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National Assembly Budget Vote Debate 16 May 2018 Office of the Chief Justice Vote 22 Gijimani Skosana MP (ANC)

"South African Judicial Education Institute"   Hon House Chairperson;

Hon Minister of Justice and Correctional Service;

Hon Deputy Minister responsible for Justice and Constitutional Development;

Honourable Members;

Distinguished guests

The Constitution enjoins us to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law . Among others, it provides that the need for the judiciary to reflect broadly the racial and gender composition of South Africa must be considered when judicial officers are appointed.

The African National Congress`s 50th National Conference highlighted the need to speed up the transformation of the judicial system and the administration of justice in general. This call has been echoed consistently in ANC conferences up to the 54th National Conference of 2017. The ANC resolved inter alia:

  • To rationalise the magistracy and judiciary into a single judiciary;
  • To rationalise the court system to provide, at least, for a High Court in each province, which is to be situated in the capital city of that province;
  • To introduce legislation to give effect to Section 180 of the Constitution by providing for a training programme for judicial officers, which includes sensitisation and capacity building components and a grievance procedure and mechanisms for complaints against, judicial officers.

As the ANC, we pride ourselves in having established a single judiciary, which is a process through which the magistrate`s courts are integrated to form part of a court system. The unification was informed by the history of the judicial system which provided a hybrid system in terms of which judges enjoyed a large degree of independence, compared to magistrates. The unified, hierarchal court system enhances access to justice. Appointment of magistrates and judges as judicial officers is in a manner consistent with the independence of the judiciary.

We have kept to our word. Today, all nine provinces have High Courts. The construction of the Mpumalanga High Court will be completed within this financial year and funds have been reprioritised for its operations.

The ANC resolved that judicial training and skills development of our judiciary is non-negotiable and must be vigorously pursued. And that appropriate mechanisms must be urgently established to pursue the priority of establishing an adequate pool of judicial officers who are steeped in and reflect the progressive values of our Constitution.

Parliament passed the South African Judicial Education Institute Act 14 of 2008, enabling the establishment of the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI) to promote the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts through continuing judicial education.

SAJEI

Many judicial officers received their legal training before the advent of the new Constitution and this showed the need for further training on constitutional jurisprudence. The SAJEI was established as a national education and training institution to enhance judicial accountability and the transformation of the judiciary. It was established to further educate and train aspiring and newly appointed judicial officers with a purpose of advancing their capacity and skills in the judiciary system as well as a continuous education and development of experience for judicial officers. The SAJEI is primarily directed and controlled by the judiciary.

Last year, Honourable Minister Masutha informed this august House that the Chief Justice raised the desirability of resuscitating the Aspirant Women Judges project which was initiated by the then Honourable Minister Bridget Mabandla and the late Chief Justice Langa. Through this project an intake of eligible women practitioners would be put through a judicial training programme under the auspices of the SAJEI and would be given exposure on the various judicial work areas thereby enhancing their opportunity for appointment to the bench. We are looking forward to have this very good project that seeks to address the inequalities that we inherited from the old apartheid regime.

We support this call especially because our 54th National Conference reaffirmed the resolution that "Government should strengthen briefing black lawyers so as to equip them with defending the state, thus creating a pool for potential judges".

While there may not be as many women advocates as there are men, there are still a number of women who can be equipped, encouraged and put forward for acting and permanent appointments.

The South African Judicial Education Institute has invited interested candidates to apply for its Aspirant Judges Programme which is set to take place in Gauteng from 18 to 20 July 2018. The programme is aimed at increasing and merging, in a methodical manner, the knowledge, skills and values that are required of judicial officers. This will be achieved through the expert input of Judges, ensuring an understanding of judicial culture.

Training of Traditional Leaders

It was reported that the SAJEI has been involved in the training relating to traditional courts but after an engagement with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), it was decided that COGTA would take over the training. The importance of working with COGTA was highlighted. In the spirit of transformation, it is important that the trainers also be trained to know and understand Living Customary Law. Legal practitioners and aspirant judges need to have an understanding of important aspects of living customary law and its development as a system of law within African constitutional frameworks . If legal practitioners, magistrates and judges are not given appropriate legal training about living customary law, they will not have the right lens through which to view customary law in its own right and not from the perspective of other legal systems.

Budget

The annual budget for the OCJ was R1.9 billion in 2017/18 and, according to the Estimates of National Expenditure 2018, is projected to be R2.1 billion in 2018/19 and R2.4 billion in 2020/21. Programme 3, Judicial Education increases from R76 million in 2017/18 to R79 million in 2018/19.

Spending focus will be on capacitating SAJEI in support of the NDP and ensuring that the institute delivers on its mandate. To that end, a total of 246 judicial training and educational courses are planned for this financial year.

The SAJEI has been and is a very good institution for developing and grooming judicial officers, particularly the previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa. We applaud the efforts of the Office of the Chief Justice in this regard.

The ANC supports the budget vote.

     
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