough of 1994, starting with the pioneering work of the esteemed late Minister Dullah Omar, worked tirelessly to bring us to where we are today. The journey to world class, accessible, affordable and sustainable civil and criminal justice system value chains, is still long, but remains within our grasp. Accumulatively, South Africa is today better than what it was in 1994.

However, as Tata Madiba put it, after climbing the hills and mountains in the 25 years of democracy, we have come to realise that there are more mountains to climb. And we have concluded that this can only be attained through radical socio-economic transformation as the second phase of our national democratic transition.

I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Portfolio Committee for its constructive engagement, the support received so far from the Office of the Chief Justice and all entities reporting to the Ministry and aligned to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Allow me also to thank officials from the Ministry and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for the work they have put in making this occasion a success.

Allow me to thank my sister Constance, who is in the public gallery today for taking me to school when my parents could not afford to do so. If it was not for her contributions, Honourable Members, I would not be standing before you today - I would be heading my father's cattle in the village.

Finally, in honour of the memory of Sindiso Magaqa, I present this Budget Vote 21 of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Entities.

I thank you!

Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development

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