Vote 22: Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration
Mr N Singh, MP
Inkatha Freedom Party
At the outset let me say that Inkatha Freedom Party supports this budget vote and supports the Office of the Chief Justice.
The Office of the Chief Justice not only plays an integral role in ensuring the independence of our judiciary-led court administration system and support for the constitution and it’s enshrined Institutions, but also a vanguard role as the final arbiter on the prolific attacks we are now witnessing being perpetrated against the Rule of Law by some of those well placed in government who seek to undermine our hard fought for and won constitutional democracy.
This Office plays pivotal roles in the development of judicial policy, continuing judicial education and supports the Judicial Services Commission in the execution of its mandate.
As Head of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice has the responsibility of oversight of norms and standards for the exercise of judicial functions of all courts and the strategic goal of ensuring administrative support to the superior courts.
The Chief Justice has an unenviable task but has risen to the challenge and shown himself to be a champion of judicial independence and protector of the Rule of Law in South Africa.
His job however, is made all the more difficult by the Ministries of Justice and Public works continued neglect of our court infrastructure. Conditions in some of our courts are in a poor state of disrepair and I know of many such sentiments being publicly expressed.
Honourable Speaker, and if that was not enough of a challenge for the Honourable Chief Justice, we are now also noting the public derision of judgments handed down particularly from those who hold lofty positions in government and the ruling party.
This is tantamount to an assault on the independence of the judiciary and the binding nature of the judgments, when they are seen to be second guessed by those in government. What kind of a message does this send to our citizens? Government must respect judicial independence and set the example that court judgments are final. It is for this reason that the appeals process is available for those who contend otherwise and this should be utilized rather than the courts of public opinion.
Transformation in our judiciary remains a concern that requires attention as does the filtering process of JSC candidates. We note only too often in JSC conducted meetings for the appointment of judges that the same candidates seem to be placed before us, some of whom we have previously dismissed as being unsuitable at a particular time for a particular bench position. The flow of candidates into “acting judgeships” positions which is a pre-requisite to a position on the bench must be made more widely accessible to all who aspire to be sitting judges of our High Courts.
Of particular concern is the paucity of women who apply for ‘bench’ positions. More must be done to actively empower and encourage women applicants.
Of late, more young people have been recommended to occupy positions on the bench. To this end, on-the-job training must be a continuous process. There is what is called a “South African Judicial Education Institute”, but this needs to be accompanied by qualified facilitators. Who better to assume this role than our highly respected retired Judges?
The challenge, Minister, seems to be the inadequate resources to compensate such judges for subsistence and travelling. Perhaps, we should make request to some of the SETA’s to assist as they are certainly not spending money allocated to them in a productive manner.
In conclusion, we call for complete independence from the Department of Justice for the Office of the Chief Justice and Judicial Administration.
The IFP supports this budget vote.
Hon. Narend Singh, MP
IFP Media, Parliament