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Minister Radebe sets the tone for the 2013/14 financial year

The 2013/14 financial year has seen the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development receiving a total budget allocation of R16, 7 billion to further enhance the delivery of justice services across the board.

The Budget Vote speech, delivered by Minister Jeff Radebe in Parliament recently, aims to give a clear indication of how the budget, received from the National Treasury, will be spent in ensuring that justice services reach even the most marginalised sectors of the country’s communities and vulnerable groups.

Of this budget allocation, R5, 8 billion has been allocated to the court services programme and R3 billion for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). A further R1, 84 billion will be shared among Public Entities and Chapter Nine (9) Institutions.

The department envisages spending R1,9 billion on public prosecutions, R159 million on witness protection, R116 million on Asset Forfeiture, R305 million on the Special Investigating Unit and R1,36 million on Legal Aid South Africa. In support of the constitutional institutions, the department will transfer R116 million to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and R199 million to the Office of the Public Protector.
Over the next three years, the department will spend R3.1 billion on the construction of court and other infrastructure projects. A further R96 million will be spent on day-to-day maintenance and R291 million will cater for the rehabilitation of court facilities.

Minister Radebe indicated that enhancing services of the Thuthuzela Care Centres is vital in addressing secondary victimisation. “Skills development programmes and also social context training for regional magistrates and personnel to deal with matters arising from these cases is essential,” he explained.

On Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster, the minister outlined some of the successes which include the significant reduction of serious crimes, the improved functioning of the Criminal Justice System (CJS with fraud and corruption being severely dealt with in a more focused manner.

”With more coordinated efforts, the perception of the public about the work of the cluster is continually improving. Border management has been prioritised, the population registration system has been improved and a safe cyber space has since been made a focus area of our work,” boasted Minister Radebe.

He said all cluster departments would continue with the implementation of the recommendations emanating from the Criminal Justice System Review, in an effort to ensure uniform results.  “As cluster departments and security agencies, we have achieved more that what each of us would have achieved individually,” he added.

The department has also adopted a zero tolerance towards rape, violence against the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex (LGBTI) community and other forms of violence targeted against women and children.

Minister Radebe indicated that the budget will also assist in creating additional regional magistrates’ posts in order to increase capacity in these courts, appointment of additional personnel, including intermediaries and the installation and maintenance of the technological equipment fitted in the designated courts, such as Close Circuit Television (CCTV) and cameras to ensure the integrity of the judicial process.

With regards to the Transformation of the Judiciary, the minister said the department has made significant strides in the quest to transform the judiciary. In 1994, there was only one black judge and currently, 61% of judges in the country’s courts are black. Although a remarkable progress has been recorded to date, the department is still facing challenges in the appointment of women judges.

Out of 239 judges, only 76 are women. Minister Radebe said the situation is a concern for government, particularly the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) which plays a significant role in the appointment of judges. “It is not just a concern, but also disturbing to observe that the debate on the slow pace in appointing women judges is raised alongside with that of white male judges,” he cautioned.

The same progress has been made in addressing race and gender imbalances in the magistracy. Of the 1661 magistrates countrywide, 974 are black and 687 white, 647 are women and 1014 are women.

On maintenance, the minister share with the audience that in reducing the maintenance queues in service points, the department has introduced Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) system to replace the card-based manual system. “Courts are also increasingly making orders for payments to be deposited directly into the accounts of beneficiaries and beneficiaries receive their maintenance monies within 24 to 48 hours after the money has been received by the department,” said Minister Radebe.

With regards to curbing fraud and corruption through government and all its ranks, the minister commended the concerted efforts and hard work of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT), the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and the HAWKS. “The work of these agencies complements efforts of government and other entities outside the public sector such as the Corruption Watch, which aims to rid the country of corruption,” he concluded.

By Mokgethwa Ngoepe

06 June 2013