Judicial system

Office of the Chief Justice
South African Judicial Education Institute
Constitutional mandates



Office of the Chief Justice

Over the next three years, the OCJ aimed focus on improving access to justice and the services of the superior courts, and increasing access to judicial education courses. The work of the Superior Court Services programme is intended to enable access to justice, primarily by ensuring that the judiciary is supported. The programme has a budget of R3.1 billion over the next three years, accounting for 39.9% of the department’s total allocation.

To strengthen access to its services, the department aims to fill an estimated 33 critical positions for registrars, clerks and judges’ secretaries at superior courts. Between 2022/23 and 2025/26, this is expected to result in an increase in: the finalisation of default judgments from 74% to 80%; the finalisation of taxations of legal bills of costs from 80% to 90%; and spending on compensation of employees from R1.96 billion to R1.97 billion.

This nominal increase in spending on compensation of employees is due to an additional allocation for inflationary salary adjustments amounting to R218.1 million over the next three years coupled with an increase in personnel over the same period.

To increase efficiencies such as the turnaround time in dealing with cases, the Court Online system is expected to be rolled out in 2023/24 to 7 prioritised superior courts in Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape, North West and Western Cape.

The plan is to implement the system in all the courts over the MTEF period as determined by the judiciary based on their current infrastructure. Spending for this is within the Corporate Services subprogramme’s allocation of R174.1 million in that year.

In its efforts to enhance the judicial skills of current and aspiring judicial officers, the department plans to increase the number of judicial education and training courses conducted from 110 in 2022/23 to 125 in 2025/26. This is expected to lead to expenditure of R92.7 million over the next three years in the SAJEI subprogramme in the Judicial Education and Support programme.

South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI)

he SAJEI was established in order to promote the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts through continuing judicial education as provided for in the South African Judicial Education Institute Act 14 of 2008. The Institute commenced with training in January 2012.

Legislation and policies

In discharging its mandate, the OCJ is guided by the Constitution, other legislation and policies that constitute the legal framework for the establishment of the office. The Superior Courts Act of 2013 reaffirms the Chief Justice as the head of the Judiciary, responsible for the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the judicial functions of all courts.

The Act further empowers the Chief Justice to issue written protocols or directives, or give guidance or advice, to judicial officers – in respect of norms and standards for the performance of the judicial functions; and regarding any matter affecting the dignity, accessibility, effectiveness, efficiency or functioning of the courts.

Constitutional mandates

The Constitution provides for the independence of the Judiciary and protects judicial independence by prohibiting any interference with the functioning of the courts. It further imposes a duty on organs of state to assist and protect the courts to ensure, amongst other things, their independence, impartiality and efficiency.

Furthermore, the Constitution as amended in 2013, formalises the Chief Justice as the head of the Judiciary and entrusts him with the responsibility for the establishment and monitoring of norms and standards for the judicial functions of all courts. It also designates the Constitutional Court as the highest court in all matters. In order to advance the transformation imperatives of the Constitution, Schedule 6 of the Constitution provides for the rationalisation of all courts and all relevant legislation with the view to establishing a judicial system suited to the requirements of the Constitution.

The Constitution furthermore provides that, after a national election, the Chief Justice is required to convene the first sitting of the National Assembly, and to preside over the election of the Speaker of Parliament.

Source: South African Yearbook 2022/23

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