South Africa: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied - We Must Speed Up the Court System Under Lockdown

opinion

The prioritisation by the courts of Covid-19 regulation violations has unduly burdened an already impaired system with trivial offences, disadvantaging those with more serious matters.

The nationwide lockdown implemented in response to Covid-19 has had far-reaching implications for all areas of government. One area of particular concern across the world, and indeed in South Africa, is the effect of the lockdown on the justice system.

It is common knowledge that the South African justice system is already overburdened and under-resourced. This has resulted in a perpetual state of backlog. Cases are delayed and postponed as a result of overworked legal professionals, ineffective investigations and corruption - all of which contribute to the infringement of constitutional protections and the perennial overcrowding we see in state correctional facilities.

I have raised these issues in many debates in the National Assembly and other forums, yet no solutions have been forthcoming.

The lockdown has further served to exacerbate this backlog, unfairly impacting the rights of incarcerated, accused, and vulnerable people who are depending on the outcome of labour disputes and other civil cases for their livelihoods. In mid-May, Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery informed Parliament that backlogs in district and regional courts had...

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