Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Cape Town: Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Ronald Lamola says there will be no blanket amnesty for Fees Must Fall activists.

He said those applying for a Presidential pardon will be duly assisted by the department.

Lamola said this when he made remarks ahead of the department’s presentation of the annual report for the 2018/19 financial year, at the Marks Building, in Parliament, on Wednesday.

This comes after concerns were raised when he posted a tweet indicating that the Justice Ministry was in the process of urgently assisting Fees Must Fall activist Kanya Cekeshe after the Johannesburg Magistrates Court dismissed his application for both leave to appeal and bail.

“…I would like to restate something I have stated in public. In my previous appearance before parliament I [was] asked what type of assistance is available to fees must fall activists which have found themselves on the wrong side of law.

“In particular I was asked whether the department could assist with Presidential pardons in relation to this matter. I made it clear then that there is no blanket amnesty process. All of them will have to apply for assistance [and] upon application, the matter will be duly assisted. This is the same offer we have extended to Kanya Cekeshe. The process will effectively be suspended by an appeal application.

“To inform our citizens of this process is not to undo the work of the prosecutor with a stroke of a pen. On the contrary: ‘A pardon in our days is not a private act of grace from an individual happening to possess power. It is a part of the Constitutional scheme’.”

Need to digitize, integrate justice system

Lamola said, meanwhile, that to deliver on the department’s mandate of ensuring justice is accessible to all, there is a need for a department that is capable of implementing a digitization program across the entire criminal justice system.

He said the department wants South Africans from all walks of life to walk into court rooms which are functional and well organized.

He said courts must serve the people without any unnecessary delays.

“The Criminal Justice System must be integrated across the board to ensure that our practitioners in our courts have a full profile of an individual within a click of a button.

“…one of the things [that] can be gleaned from this performance is the fact there seems to be no systemic intention to integrate the work of the department of justice and constitutional development with that of the department of correctional services.

“For instance, it is not clear to me why the digitization endeavors at correctional services is not linked to the digitization programs in justice.”

He said between April 2016 and March 2019, over 1.6 million cases were electronically processed through the Integrated Justice System (IJS) between the SA Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority and the DoJ&CD.

The electronic information exchanges include associated docket ready notifications, docket requests, electronic charge sheets and electronic case outcome – postponement, date and reasons – integrations.

“Available nationally, these integrations are connecting 1 144 police stations linked to 509 courts across all nine provinces and enable the reporting of the performance of the criminal justice system. Efforts will continue to ensure that all other players, entities and departments within the criminal justice system are included in the IJS system.

“We have not been able to observe the impact of these developments in the lived experience of South Africans. The ultimate measure of service delivery is its impact on people who use and need these services the most.”

R1bn to fight femicide, GBV

Lamola said the high level of femicide and gender-based violence in the country remains a sore point and requires all South Africans to do their bit to curb this scourge.

“Our people want to see a department that is responsive on this issue but most importantly, our nation want to see proper plans to address the systemic problems in our processes that led to secondary victimization.”

He said whilst the roll out of sexual offences courts remains an important leg in assisting in government’s quest to eradicate gender-based violence and femicide, an additional 15 court rooms were adapted in line with the sexual offences model and this brought the total number of court rooms adapted to 90.

A further 11 court rooms are being planned for the current financial year.

“We are alive to the fact that the roll out of these courts are not a silver bullet. Furthermore, whilst we are encouraged by the increase in convictions on sexual offences, we are careful not to use that as the only yardstick of performance. We will be closely monitoring the number of matters which are enrolled on court rolls, and the time it takes to finalize these matters.

“Once the [National Treasury] process has been finalized around the R1 billion allocation to address the scourge of gender based violence, [we] will ensure that we capacitate our Thuthuzela Care centres, which are proving to be critical part of our machinery in the fight against gender based violence.”

R102m to assist NPA prosecute corruption cases

Lamola said, meanwhile, that tackling the scourge of corruption remained a high priority for the department.

“R102 million has been given to the NPA for it to do its work without fear or favour. We have also made it possible for the NPA to solicit the services of a diverse group of counsels which vary in experience.

“We have also signed mutual legal assistance agreements and extradition treaties with various countries across the world to aid the work of the NPA. The wheels of justice must turn without any hindrance. And as we have said the interests of justice have no borders.”