South African Government

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Other legal role-players and structures

Legal Aid SA
Special Investigating Unit
National Prosecuting Authority
National Prosecutions Service
Office for Witness Protection
Asset Forfeiture Unit
Specialised Commercial Crime Unit
Priority Crimes Litigation Unit
Sexual Offences & Community Affairs Unit
Office of the Family Advocate
Truth and Reconciliation Commission




Legal Aid South Africa 

Legal Aid South Africa was established in terms of Section 2 of the Legal Aid South Africa Act, 2014 (Act 39 of 2014), to provide legal aid and legal advice to eligible people at the State’s expense. The entity is mandated to ensure access to justice and the realisation of people’s right to legal representation, as envisaged in the Constitution.

To this end, over the medium term, the entity will continue to focus on providing legal aid and representation to people who cannot afford it. The institution’s total budget for 2020/21 was R2 billion.

Special Investigating Unit (SIU)

The SIU investigates and litigates on serious malpractice, maladministration and corruption, in connection with the administration of state institutions and take or assist in instituting appropriate and effective action against wrongdoers.

Over the medium term, the unit plans to increase the number of investigations closed per year from 1 400 in 2020/21 to 1 420 in 2023/24, and ensure that the number of investigative reports submitted to The Presidency in each year increases from 15 in 2020/21 to 25 in 2023/24. To increase the number of investigations finalised, the unit’s number of personnel is expected to increase from 554 in 2020/21 to 860 in 2023/24.

A special tribunal, which will serve as a dedicated court for the institution of civil proceedings by the unit, has been reestablished.

This will be a dedicated channel through which civil litigation from the unit will be expedited, thus improving perceptions of how justice is served, based on timeous litigation to preserve and recover funds/assets that have been wrongfully acquired. The unit envisages increasing the number of cases enrolled in the Special Tribunal from 20 in 2020/21 to 35 in 2023/24. Its total budget for 2020/21 was R820.4 million.

    National Prosecuting Authority

    The NPA was established in 1998 and comprises the National Directors of Public Prosecutions, Deputy National Directors of Public Prosecutions, Directors and Special Directors of Public Prosecutions and other members of the prosecuting authority appointed at or assigned to the NPA, and members of the administrative staff.

    It provides a coordinated prosecuting service that ensures that justice is delivered to victims of crime through general and specialised prosecutions. It also removes profit from crime and protects certain witnesses.

    The NPA has the power to:

    • institute and conduct criminal proceedings on behalf of the State,
    • carry out any necessary functions incidental to instituting and conducting such criminal proceedings), and
    • discontinue criminal proceedings.

    The Deputy National Directors of Public Prosecutions are responsible for the following divisions:

    • the National Prosecutions Service (NPS).
    • AFU and International Relations.
    • Legal Affairs.
    • Administration.

    The Special Directors of Public Prosecutions head the following specialised units:

    • Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA) Unit.
    • Priority Crimes Litigation Unit.
    • Office for Witness Protection (OWP).

    Over the medium term, the authority will focus on:

    • increased feelings of safety and security,
    • improved investor confidence in South Africa through high-impact prosecution, and
    • improved access to NPA services for all.

    To achieve these outcomes, the NPA plans to address key challenges in its operating environment, including stabilising the organisation, ensuring that sufficient financial and human resources are available to enable effective operations, improving
    public perceptions of the NPA and repairing its reputation, and enhancing collaboration and cooperation between all criminal justice agencies.

    National Prosecutions Service (NPS)

    The NPS is a core division of the NPA, responsible for general and specialised criminal prosecutions. The Directors of Public Prosecutions are the heads of their respective areas of jurisdiction, which are established according to provincial demarcations in each of the seats of the high courts.

    All the public prosecutors and state advocates working in the district, regional and high courts fall under the responsibility and direction of the Directors of Public Prosecutions. The Special Directors of Public Prosecutions are appointed to carry out certain functions and responsibilities related to a particular crime type, as assigned by the President by proclamation in the Government Gazette.

    Office for Witness Protection (OWP)

    The OWP is established in terms of the Witness Protection Act of 1998, and is headed by a director, appointed by and operating under the direction and authority of the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, for the purpose of administering the Act.

    The OWP is responsible for the protection (including temporary protection) of witnesses and related persons, in accordance with the Act. All OWP functions and duties are classified secret in terms of the Witness Protection Act of 1998.

    Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU)

    The AFU was established in May 1999 as a division of the NPA  to focus on the implementation of Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 of the POCA of 1998. The unit was created to ensure that the powers in the Act to seize criminal assets would be used to their maximum effect in the fight against crime, in particular, organised crime. Criminal assets seized by the AFU are paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account.

    Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU)

    The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will continue to play a crucial role in the fight against corruption through the implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy. Part of the department’s responsibility in combatting corruption is ensuring the effective and optimal functioning of the SCCCs, which are expected to be extended to all provinces that do not have these courts – over the medium term.

    Much success has been derived from the existing SCCC model which allows for a close integration of the work between prosecutors and investigators, and dedicated courts, ensuring that matters are quickly and effectively processed instead of having to await space on an open court roll.

    Whilst it was initially envisaged that these courts would be set up in three years, the DoJ&CD was able to expedite this by establishing six courts in the 2020/21 financial year. In the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years, the department will ensure that the capacity and efficacy of the SCCCs is enhanced and optimised.

    Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU)

    The unit is mandated to tackle cases that threaten national security. It was created by a presidential proclamation. The primary function of the unit is to manage and direct investigations and prosecutions in respect of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological).

    Sexual Offences and Community Affairs (SOCA)

    The SOCA unit’s mandate is to act against the victimisation of vulnerable groups, mainly women and children. The unit develops strategy and policy, and oversees the management of cases relating to sexual offences, domestic violence, human trafficking, maintenance offences and children in conflict with the law.

    The unit aims to:

    • improve the conviction rate in gender-based crimes and crimes against children;
    • protect vulnerable groups from abuse and violence;
    • ensure access to maintenance support; and
    • reduce secondary victimisation.

    One of the entity’s key achievements in ensuring government’s commitment to the fight against sexual offences and GBV is the establishment of Thuthuzela Care Centres – one-stop facilities located at public hospitals in communities where sexual assault is particularly high. The facilities are aimed at reducing secondary victimisation, improving conviction rates and reducing the cycle time for the finalisation of rape cases.
    Over the Meduim Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, the department will focus on addressing the scourge of GBVF and against women and children. Dedicated courts to deal with GBV-related matters will be designated in terms of Sexual Offences Courts Regulations developed in terms of Section 55A of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007. Legal and policy framework will be enhanced and tightened by amending the provisions regulating the National Register for Sex Offenders (the NRSO) in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007.

    Office of the Family Advocate

    The role of the Family Advocate is to promote and protect the best interests of children in civil disputes over parental rights and responsibilities.

    This is achieved by monitoring pleadings filed at court, conducting enquiries, filing reports, appearing in court during the hearing of the application or trial, and providing mediation services in respect of disputes over the parental rights and responsibilities of fathers of children born out of wedlock.

    In certain instances, the Family Advocate also assists the courts in matters involving domestic violence and maintenance.

    Furthermore, litigants are obliged to mediate their disputes before resorting to litigation. Unmarried fathers can approach the Family Advocate directly for assistance without instituting any litigation.

    Children’s rights to participate in, and consult on, decisions affecting them have been entrenched; the Family Advocate is the mechanism whereby the voice of the child is heard.

    Truth and Reconciliation Commission

    The TRC was dissolved in March 2002 by way of proclamation in the Government Gazette. The TRC made recommendations to government regarding reparations to victims and measures to prevent the future violation of human rights and abuses experienced during the apartheid years.

    Government approved categories of recommendations in June 2003 for implementation, including:

    • final reparations;
    • TRC-identified victims;
    • symbols and monuments;
    • medical benefits and other forms of social assistance; and
    • community rehabilitation.

    The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development offers education to TRC-identified victims of apartheid. Calls for applications are opened annually for those who were declared victims by the TRC and their dependants to apply for assistance with tuition fees for basic and higher education and training.

    Dependants include any person to whom the TRC-identified victim has or had a legal or customary duty to support, including children, grandchildren and spouses of the identified victim. Applications close on 30 September each year.