Friday, 13 May 2022

Cape Town: Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola, has called for the arms of state to ensure that the independence of the judiciary is protected in order to safeguard democracy.

Tabling the Budget Vote for the Office of the Chief Justice on Thursday, Lamola said the Judiciary has an important role in safeguarding and protecting the Constitution and its values and in ensuring the consolidation of democracy and the realisation of a better life for all.

“As the executive we will be analysing the judicial administration model with a view to give expression a practical and functional expression to the notion of judicial independence in its administrative form.

“We call on this House to continue working with us to affirm the role of the Judiciary in the protection of human rights and advancement of democracy in our country.

“We must all understand that the judiciary are not in a popularity contest. Their decisions must be respected or challenged within the available framework,” he said.

Lamola said over the years, the Judiciary has shown a profound understanding of the constitutional imperatives and set out to defend the basic law of the land.

This includes many judgments, particularly by the Constitutional Court, that have reflected a progressive interpretation of the Constitution and social rights in particular.

“In terms of section 165 (4) of the Constitution, it is incumbent on organs of State to assist and protect the Courts to ensure the independence, impartiality, dignity, accessibility and effectiveness of the courts.

“It is vitally important in a democracy that individual Judges and the Judiciary as a whole are impartial and independent of all external pressures and of each other so that those who appear before them and the wider public can have confidence that their cases will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.

“When carrying out their judicial function they must be free of any improper influence,” he said.

Progress being made to modernise the courts

Lamola said, meanwhile, that the modernisation and digitisation of the court system remain a key priority for the Office of the Chief Justice to improve access to quality justice for all.

He said the use of technology to conduct online hearings has proved to be an effective alternative to traditional court sittings, especially during the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Office of the Chief Justice will continue to implement the court modernisation strategy as a tool to enhance speedy access to justice. The Office of the Chief Justice’s priority of modernisation and the use of technology will ensure an efficient court system that guarantees access to justice for all.

“During the 2022/23 financial year, the OCJ will continue to embrace and leverage on the new technology through digitisation of the court system.

“The focus will be to prioritise Court Online and digitization of court records to enable the Judiciary and the courts to continue adjudicating court cases through online platforms even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.” concluded Lamola.