South African Government

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Judicial system

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

 

 

Office of the Chief Justice

The Office of the Chief Justice derives its mandate of providing support to the Chief Justice as the head of the Judiciary from Section 165 (6) of the Constitution, read together with the Superior Courts Act of 2013.

It provides support to the judiciary to ensure that it remains independent, accessible and effective in promoting accountability and fighting corruption. This is in line with the National Development Plan’s vision of promoting accountability and the rule of law, and Priority 5 (social cohesion and safe communities) of government’s 2019 – 2024 Meduim Term Expenditure Framework.

The Office of the Chief Justice is also required to provide and coordinate legal and administrative support to the Chief Justice; provide communication and relationship management services; provide internal and intergovernmental coordination; develop administration policies, and norms and standards for courts; support the development of judicial policy, and norms and standards; support the judicial function of the Constitutional Court; and support the Judicial Service Commission and SAJEI in the execution of their mandates.

For the 2020/21 financial year, the Office of the Chief Justices focus areas are:

  • supporting the Chief Justice in ensuring judicial accountability;
  • implementing initiatives that contribute to broadening and improving access to justice and the services of the superior courts;
  • ensuring an efficient court system;
  • improving efficiencies in court administration through modernisation of systems, processes and infrastructure; and
  • implementing initiatives to address the impact of COVID-19 on the operation of the courts.

Over the Meduim Term Expenditure Framework period, the Office of the Chief Justice will focus on improving access to justice and the services of the superior courts, increasing access to judicial education courses and implementing initiatives to address the impact of COVID‐19.

To provide access to justice, particularly through ensuring that the Judiciary is supported by a sufficient number of core staff such as registrars and researchers with the necessary skills, expenditure for high courts subprogramme within the Superior Court Services programme is set to increase from R728.1 million in 2020/21 to R742.3 million in 2023/24.

The increased need for streaming services to conduct virtual meetings and online training due to COVID‐19 restrictions is expected to result in a constant expenditure of R131.7 million in 2020/21 and 2023/24 in the Corporate Services subprogramme in the Administration programme, mostly on goods and services such as travel and subsistence, and venues and facilities.

Similarly, the South African Judicial Education Institute subprogramme will also continue to conduct judicial education and training courses through virtual platforms, resulting in a decrease in expenditure in the Judicial Education and Support programme from R40.4 million in 2020/21 to an estimated R33.1 million in 2023/24. Despite these decreases in spending, the number of courses conducted is expected to increase from 100 in 2020/21 to 115 in 2023/24.

To ensure the safety of its personnel and their families, in 2021/22, the Office of the Chief Justice plans to conduct COVID‐19 educational programmes and training for a targeted 190 safety officers. This is budgeted for within the Administration programme, in which expenditure is set to increase from R218.8 million in 2020/21 to R239.3 million in 2023/24.

Capacitation of the South African Judicial Education Institute (SAJEI)

The South African Judicial Education Institute provides judicial education and training for Judicial Officers. Some of the training courses that have been provided in the past included areas on court annexed mediation and case management, children’s court skills, criminal court skills, family court skills, civil court skills, competition law and maritime law, judicial management, judicial ethics as well as environmental law.

These courses contribute towards enhanced service delivery and the transformation of the judiciary as informed by the South African Judicial Education Institute Act of 2008. The need for training is also intensified in order to keep up to date with changes in legislation that may result from the impact of COVID-19. Furthermore, this increased need for judicial education and training gives South African Judicial Education Institute an opportunity to take advantage of e-learning platforms to provide training.

The capacitation of the South African Judicial Education Instituteremains one of the key priorities for the Office of the Chief Justice. An adequately capacitated SAJEI is important for the training of serving and aspirant judicial officers and, ultimately, the delivery of quality justice. During this period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the South African Judicial Education Institute will leverage virtual platforms to continue providing training to judicial officers.

Court digitisation

Court digitisation is crucial in ensuring accessible and quality justice. Efficiencies in the court system require modernised technologies. It is important that the Office of the Chief Justice leverages on the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, through prompt digitisation of the court system, focusing on prioritised information and communications technology (ICT) projects that include e-filling and digitisation of court records. In addition, ICT infrastructure will be refreshed to be responsive to digital transformation initiatives and improved service delivery.

The court online system will provide a platform for law firms/litigants to file documents to the courts electronically over the Internet, amongst other uses and benefits. The court online system is meant to fully exploit the ICT advancemen to minimise not just the physical movement of people and paper-based court documents from parties to the courts, but also to leverage the benefits of electronic storage within the courts (faster document filing and retrieval, eradication of the misplacement of case files, concurrent access to view the same case filed by different parties). The full implementation of the court online system will enhance access to quality justice for all.

It is for this reason that the Office of the Chief Justice will roll out the court online system to 12 service centres of the superior courts during the MedTEF period. The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled& the country to move with greater urgency to leverage digital platforms and make digital transformation a reality in the courts. Since the declaration of the National State of Disaster and its accompanying regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 147 virtual court hearings have been conducted. The Office of the Chief Justice will see an increase in the virtual court hearings and the use of electronic platforms, such as CaseLines, during the 2020/21 financial year and the MTEF.

Some of the services that will be available online include maintenance applications.

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.

Budget

Over the medium term, an estimated 39.6% (R2.8 billion) of the OCJ’s total budget of R7 billion is allocated to the Superior Court Services programme, with the bulk of this allocation (R2.2 billion) earmarked for the High Courts subprogramme.

Departmental expenditure on compensation of employees accounts for 74.7% (R5.2 billion) of the total estimated expenditure over the MTEF period, of which R1.9 billion is earmarked for compensation of employees in the Superior Courts Services programme.

Source: South African Yearbook 2020/21

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