The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) derives its mandate from a number of Acts, in addition to the mandate it derives from the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
These Acts and the Constitutional Framework assign functions to the department, such as:
- the establishment of magistrate’s courts, and the appointment of magistrates and other judicial officers;
- the establishment and functioning of the Special Investigating Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU);
- the conducting of criminal proceedings;
- the prosecution of organised crime and corruption, and the forfeiture of assets obtained through illicit means;
- the provision of witness protection to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses and their related persons in judicial proceedings;
- the establishment and functioning of bodies responsible for legal aid, law reform and rule-making;
- the appointment of masters of the high courts;
- the management of third-party funds;
- the administration of the Guardian’s Fund and deceased and insolvent estates;
- the regulation and provision of legal advisory services to government departments;
- the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights;
- the protection of vulnerable groups; and
- the provision of support to Chapter 9 institutions.
The National Development Plan (NDP) sets out a vision for building and maintaining safe communities in South Africa through, among other things, strengthening the criminal justice system. This vision is expressed in terms of Priority 5 (social cohesion and safe communities) of government’s 2019 – 2024 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). The work of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is directly aligned with this priority in that a well-functioning criminal justice system provides relief to victims of crime, protects vulnerable groups and swiftly acts against perpetrators of corrupt activities.
As part of its overarching goal of ensuring South Africans feel safe and are able to live without fear, the department plans to invest in ensuring that it serves everyone in South Africa in the most efficient possible manner. Accordingly, over the medium term, it will focus on increasing access to its services, and on strengthening the fight against maladministration and corruption.
Sexual offences courts play a critical role in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). A total of 100 sexual offences courts will be dedicated to improve the adjudication of sexual offences matters during the 2021/22 financial year.
In its efforts to afford greater protection, particularly to the more vulnerable among us, the department plans to move towards a more gender-focused criminal justice system by implementing the national strategic plan on gender‐based violence and femicide. This includes designating 115 additional courts as sexual offences courts and improving the management of the national register for sex offenders to ensure that all people who work with children and people with disabilities are properly vetted. A national action plan to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including promoting constitutional awareness and education on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, is also expected to be implemented. To carry out these activities, R30 million is allocated over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period in the Lower Courts subprogramme in the Court Services programme.
Additionally, there are plans to upgrade all justice buildings to be accessible to people with disabilities at a cost of R49 million over the medium term; construct and refurbish 38 courts through an allocation of R463.9 million per year over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period in the Court Services programme; and convert six periodical and/or branch courts into full-service courts in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
To complement these activities, the department plans to implement programmes to modernise and digitise its services. This is expected to broaden access to justice even further by introducing interventions such as enabling deceased estates and trusts to be registered remotely. To this end, R24.2 million is allocated over the medium term in the Justice Modernisation subprogramme in the Auxiliary and Associated Services programme.
Rooting out fraud and corruption
Initiatives are under way to strengthen the fight against fraud and corruption, and will continue over the MTEF period. These include:
- reviewing the extradition regime and the mutual legal assistance framework to improve cases of international criminal cooperation;
- appointing 15 legal practitioners in specialised commercial crimes courts through a transfer of R34.3 million over the medium term to Legal Aid South Africa; and
- hiring an estimated 90 additional permanent staff with specialised skills and experience, and training and developing existing employees, through an allocation of R426 million over the medium term in the Investigating Directorate subprogramme in the National Prosecuting Authority programme.
As such, the number of state capture fraud or corruption and related matters enrolled is expected to increase from 9 in 2022/23 to 27 in 2024/25.
In line with the priorities set out for the peace and security function in government’s 2019‐2024 medium‐term strategic framework, R611.6 million is allocated over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework period to the National Prosecuting Authority in order to strengthen the state’s capacity to prosecute allegations of crime and corruption. This allocation will be used to recruit aspirant prosecutors and rebuild critical capacity in units such as asset forfeiture, sexual offences and priority crimes litigation, among other things. Accordingly, the number of personnel in the National Prosecuting Authority programme is set to increase from 5 707 in 2021/22 to 6 139 in 2024/25.
The year 2021 presented a significant landmark in the creation of constitutional democracy in South Africa. It marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution into law. The commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Constitution will extend beyond 2021 into 2022, as the Constitution’s legal entry into force will be marked on 4 February 2022.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, as custodian of constitutionalism in the country, in collaboration with key identified stakeholders, is embarking on leading and coordinating a focused national dialogue with the aim of reviewing and assessing the impact of 25 years of constitutional democracy in South Africa. This process aims to create a conversation about whether the intention of the Constitution to build a nation based on constitutionalism and human rights is being realised.
The project will be research and policy focused. It will culminate into a symposium to celebrate of 25 years of the Constitution. This will be an opportunity for national and continental (and international) constitutional and human rights scholars to present their research focused on the implementation of the South African Constitution over the past 25 years.
This research will be generated internally within constitutional development, as well as by researchers, universities, students and South African citizens. This research will be used to guide policy making within government. In the next five years, efforts will be made to increase and deepen the constitutional and human rights awareness of the citizenry.
The National Anti-Corruption Strategy, adopted by Cabinet in November 2020, has signalled the resolve of the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) to deliver on its work. Building on the key tenets of the Constitution, the Anti-Corruption Legal Framework, the NDP and other instruments, such as international treaties, the strategy uses research and stakeholder inputs to outline actions needed to achieve a society free of corruption.
The strategy is a whole-of-society effort that envisions an ethical and accountable state, business and society, characterised by high levels of integrity and respect for the rule of law. It promotes active citizenry that is empowered to hold leaders and organisations accountable. It foresees a state where all members of society have zero tolerance for corruption.
This National Anti-Corruption Strategy provides a framework and action plan for the country as a whole and seeks to create a society in which:
- government’s administrative and procurement processes are reinforced to allow for greater monitoring, accountability and transparency;
- the public is educated about what constitutes corruption and empowered to respond when or where it is noted;
- the public and whistle-blowers are encouraged to report corruption, are supported and adequately protected when doing so;
- public officials are held accountable for service delivery or the lack thereof;
- the business sector and civil society organisations operate in a values-driven manner and are held accountable for corrupt practices; and
- there is a culture of zero tolerance towards corruption in any sector and full accountability for those involved in corruption.
The ACTT case management committee has been revived and serious corruption cases are being addressed in various projects. By May 2021, a total of 128 cases were registered, with 91 of them under investigation, 19 closed and 18 before court, with 35 accused persons. A total of 25 new cases were included on the list of the ACTT’s priority corruption case.
Corruption Perception Index
The Corruption Perception Index measures the perception levels of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. According to the 2019 Corrupt Perceptions Index Report published in January 2020 by Transparency& International, South Africa scored 44 out of 100 and ranked 70 out of 180 participating countries. The Corruption Perception Index report published in 2019 indicated that South Africa’s ranking improved from 73 to 70, out of 180 participating countries.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development continues to establish specialised courts that will deal with corruption and complex economic crime cases in order to restore public and investor confidence in South Africa’s justice system.
We champion a new spirit of business, government, labour and civil society leadership that upholds professionalism, ethics and anti-corruption practices at all times.
We will enforce good governance principles in all spheres and ensure consequences for corrupt individuals and organisations.
Our citizens will always act with integrity and will not be hindered to act against corrupt individuals through whistle-blowing and other measures that promote transparency and accountability.
State and business procurement systems will be run with high levels of integrity, efficiency and effectiveness. State law enforcement and anti-corruption bodies will be capacitated, integrated and their independence and authority respected by all.
We will build resilient institutions and go out of our way to protect vulnerable sectors and individuals in society who are at a high risk of experiencing corrupt practices and unethical conduct.
The purpose of this programme is to provide legal and legislative services to government, supervise the administration of deceased and insolvent estates and the Guardian’s Fund, prepare and promote legislation and undertake research in support of this.
The objectives of the programme over the medium term include:
- delivering modern, accessible and people‐centric justice services for all, by maintaining the percentage of letters of appointment issued in deceased estates within 15 days of receipt of all required documents at 93%;
- ensuring a regulated and transformed legal profession by increasing the percentage of briefs allocated to historically disadvantaged individuals, from 80% in 2020/21 to 85% in 2022/23;
- ensuring effective and efficient state legal advisory and litigation services by increasing the percentage of legal opinions finalised within 40 days of receipt of instruction, from 82% in 2019/20 to 86% in 2022/23;
- increasing the percentage of international agreements and accompanying legal opinions finalised within 40 days of receipt of instruction, from 85% in 2019/20 to 86% in 2022/23;
- increasing the percentage of draft Bills approved by Cabinet for introduction within 40 days of receipt of instruction, from 82% in 2019/20 to 85% in 2022/23;
- maintaining the number of research papers submitted to the SALRC for consideration and approval at 11 from 2020/21 onwards;
- enhancing the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights and freedoms by maintaining sustained and visible anti‐xenophobia campaigns conducted in collaboration with other departments and role players at six from 2020/21 onwards;
- maintaining the number of awareness sessions on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex issues conducted with organisations, as well as traditional and faith‐based leaders’ communities at 13 from 2020/21 onwards; and
- improving reparations accessed by qualifying beneficiaries of Parliament-approved TRC recommendations, by maintaining the number of community projects launched at five from 2020/21 onwards.
The Master of the High Court serves the public in respect of:
- deceased estates
- liquidations (insolvent estates)
- registration of trusts, tutors and curators administration of the Guardian’s Fund (minors and people with mental disabilities).
The Master’s Office has five main divisions, which are all aimed at protecting the financial interests of people whose assets or interests are, for various reasons, managed by others.
As part of the turnaround strategy in the Master’s Office, there has been a special focus on training frontline officials. The Master’s Office is also investigating methods to deliver a more efficient and effective service to the public through the Internet.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, in partnership with stakeholders from other partner organisations, is developing an enhanced version of case-flow management in the court environment.
To eradicate case-flow blockages workable solutions were adopted.
- continuous cooperation of stakeholders to implement and maintain case-flow management at all courts
- establishing judicial leadership and case-flow management buy-in processes in the lower and higher courts in the form of case-flow management forums
- facilitating and monitoring the creation of case-flow management governance structures to sustain productivity in the courts’ environment
- maintaining case-flow management.
Systems that support case-flow management in the courts include the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS). This system spans all disciplines of cases administered in the justice environment.
The Integrated Case Management System draws on several core modules to perform basic functions such as information warehousing, case numbering and document scanning. The specific functionality for each court and office are then built on these foundations. The further development of the ICMS Masters System aims to create a Paperless Estate Administration System for the Master’s Office.
This system will computerise the administration process in deceased estates, as all documentation will be scanned and stored electronically.
Audio-Visual Remand System
The system links magistrates’ courts to correctional detention centres via closed-circuit television. The development in this area of support to case-flow management for the courts has brought about a significant improvement in the movement of cases through the use of technology.
One of the directives issued by the Chief Justice to address, prevent and curb the spread of COVID-19 in court precincts, was that AVR centres in correctional centres linked to magistrates’ courts should be used for purposes of the postponement of cases where accused persons were in custody.
Case-Reduction Backlog Project
The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster departments have introduced a case backlog intervention to reduce the number of backlog cases in regional and district courts, and provide additional capacity to the backlog priority sites. The intervention ensures that the inflow of the number of new cases is balanced by the number of matters concluded. The project deliverables have been integrated into the outputs of the JCPS Cluster Delivery Agreement.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has provided resources in the form of infrastructure, court personnel, the judiciary, magistrates and budget, in support of the prosecution and judiciary to remove these cases from the backlog roll.
For the 2021/22 financial year, the DoJ&CD was allocated R21.9 billion. Total expenditure is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.9%, from R21.9 billion in 2021/22 to R23.2 billion in 2024/25, with spending on compensation of employees accounting for 56.8% (R12.7 billion) of this, increasing at an average annual rate of 1.4%.
This low increase is reflective of the expectation that the number of personnel in the department will decrease from 23 515 in 2021/22 to 23 401 in 2024/25 through early retirement, natural attrition and contract termination in order to remain within the expenditure ceiling for compensation of employees. The department will ensure that the decrease in personnel does not affect service delivery as it will fill critical vacant posts and share services where possible.
The purpose of the programme is to facilitate the resolution of criminal and civil cases and family law disputes by providing accessible, efficient and quality administrative support to the lower courts, and managing court facilities.
Over the medium term, the programme’s objective is to deliver modern, accessible and people‐centric services for all by:
- reducing the number of criminal cases on the backlog roll in lower courts, from 48 223 in 2019/20 to 45 388 in 2022/23;
- increasing the percentage of child justice preliminary inquiries finalised within 90 days after the date of first appearance, from 85% in 2019/20 to 90% in 2022/23;
- increasing the percentage of maintenance matters finalised within 90 days from the date of proper service of process, from 72% in 2019/20 to 79% in 2022/23;
- increasing the number of clearance certificates for the NRSO, in respect of particulars issued to applicants, from 3 000 in 2019/20 to 18 000 in 2022/23;
- expediting the implementation of Femicide Watch, established as required by Article 15 of the 2019 Presidential Summit Declaration against GBVF, from phase 2 in 2019/20 to phase 5 in 2022/23;
- increasing the number of regional courts upgraded to sexual offences courts, as required by the 2019 Presidential Summit Declaration against GBVF, from 90 in 2018/19 to 148 in 2022/23; and
- upgrading 72 magisterial district courts in terms of the Victim-Centric Justice Strategy by March 2023.