South Africa: Do We Actually Know How Well Our Courts Are Functioning?


Given its pivotal role in a functioning democracy, the judiciary would do well to rethink its approach to accountability and data. Currently, the statistics it provides are, in a nutshell, meaningless.

The judiciary may well be the most highly regarded arm of the South African state, especially in light of how it stood firm on Constitutional principles during the height of State Capture.

The institution has far-reaching powers, particularly in respect of the legality of executive action, in light of which reasoned disagreement may be expected. Recently, however, the judiciary has come under fire from the EFF as well as a particular faction of the ANC, both of which back the controversial current Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane. These attacks form part of a baseless attempt to undermine the courts, which have rebuked the Public Protector in a variety of cases she has lost.

We should, however, differentiate between gratuitous or politically motivated attacks on the judiciary, and legitimate efforts that seek to ensure that the institution is held accountable.

In order to hold the judiciary to account, one needs to know whether the judiciary is exercising its powers independently (without fear, favour or prejudice); whether its work is of a...

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