Administration of justice
Role of the Department of Justice &
The mandate of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is to ensure a robust legal and institutional framework that enhances the rule of law, including the prosecution of offenders and settlement of all disputes by legal means. In particular, the department leads government programmes to afford all citizens equal benefit and protection of the law and the realisation of the Bill of Rights. The department also exercises executive oversight in the provision of public defence for citizens from a poor background.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional
Development comprises six core branches:
- Master of the High Court
- Chief State Law Adviser
- State Litigation
- Justice College.
The department’s responsibilities include:
- coordinating the work of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster
- ensuring the provision of integrated court services through the establishment and maintenance of court facilities
- constitutional development
- drafting constitutional amendments and other legislation pertaining to the mandate of the department
- conducting research to support legislative development
- providing legal advisory services to government departments
- providing litigation services to protect the organs of state
- administering deceased and insolvent estates and the Guardian's Fund
- promoting cost-effective and quality court services
- managing case-flow
- providing appropriate human resources (HR)
- appointing magistrates and judges following recommendations from the Magistrates' Commission and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)
- adjudicating criminal, civil and family lawrelated disputes.
The department is administratively accountable
for ensuring the independence of and support to
its entities, namely the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Legal Aid South Africa; and constitutional institutions such
as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Public Protector, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), including the administration of
the Represented Political Parties’ Fund and the
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The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,
1996 is the supreme law of the country and binds all legislative, executive and judicial organs of state at all levels of government.
In terms of Section 165 of the Constitution, the judicial authority in South Africa is vested in the courts, which are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law. No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts, and an order or decision of a court binds all organs of state and persons to whom it applies.
Chapter Eight of the Constitution provides for the following courts:
- Constitutional Court
- Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA)
- high courts, including any High Court of Appeal that may be established by an Act of Parliament to hear appeals from high courts
- magistrates' courts
- any other court established or recognised in terms of an Act of Parliament, including any court of a status similar to either high courts or magistrates' courts.
In line with this, Parliament has also established special income tax courts, the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court, the Land Claims Court, the Competition Appeal Court, the Electoral Court, divorce courts, small claims courts, "military courts" and equality courts.
Decisions of the Constitutional Court, the SCA and the high courts are an important source of law. These courts uphold and enforce the Constitution, which has an extensive Bill of Rights binding all state organs and all persons.
The courts are also required to declare any law or conduct that is inconsistent with the Constitution to be invalid, and develop common law that is consistent with the values of the Constitution, and the spirit and purpose of the Bill of Rights.
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In October 2010, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Minister Radebe and five other Cabinet ministers co-signed a delivery
agreement, renewing their commitment to and strengthening their partnership in eradicating crime. The ministers promised a transparent and coordinated approach in achieving Outcome 3: All people in South Africa are and feel safe.
The delivery agreement forms part of the 12 outcomes approved by Cabinet in 2010 to improve performance and service delivery.
The JCPS Cluster intends to reduce crime by between 4% and 7%. This will be achieved through improved coordinated crime intelligence; increased visible policing and crime-prevention initiatives; reducing firearms; improved strategies to arrest and charge known perpetrators; and a reduction in the number of escapes from custody.
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State Legal Services
The purpose of State Legal Services is to provide legal and legislative services to government, supervise the administration of deceased and insolvent estates and the Guardian's Fund, prepare and promote legislation, facilitate constitutional development and undertake research. It is divided into four branches, namely:
- The State Law Advisers, who provide legal advisory services to the executive, all state departments, parastatals and autonomous government bodies.
- The Chief Litigation Officer was established to provide litigation services to the Government and its organs. It represents the State and its organs in all matters of litigation. The core function of the branch is executed by the State Attorney's offices, which are located in the provinces. Besides the State Attorney's offices, the branch has the Chief Directorate: Legal Services, which serves as a legal adviser to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
- Legislative Development and the SALRC prepare and promote legislation, conduct research and promote, maintain and develop the Constitution and its values.
- The Master of the High Court funds the masters' offices, which supervise the administration of deceased and insolvent estates, trusts, curatorship
and the Guardian's Fund.
Source: South Africa Yearbook 2011/12
Editor: D Burger. Government Communication and Information System
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