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Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at the Southern Africa Regional Finals of the Innovating Justice Challenge, hosted by the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), held at Impact Hub, 9 Walters Street, Rosebank, 7 November 2019

Programme Director,
The Ambassador for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, His Excellency Mr Han Peters,
Members of the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law,
The finalists, their families and friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Last year an article appeared in the Irish Times about 86 year-old U.S. Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the opening line from the article reads – “Sometimes heroes come from the most unlikely places.”
The article continues and says Justice Ginsburg has, I quote,
“… a cult-like following usually reserved for pop stars or celebrities.
The roots of her fame began at the start of this decade. After a number of dissenting judgments, including in the famous Shelby County v Holder case on voting rights, she was incarnated as an internet meme, which compared her to the rapper Notorious BIG.”

The article tells about how the meme then became so popular that its creator teamed up with a journalist and they wrote a book called, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The book went on to become a New York Times bestseller.

Justice Ginsburg became an internet sensation and today you can buy everything from Ruth Bader Ginsburg – or should I rather say “Notorious RBG” - coffee mugs, T-shirts, cellular phone covers, wall art, posters, travel mugs and, I kid you not, even RBG duvet covers.

Now you may well ask what this has to do with access to justice.
And the short answer is “everything”.
In the past, judges and their judgments were only really known to lawyers and those working in the justice area and, generally speaking, not that well-known to the general public.
But today people who would, in the past, never have heard of Justice Ginsburg, or read her judgments, are now able to do so because they know her from social media platforms and from the internet.

It is, furthermore, because of the power of the internet, of social media and technological advances made in media and communications that millions of people can livestream interviews with her and are able to access her judgments and they now take an active interest in areas of the law that they would otherwise not have been exposed to.
In short, by making judges more accessible and approachable, you make the law appear more accessible and approachable.
She is what the New York Times called a “judicial rock star.”  And this sends a powerful message to people, particularly the public in general, that the law and the justice system are not the preserve of the privileged and lawyerly few – it can be relevant, it can be popular, and it can be accessible, to all.
Most importantly, the law and the justice system touch peoples’ lives in a very direct way. We need to ensure that it’s user-friendly.

I think this is also what stands out for me when I look at the innovations that are part of this year’s finals.
It’s about providing everyone with the opportunity to access justice – and it does so in a user-friendly way.
And I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed on the HiiL website which says –
“It is nice that we can make vacuum-cleaners user-friendly, but we think justice is a little bit more urgent.  That’s why we make it affordable, accessible, and easy to understand for everyone.”

This is also something that we are trying to achieve in our own Department and why we are progressively trying to make use of technology to innovate our way of doing things.
For example, our Paperless Estates Administration System (PEAS) computerises the administration process related to deceased estates and has successfully been rolled out to all 15 Masters’ Offices countrywide, as well as to 280 Magistrates’ offices which are linked with the relevant Masters’ Offices.
This means that the relevant Masters’ Office is now able to oversee the appointment process in the Magistrates Courts, but without the public needing to travel long distances to the different Master’s Offices countrywide.
The availability of information on the Masters’ website and web portal further assists with dealing with enquiries more efficiently, and it also assists the public as they can now freely access the information they need, if and when required, without travelling to the Masters’ offices, or phoning the offices or finding the offices closed outside of working hours.
An integration system with the Department of Home Affairs, which allows the Masters’ Offices to extract the details of a deceased person directly from the database of the Department of Home Affairs, ensures that details are captured correctly and thus curbs any fraudulent activities.

We have something called the Guardian’s Fund. It is a fund created to hold and administer funds which are paid to the Master on behalf of various persons, for example, minors, persons incapable of managing their own affairs, unborn heirs, missing or absent persons. The purpose of the Guardian’s Fund is to protect the funds of such persons.
With regards to the Guardian’s Fund, we make use of the Masters Own Verification Information System (MOVIT).
MOVIT has successfully been rolled out and is being used by all 15 Masters’ Offices countrywide, as well as 301 Magistrate’s Courts.
This means that the public are able to lodge their applications in the area where they reside, without the need to travel long distances to the Master’s Offices which provide the Guardian’s Fund services.
Completed applications for funds can be lodged directly at these Magistrate’s Offices and forwarded to the relevant Master’s Office for processing and payments to the beneficiary via EFT.

In line with our Department’s strategic approach to the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as an enabling resource to function more effectively and efficiently, the Department has continued on its journey to intensify its efforts in utilising ICT as a strategic enabler, with the objective of improving internal operations and service delivery.
In order to improve Court Administration, one of the key projects that continued to be implemented over the past year is that of the Court Recording Technology (CRT) Solution. 
This solution caters for, amongst others, improved recording functionality that improves recording quality and dramatically improves the storage and the retrieval of case audio records.
The implementation of a site monitoring console allows court supervisors to remotely manage the technical health of court recording equipment in each courtroom, thus improving oversight over the effective functioning of our courts.
The data captured then also enables both the judiciary and court administration to obtain further insights into court operations such as court occupancy rates or court sitting hours, as it’s called, for further analysis and operational improvement purposes.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a reality and we need to digitize, now more than ever. When we briefed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services in July this year, we specifically said that we cannot continue to store loads of papers.
We cannot, in this time and age, spend millions of rands, if not billions, to pay for the physical storage of records kept on paper when modern jurisdictions are digitising their records, nor can we send police and sheriffs to effect physical delivery of court process when such can be efficiently done through the use of information communication technology.
In addition, our judiciary have also stressed the importance of digitising our courts.
Our Department has continued with the implementation of the Court Scheduling Digital Solution over the past year, where the solution has been piloted at a Cluster and rolled out in one Region, being Limpopo. This solution, which will be rolled out to the remaining 8 regions in this financial year, optimises the management of case-flow and case load through automated case scheduling and statistical reporting.
Its’ features include the electronic scheduling of parties with their scheduled cases, by displaying it on email calendars and intranet portals.

Many single parents fight an ongoing battle to get their maintenance payments, so we have to make it easier for them to access the funds. In improving Third Party Funds administration and services to the vulnerable, our MojaPay Solution reduces the payment turnaround times of monies due to maintenance beneficiaries, from approximately 30 days to 1 or 2 days. This solution has now been implemented in 416 out of 473 courts in 9 regions.

The Sexual Offences System is used for in-camera testimony by victims of sexual offences (for example, vulnerable persons like children) and has been implemented at 434 identified courtrooms country-wide.
Based on the New Sexual Offences Court Model, the Improved Sexual Offences System allows for adult witnesses or children to testify from a private testifying room via a closed-circuit TV system if they feel more comfortable in doing so. This ensures that the victims of sexual offences do not have to be in the physical presence of the accused when testifying. Within the current financial year, the Department plans to design and pilot a converged solution that will enable participants to testify in trails from outside locations such as another court or other facilities.
In improving the administrative and financial management processes in the State Attorneys Offices, a new State Attorneys Management Solution will be acquired and designed in this financial year, with piloting planned for the next financial year.
This solution is intended modernise the State Attorney, as it will improve the management and reporting on State Attorney cases, especially in terms of briefing patterns.
It will also introduce an online channel of communication that will allow for the State Attorney’s clients to keep track of their cases and to issue instructions.  

Other matters of innovative significance come from the side of the Rules Board for Courts of Law, which is a statutory body which is responsible for the review, amendment and repeal of the rules of court. These innovations include new rules for the Children’s Courts as well as the E-development of court procedure and the civil justice system.
An investigation is currently underway by the Rules Board to modernise procedures and systems to align it with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Rules Board is working in tandem with a number of role-players to develop rules and procedures for this objective.

As you know, the prevention and combating of gender-based violence is a critical priority for Government. And I’m therefore very encouraged to see that the panel discussion later this evening will be focussing on how innovation can address the scourge of gender-based violence.
We’ve recently set up an Emergency Response Task Team and one of the many interventions we are currently working on is an Emergency Response Action Plan.
This is one area where the use of technology can greatly assist us in our efforts.
For example, we need to ensure that people who have been victims of violence and who want to obtain protection orders have easy access to a portal on a website with information regarding protection orders.
They need to be able to access and complete the forms and be able to actually apply online for such protection orders and to then receive the orders electronically.
We also need better linkages between courts and the police in respect of protection orders and access to such orders and warrants, as currently the police will not know, when they arrest a person, whether or not the person has any protection orders against him or her, nor will the prosecutors know about it.
We therefore need an E-justice system to be developed to ensure easier access for victims to services in respect of protection orders in particular, as well as to create a proper record system to be used by the police and prosecutors so that they will be able to know, with the click of a button, if there are protection orders against an accused person so that they can appropriately deal with such cases.
I also feel very strongly that we need to use technology – possibly sms notification like is being used by the Department of Home Affairs - to notify witnesses and complainants when a person is out on bail and what the bail conditions are that have been imposed by a court.
We simply cannot run the risk of having an already traumatised victim be further traumatised by seeing an accused person in their street or in their community, because they were not notified that the person is out on bail.

Another factor which could impact, nationally and internationally, on how we use technology to reach people, is what is called the “gender digital divide”.
Earlier this week, Afribarometer released findings which tell us that, on average, across 34 African countries, women are less likely than men to own a mobile phone, to use it every day, to have a mobile phone with access to the Internet, to own a computer or to access the Internet regularly.
Regular Internet usage among women ranges from a high of 58% in Cabo Verde and 57% in Mauritius to fewer than one in 10 in Mali, Niger, Benin, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, and Malawi. The gap between men and women also ranges widely – with some countries having no gap to other countries having gender gaps of up to 18 percentage points.
The proportion of women who regularly use the Internet has more than doubled over the past five years, from 11% to 26% and some countries, like South Africa, have made remarkable gains - 36 percentage points in South Africa, 30 points in Cabo Verde, 28 points in Tunisia, 25 points in Sudan, 24 points in Mauritius, and 22 points in Namibia.
But even so, Afrobarometer found that the average gender gap has widened. Men’s regular Internet use has also doubled over the period, from 17% to 34%, increasing the gender divide from 6 points to 8.

Programme Director,
I want to commend the Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law for the very important work that they are doing.
I’m told that the Johannesburg Regional Finals is one of four events taking place across Africa to scout the next generation of promising entrepreneurs and innovators and that the very best innovations will be selected for a place in HiiL’s Justice Accelerator programme where they can receive up to 20,000 Euros in grant funding, potential third party investment, tailored training and business development support, access to HiiL’s international network of experts and global exposure.
I believe HiiL has supported more than 60 justice innovations worldwide since 2011 and that these innovations have all assisted in making access to justice a reality for thousands of people around the world.

In particular, I want to compliment and congratulate the nine finalists. I had a look at their innovations and I must say that they are truly impressive.
And I had to smile when I saw a hashtag on Law Basket - Law Basket delivers legal services through an online platform of freelance lawyers and I’m informed that it is a first for Zimbabwe - their hashtag said #Find Your Harvey, which is, for those who don’t know, a reference to Harvey Specter of the TV series “Suits”.
I do think we all need a Harvey sometimes….

To the finalists, even if you do not win this evening, know that what you have achieved so far is making a real and meaningful difference to people’s lives and in helping them access justice.
Keep going and keep working at it because, as my favourite Harvey Specter saying goes, “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Ladies and gentlemen,
When Justice Ginsburg was asked how she would like to be remembered one day, she replied, as –
“… someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has. To do something…. outside myself.”

I do believe that the world is facing particular challenges when it comes to accessing justice, to social justice and to accessing and protecting human rights.
But I also believe that each and every individual can make a difference in their immediate circle, or in their community or in their area of work. All of us can make things a little better, by doing something outside ourselves.

I thank you.