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Address by Madipoane Mothapo (ANC) MP on the debate: "Responding to the needs of our people through peace and stability"

13 November 2018

Honourable Speaker,

In response to today`s subject for discussion: Responding to the needs of our people through peace and stability, we, the African National Congress understand the importance of justice and that there can be no peace and stability without access to justice. The concept of access to justice is understood in terms of legal rights, processes and procedures. It denotes the situation where state legal systems are organised "to ensure that every person is able to invoke the legal processes for legal redress irrespective of social or economic capacity" and "that every person should receive a just and fair treatment within the legal system"

The ANC inherited a dysfunctional state which was not representative of the aspirations of the people of South Africa and provided no access to justice to the indigent.The National Development Plan (NDP) correctly identified that apartheid left South Africa fragmented and with unrepresentative institutions designed to concentrate resources on only a small section of the population. It also identified that poorly located and inadequate infrastructure limits social inclusion and fast economic growth, and that spatial challenges continue to marginalise the poor. The concerted efforts by the ANC led government have been to ensure that not only basic services are delivered to even remote areas, but that justice is also served

The pre-1994 court system did not place access to justice and responsive service delivery as the heart of its values. The ANC-led government has led the re-orientation of courts into a service culture, accompanied by a sound performance management system. Through the efforts of the ANC, we have rationalized the system of justice with the unification of the 11 apartheid-based systems of justice ; the introduction of the Constitutional Court, various labour courts, the Land Claims Court, Maintenance Courts, Small Claims, Equality Court and other specialized judicial institutions. We have established the Office of the Public Protector, South African Human Rights Commission, Commission for Gender Equality and other institutions supporting democracy.

Nelson R Mandela.

Having identified the patriarchal fibre in our society, there is a need to eradicate gender discrimination and build a non-sexist and prosperous society. We promised to protect the rights of children, to place special emphasis to the realisation of women`s emancipation. The ANC-led government established Sexual Offences Courts. In 2007, we enacted the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 to protect communities against rape and other sexual related crimes. The Act provides protection to victims of rape and sexual offences, more especially women, children and people living with mental disabilities

The Justice Ministerial Task Team correctly identified that the impact of sexual abuse on victims, especially children, often has far-reaching physical, emotional, psychological and developmental effects. Insensitive and hostile treatment of victims in the criminal justice system causes secondary traumatisation, which results in victims suffering further trauma, and consequently withdrawing from the system.

Sexual Offences Courts are part of the efforts of the ANC in ensuring the protection of women and other vulnerable groups. There are various dedicated victim support services and one-stop centres, like the National Prosecuting Authority`s Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC), the Department of Social Development`s Khuseleka One Stop Centres, and SAPS`s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS), which are established mainly to reduce secondary victimisation and improve services within the criminal justice system.

Some of the successes of Sexual Offences Courts include:

  • A conviction rate of 74,5%, with 1 899 convictions, as recorded in relation to TCC reported cases;
  • 17 court rooms were adapted in line with the sexual offences model and this brought the total number of court rooms adapted to 75;
  • The conviction rate in sexual offences of 72,7% is an all-time high, reflecting a firm commitment to deliver justice for the most vulnerable members of society:

As the ANC, we have kept our word and continuously respond to the needs of our people. We have seen the enactment of progressive legislation which protects women such as; Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, Recognition of Customary Marriages Act, Employment equity Act, Civil Union Act, Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, Domestic Violence Act, Maintenance Act, Reform of Customary Law of Succession and Regulation of Related matters, Protection from harassment Act, Women`s Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill and prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act.

The ANC-led government has built courts and institutions of justice in rural areas and townships where the masses of our people are, and have brought justice closer to the people. Under the ANC-led government, magisterial districts have been re-demarcated. Today there is at least one High court in every province, with the Mpumalanga High Court being the latest, and 722 lower courts throughout the country.

Given the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, access to justice is inhibited, inter alia, by high litigation fees. Access to justice incorporates the right to legal representation. The ANC-led government prides itself in having set up set up institutions such as Legal Aid South Africa, which provides for free legal services to the indigent.

Legal aid is a fundamental human right. Without adequate legal aid there can be no fair trial, no functioning criminal justice system and no respect for the rule of law. Legal Aid South Africa has been recognized internationally as having developed a sustainable legal aid system which has been studied and learnt from by many countries intending to develop their own legal aid systems.

We are pleased that Legal Aid South Africa has obtained an unqualified audit for the past 17 years. With that said, we find the budget cuts concerning when it comes to Legal Aid because this institution not only fulfils a constitutional mandate, but also remains vital in assisting the masses of our people who cannot afford legal services.

As the ANC we have championed progressive laws such as the Legal Practice Act, which allows for direct consultation/briefing with an advocate; whereas in the past a client would have to pay both an attorney and advocate for a direct consultation. Some of the successes of the ANC-led government include the promotion, and use of all official languages, with interpretation services being available in our country`s courts.

The ANC`s efforts in increasing rehabilitation of prisoners and reducing recidivism and alleviating poverty and unemployment. The ANC`s aim is to not create a community that will re-offend, but rather a group of ex-offenders and parolees who are ready to contribute to building a more productive, cohesive and safer society.The ANC acknowledges that socio-economic issues have an influence on people turning to a life of criminality. Incarceration is an essential element in the corrections process and its integrity has been upheld, aligned to Chapter 12 of the NDP - all people feel safe. The purpose of the current correctional system is not punishment, but to protect the public, and the promotion of social responsibility, enhancing human development to prevent repeat offending.

This year, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services (DCS) handed out 127 qualifications, including one Master`s degree to inmates in 2018.

The Department also hosted the annual three-day reading competition for offenders, called Funda Mzantsi. The DCS led the programme in partnership with the South African National Library`s Centre for Books as part of instilling the culture of learning, reading and writing amongst the inmates. Out of the DCS budget, Offender development received R874,665 to provide inmates with opportunities for skills and social development.

There are 10 offender workshops countrywide and have a R 28m annual turnover from furniture fabrication, steel work, upholstery, textiles, baked goods, powder coatings and boiler making to agriculture and school furniture fabrication. This is evidence that the ANC government is at work and has made great strides in transforming the prisons we inherited from the colonial and apartheid governments into successful correctional centres.We are a government at work and have, over the past twenty-four years, addressed the needs of our people. We remain resolute that we will continue championing their cause.

Hon Members I thank you.

     
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