South African Government

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Administration of justice

Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
State Legal Services
Master of the High Court
Court Performance


Department of Justice & Constitutional Development

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. 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;
  • 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.

State Legal Services

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.

This programme is mainly aimed at transforming justice, the State and society. It deals with the following functions:

  • constitutional development
  • legislative development (including conducting legal research)
  • the provision of legal advisory services to other organs of State (including Parliament)
  • providing litigation services to protect the organs of State
  • the provision of probate services
  • administration of the Guardian’s Fund
  • regulation of insolvency and liquidation systems.

The State Legal Services Programme’s objectives include:

  • improving service delivery at the Master’s Office service points
  • increasing efficiency in the provision of services to beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Fund, trusts, and insolvent and deceased estates
  • promoting constitutional development and the strengthening of participatory democracy to ensure respect for fundamental human rights
  • improving the provision of legal services to State organs
  • improving the policy and legislative framework for the effective and efficient delivery of justice services.

The State Legal Services Programme is divided into the following subprogrammes:

  • Legislative Development, the Law Reform Commission and the Rules Boards for Courts of Law prepare and promote legislation, conduct research and administer the Constitution.
  • The Master of the High Court funds the Masters’ Offices, which supervise the administration of deceased and insolvent estates, trusts, curatorships and the Guardian’s Fund.
  • Litigation and Legal Services provides attorney, conveyance and notary public services to the executive, all State departments, parastatals and other government bodies through the Office of the State Attorney, and provides legal support to the department and the ministry.
  • State Law Advisers provides legal advisory services to the executive, all State departments, parastatals and autonomous government bodies.

Master of the High Court

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.

Court performance

This sub-branch of the DoJ&CD is responsible for:

  • developing and monitoring processes and systems
  • introducing case-flow management that facilitates efficient and effective court and case management
  • developing and facilitating the implementation of a court-management policy framework
  • evaluating the quality of services and performance within the courts
  • facilitating the development of uniform performance standards to enhance institutional performance.

The Directorate: Court Efficiency’s key priorities include:

  • facilitating integrated case-flow management with stakeholders
  • supporting the implementation of the Re Aga Boswa (meaning “We are Renewing”) and court capacitation projects
  • facilitating the implementation of multilingualism in courts and developing indigenous languages in line with constitutional imperatives
  • facilitating the securing of standardised transcription services for courts across all regions
  • rendering case-management business intelligence support to information system management in the development of ICT tools and systems
  • supporting initiatives for the effective management of court records.

The directorate assists in court capacitation initiatives, namely:

  • the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Court Integrity Project
  • upgrading five pilot courts, namely Pretoria, Tembisa, Nelspruit, Mkobola and Kimberley with notice boards, flat- screen television sets and DVD players
  • providing integrity training to 120 departmental, 15 NPA and 15 judicial officers
  • conducting audits on the management of court records
  • facilitating activities on the Court Capacitation National Centre for State Courts Project in consultation with all other stakeholders such as chief directors and regional heads
  • engaging human resources and the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority and securing learnership programmes for court interpreters
  • engaging in legislation development and finalising the legislative and operational framework for implementing and institutionalising the lay assessor system.

Integrated Case-Flow Management Framework

The DoJ&CD and participants 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. These include:

  • 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 ICMS 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.

The DoJ&CD’s aim over the medium term is to increase the percentage of new deceased estates registered on the paperless estate administration system from 95% in 2016/17 to 100% in 2019/20.

Audio-Visual Remand System

The Video Remand Solution has been implemented at 47 courts and 22 correctional facilities. 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.

Case-Reduction Backlog Project

The JCPS cluster departments have introduced the case backlog reductes intervention, which reducing the number of backlog cases in the regional and district courts, providing additional capacity to the backlog priority sites. The backlog 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 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.