SAHRC meets with Chief Justice, Mogoeng Mogoeng to discuss mutual challenges
03 March 2013
“We will be failing the Constitution if the courts and in particular, Equality Courts, are functioning in a way that ordinary citizens have access to courts.” Chairperson Mushwana
“ We will explore the possibility of urging the Minister of Justice to amend legislation so that every judicial officer is recognised as a Equality Court Judge.” Chief Justice Mogoeng
“Failure on the part of communities to understand the functioning of courts is a failure on the part of the judiciary to communicate effectively with communities. “ Chief Justice Mogoeng
Commissioners (Chairperson Mushwana and Commissioner Malatji) met with the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court on 27 February 2013. The aim of the meeting was to share information with the Chief Justice on the work of the Commission and explore areas of mutual interest. Commissioners and the Chief Justice were accompanied by their respective members of their Secretariats. In addition, the Chief Justice attended the meeting with other Constitutional court judges.
The meeting discussed three mains issues;
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- Information sharing on International and Regional work of the Commission
- Challenges with Equality Courts
Chairperson Mushwana opened the meeting by firstly, acknowledging with appreciation, the time provided by the Chief Justice for the meeting. He reflected on the work of the Commission; in particular the important stakeholder engagements that inform its work as well its role as member of the International Community of National Human Rights Institutions. Chairperson Mushwana provided information on the role of the Commission in the Equality Review Committee.
Chairperson Mushwana and Dr Kgamadi Kometsi, provided brief reflections on the Commission’s Equality Report 2012, focusing on the findings of the Monitoring project on the Equality courts. They focused on research findings on court administration (lack of resources and office space and training of court officials) as well as types of cases dealt with by the Equality court.
In response, Chief Justice acknowledged some of the problems with functioning of Equality courts but reminded the meeting that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was responsible for Equality courts; from resources to training of court clerks.
Some of the key issues highlighted by Chief Justice included;
- Training of officials on Equality matters; especially Court Clerks and Judges
- Concern on the institutional (particularly the administrative) independence of courts: The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development continues to manage the administrative (and financial) functioning of courts
- Accreditation process required for Judges and Magistrates for Equality Court matters
- Access to justice – issues related to accessibility in terms of language, understanding of court processes, and use of courts such as Small Claims courts, Traditional courts and Community courts
- A Court Administration Model will be presented to the President and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development this year. This model is line with what has been proposed in the National Development Plan 2030
- Transformation in terms of race and gender is on track but more work is required in recruiting young professionals in the legal field. One of the proposals that can address the challenge for young legal professionals in obtaining legal practise is for institutions to provide legal training during the university vacation. Law students should be encouraged to work at courts during their vacation and experience different work done in courts from interpretation to administration.
Chairperson Mushwana and Commissioner Malatji raised critical points such as;
- Traditional courts must be restructured to be Constitutionally compliant and well resources
- Importance of maintaining the independence of judiciary
- Functioning of courts and documenting “best practise courts”
- Advocacy work that is required so as to enable communities to understand court system
The Commission’s CEO, Kayum Ahmed, highlighted the limited financial resources that the Commission is faced with and the importance of exploring collaborative projects with stakeholders. In relation to training, he proposed that as the Commission deals with Complaints Handling, it would be important to build capacity of Provincial Managers and as part of training, retired Judges could form part of Trainers. He further highlighted and supported the important of Advocacy campaigns.
These proposals were welcomed by the Chief Justice. In his concluding remarks, the Chief Justice thanked the Commission for taking the initiative to coordinate the meeting. He welcomed the opportunity to share and exchange ideas with Commissioners and expressed his appreciation to the Commission for its work.
- Training court officials so that they can provide adequate services to court users with disabilities