Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at the Launch of the Mitchell’s Plain Municipal (Additional) Court, Mitchell’s Plain Municipal Chambers, 4 May 2018
The Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Mrs Patricia De Lille
Members of the Mayoral Committee and Councillors of the City of Cape Town
Chief Magistrate, Mr Loots
Acting Chief Magistrate, Mrs Xhalie and members of the magistracy
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Rodney De Kock and other members of the NPA
The DDG: Court Services, Adv Skosana
The Western Cape Regional Head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Adv Mohamed
Representatives from the SAPS,
Executive Director: Safety and Security of the City of Cape Town, Mr Richard Bosman
Representatives from the City of Cape Town
Community leaders and members of civil society
Ladies and gentlemen, friends
One way of ensuring enhanced access to justice is through partnership.
In this case, the partnership between the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the City of Cape Town in the establishment of an additional court here in Mitchells Plain means a speedier and more effective way of administering justice.
There are many benefits to courts such as the one we are launching here today.
These courts are able to deal more effectively with municipal by-law matters at certain courts where the current infrastructure is over-burdened and provides full-time courts dedicated to traffic and municipal by-law cases.
They ensure that municipal by-laws are enforced effectively. Importantly, they assist Magistrates Courts by reducing the number of criminal cases being placed on the court roll and are thus a means of providing fair and speedy justice services to all.
In establishing these courts, the Constitution is always our guide.
In terms of Section 165(3) of the Constitution, the judicial authority is vested in the courts. Organs of State, including municipalities, must through legislative and other measures assist and protect courts to ensure their independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.
In terms of Section 152 of the Constitution, a municipality has an obligation to promote a safe and healthy environment and it must strive within its financial and administrative capacity to achieve this objective.
National and Provincial Government have a further obligation in terms of the Constitution to support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions.
The City of Cape Town has been a frontrunner in partnering with the Department of Justice in this regard. Within the greater City of Cape Town Metro a total of 11 additional courts have been established, amongst which is the Mitchells Plain additional court which we are opening today. The 11 magisterial districts which now have additional courts are Atlantis, Bellville (including Parow), Cape Town, Goodwood, Khayelitsha, Kuilsriver (including Bluedowns), Mitchells Plain, Simonstown, Somerset West, Strand and Wynberg.
The rationalisation of courts and re-demarcation of magisterial district boundaries process is ongoing, with Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga already completed. The Northern Cape and Free State provinces are in the process of being finalised, where after KZN, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape will be undertaken.
The 11 magisterial districts mentioned are located within the Greater City of Cape Town Metro and are therefore not significantly affected by municipal boundaries - therefore we foresee that the additional courts, as we have them now, are very likely to continue to operate as they currently are.
Additional courts are proclaimed by the Minister of Justice in terms of Section 2(1)(h) of the Magistrates Courts Act, Act 32 of 1944.
Perhaps just to say a little bit on the process leading up to the establishment of these courts: The Department focuses on individual municipalities on a case-by-case basis to assess the viability of a partnership to establish such additional courts.
Municipalities, in co-operation with their local court need to indicate that the local Magistrates Court has very high case volumes. Some of the following statistics which are taken into consideration when establishing an additional court include the number of traffic related cases allowed per week on the court rolls of the court and the number of court days allocated for traffic offences.
We look at the number of cases withdrawn, the number of warrants of arrest issued, the potential growth in backlog of cases and so forth. We also look at the number of municipal by-law cases.
In most instances the Magistrates Courts do not have sufficient infrastructure available for the establishment of an additional court. The municipality will therefore be responsible to provide such facilities in the proximity of the Magistrates Court.
The additional court, whether housed within the Magistrate’s Court building or apart from it, is deemed to be part and parcel of the Magistrates Court.
In most instances the Chief or Senior Magistrate of the area recommends a magistrate to be appointed on contract basis at the additional court. The magistrate is appointed by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and resorts under the authority of the respective Judicial Head of the Magisterial District, not the municipality. This reporting structure ensures the independence of the judiciary as enshrined in the Constitution.
Regarding the appointment of a prosecutor, the employment contract will be between the municipality and the prosecutor, however, the prosecutor reports to the head of the prosecution of the district on court matters.
The appointment and remuneration of the interpreters and court clerks are handled by the municipality and the magistrate will attend to the legal appointment of these clerks in terms of Section 13 of the Magistrates’ Court Act once the necessary training of these officials by the Court Manager has been concluded.
So as you can see, it really is a partnership between the Department of Justice, the municipality concerned, the NPA and the judiciary.
In this regard, I want to thank the various stakeholders who make this court possible, including the Executive Mayor, Mrs Patricia De Lille, the Chief Magistrate of the area, Mr Johan Loots, who is now the Acting Chief Magistrate Wynberg, Ms Mandisa Xhallie, the Acting Chief Magistrate Mitchells Plain as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Rodney De Kock, and Advocates JB Skosana and Hishaam Mohamed from the DoJCD.
Finally, we cannot launch any new court without mentioning the rule of law.
It was with extreme concern that all of us witnessed the protests which flared up here in Mitchells Plain earlier this week. A chairperson of one of the local Community Policing Forums is reported as describing what happened here in Mitchells Plain on Wednesday as being "like a war zone".
All of us are in government - albeit in different spheres, like national or local government - must highlight that the use of violence in the course of people exercising their Constitutional right to protest is unacceptable. Violence is not the answer and we must urge communities to raise grievances within the bounds of the law.
Our democracy offers many avenues for people or communities to address any grievances. This places a firm duty on us, as public representatives and public servants, to make sure that we are a caring and open government that encourages dialogue and engagement to resolve issues. We need to proactively engage, listen, consult and act when communities come to us with their grievances.
To conclude, I want to convey my appreciation towards the City of Cape Town for the good working relationship between our Department and the City.
It worth noting that the model used for these courts within the jurisdiction of the City of Cape Town is also being used to establish other such similar courts in other areas.
I am pleased to let you know that the Hermanus (Overstrand), Mossel Bay, Stellenbosch and George Additional Courts are already operational and we have numerous other municipalities who have already indicated their interest to enter into a partnership with the Department in order to establish such additional courts.
The interest from other municipalities in establishing such courts is proof that these courts do work well.