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2024 elections — where leading political parties stand on critical SA courts issues

2024 elections — where leading political parties stand on critical SA courts issues
Our courts have become notorious for their tardy judgments. We asked the major political parties what they intend to do about it. (Illustration: Lisa Nelson)

We sent questions to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party and Rise Mzansi.

Today’s question to the major political parties deals with the backlog of court judgments.

We asked the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party, and Rise Mzansi on 13 March and sent follow-up queries to those who did not respond. Some have still not responded.

Answers are very lightly edited for grammar and typos.

There is a severe problem with a backlog of judgments being delivered in our courts. What steps should the national government take to help the courts resolve this?

ANC: The ANC did not respond to our questions.

DA: The DA proposes the following measures to address the backlog of judgments being delivered in our courts:

  • Introducing an electronic document management system that is accessible to various stakeholders, such as the NPA, SAPS, and Ipid, to ease usage and access to relevant information contained in the docket.
  • At the local government sphere, establishing and supporting a network of municipal courts to ensure the effective processing and enforcement of municipal bylaws and traffic offences, freeing other courts to deal with more serious matters.

EFF: The EFF did not respond to our questions.

IFP: We will ensure a strong, capable, capacitated and well-funded National Prosecuting Authority, while more specialised courts are developed to deal with for example, corruption, traditional matters, Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, wildlife and other environmental issues; to assist in alleviating the backlog of cases awaiting justice.

FF Plus: Sufficient budget should be allocated to the judiciary. The separation of powers should be respected and truly implemented.

ActionSA: ActionSA has committed to expand court capacity by building and acquiring more court facilities.

ActionSA will establish more specialised courts to deal with specific crime categories, such as organised crime and corruption, to increase the efficiency of convictions. Criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions will further be expedited:

  • We will further expand the authority and use of municipal courts to hear designated criminal and civil matters. ActionSA will be increasing resource allocation to enhance the number of judges, clerks, and judicial support staff.
  • We have also committed to modernising the handling of court cases by adopting technological solutions for improved management of criminal and civil proceedings.
  • ActionSA will also increase the use of virtual court proceedings where feasible.

PA: First of all, lowering the runaway crime stats by fixing the police system would mean the courts’ workload will decrease. Let’s start there. Secondly, Covid showed us that it was possible to process cases online, and a hybrid model would allow the system to work through more cases, especially for those that are less complex, allowing physical courts to focus on matters that can’t be processed online. The courts should also start being much stricter on penalising delaying tactics so that cases can be concluded, one way or the other.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

Rise Mzansi: The judiciary, together with the SAPS, urgently require an integrated IT system to load and track cases. The Department of Justice should consider specialised courts in order to fast-track priority crimes such as murder and public corruption. The judiciary must address defendants’ use of Stalingrad tactics to perpetually delay cases for many years, including by financially sanctioning legal counsel who pursue these cynical strategies. In the medium term, South Africa needs more courts, more prosecutors and capable magistrates. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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