Speech by Minister Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional development, on the occasion of the launch of the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court in Galeshewe, Kimberly, Northern Cape
31 May 2011
Judge President, France Diale Kgomo
Premier of the Provincial Government of the Northern Cape Provincial Government; Ms Hazel Jenkins
Deputy Minister of the Department of Justice and Constitutional development; Mr Andries Nel
Chief Magistrate; Mr Oswald Krieling
Regional Head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Mr Rodney Isaacs
Regional Head of the Department of Public Works; Ms Sylvia Moholo
Members of the Lower Court judiciary
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to express my sincere gratitude to be afforded this opportunity on this very important occasion in the continued programme of our work as the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to ensure justice is accessible to all our people. It is also befitting that we have chosen to host this event during the Child Protection week, which affirms the Government’s commitment to the up-liftment of all our communities and the promotion and protection of the rights of children as enshrined in the Constitution.
Allow me also to thank the Department of Public Works for its continued support to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s programme of bringing courts closer to the communities in our quest to promote access to justice for all.
As the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, we continue to provide a range of services through the various courts established across the country in terms of Chapter 8 of the Constitution. In providing Court Services to our people, we derive our mandate from section 165 of the Constitution. Our mandate is to ensure integrated court services to the people of South Africa through:
- the establishment and maintenance of court facilities
- the promotion of cost-effective quality court services
- the facilitation of effective management of the case flow through the court system
- ensuring provision of appropriate human resources to staff the court services, including judicial, prosecutorial and administrative staff
- promoting participation in the integrated justice system within the cluster system of Government; and lastly
- promoting communication with stakeholders and communities.
Through our departmental programme on court services, we are also responsible for facilitating the adjudication of criminal, civil and family law related disputes through the provision of accessible, efficient and quality administrative support to the courts and the management of court facilities.
As most will attest, the Northern Cape province, with its vast landscape and sparsely populated areas, presents unique challenges to Government in developing basic infrastructure and capacity necessary for rendering effective public services.
We are fully aware that the long distances travelled by communities to access the nearest court at times coupled with the absence of sustainable public transport, have been some of the barriers in attaining access to justice for all our people. The extreme temperatures associated with the province, winter being the coldest and summer the hottest than any other area in the rest of the country, add to the challenges that frustrate movements of people between their human settlements and centres of service delivery.
As the Department of Public Works would attest, our infrastructure development plan in this province must take into account these realities and must be geared to address the hardships endured by the communities of this province.
I am grateful to the Judge President for his continued use of circuit courts of the Northern Cape High Court for judges and for court staff to commute to communities in far flung areas of the province to bring the High Court services to the door steps of our people. The circuit High Court in Springbok (which is 820 km from the seat of the High Court in Kimberly) Calvinia (800 km) and De Aar (350 kilometres), bring hope of justice to communities with no means to travel these long distances.
There are 21 periodical courts of the Magistrate Courts which operate similar to the circuit High Courts. However, these periodical courts are not as effective as in other smaller provinces as magistrates and prosecutors are forced to travel long distances which contribute to the loss of quality court time. Six of the 15 old Branch Courts which were re-designated as full services courts are in this province. We will continue to rehabilitate the remaining 21 periodical courts and proclaim them as proper full services courts that sit on a continuous basis.
The transformative programmes we have initiated will also benefit the people of this province. These programmes include the revamp of the criminal and the civil justice system, the rationalisation of the areas of jurisdiction of the Superior and the Lower Courts, to bring them in line with the constitutional dispensation at provincial and local level.
These programmes also include expanding the Small Claims Courts which provide speedier resolution of claims of under R12 000. Of the 224 Small Claims Courts established country-wide, 22 are in the Northern Cape Province, of which Kimberly accounts for one. With time, a seat of the Small Claims Court will have to be considered for the Galeshewe community. The peculiar circumstances prevailing in this province challenges us to consider some ways in which the Small Claims Courts could operate on circuit basis like the circuit High Courts and to accord the poor communities outside Galeshewe and Kimberly the opportunity to benefit equally from this important court dispensation.
As an outcome of the rationalisation of the Lower Courts in this particular area, Galeshewe will become an additional court that will serve the Sol Plaatjie local municipality, with Kimberley being the main seat of the magistracy.
The population and the size of the Sol Plaatji municipality justify the establishment of two seats. According to the 2007 community survey, this municipality has a population of close to 250 000. This building could not keep up with the rapid expansion of the establishment of the office and the increase in the volume of work. The increase in the volume of work at the Kimberly Magistrates Court necessitated the construction of this court to ease the congestion in the court rolls.
The construction of courts in traditional Black areas such as this one as well as in rural villages is part of ensuring that we redress the apartheid legacy of spatial development, where access to government and other services was deliberately skewed in terms of deliberate racial profiling.
In short, in building this court closer to the people, our single aim was to ensure that we bring all the services that this court is meant to offer closer to the people. In doing so, we are fulfilling our guiding policy principle, which is to ensure access to justice to all our people irrespective of race, gender, social status or geographical location.
It is in this way that we can truly say we are on course towards eradicating discrimination in all its manifestations. It is also in this way that we can truly say we are giving meaning to the spirit and letter of our esteemed constitution which remains the bedrock of our democracy as characterised by the various social, economic and political activities that our people are continuously seized with.
This court that we are all here to witness its official opening was built by the Department of Public Works in 2009 and started to render full court services in 2010. As a department, we invested R58 million towards the construction of this facility.
The newly built court offers services that amongst others include maintenance applications and payments, new estates registrations, new applications for divorces, applications for protection orders, boast of a Cash Hall Services for the payment of traffic and admission of guilt fines, as well as attends to equality and small claims court cases.
Due to the dire accommodation need at the Magistrate’s Office in Kimberley, it was decided that a court be constructed at Galeshewe, which is part of the same Sol Plaartji local government. The construction of the court started on 26 September 2007 and was completed on 30 November 2009.
The reason behind the construction of this court was partly due to the fact that the structural design of public offices buildings makes expansion virtually impossible, coupled with the fact that the high percentage of all the cases that are heard in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court after-all emanates from Galeshewe. This is why we decided as government to build this court, which is about 2.5 kilometers from the Community Court and eight kilometers from the Kimberley Court.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we launch this court, we are making a clarion call that we will not tolerate injustice, particularly crime amongst our people. Those who live by the proceeds of crime and those who violate the rights, dignity and property of other people as well as pulic or any other property, will be prosecuted and accordingly penalised through appropriate sentences. Launching this court is a concrete message to those inclined to breaking the law that we are fully committed to apprehending all those who break the law. It is a message that says we will not tolerate murderers, hijackers, house breakers, those who assault others and all those who make the people of Galeshewe to feel unsafe.
In line with our aims to ensure that vulnerable members of the community such as children receive justice, we have installed one-way mirror and CCTV cameras in the dedicated sexual offences court and children’s room. This is to ensure that children and other vulnerable members of the community partake in ensuring the ends of justice without being intimidated against such rightful participation.
As a Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in particular and as government in general; and as I am confident that everyone gathered here would attest, it is important that we value public facilities such as these courts. These courts are built through the hard earned tax paid by all of us as South Africans. It is for this reason that all of us as South Africans must take care of these facilities and report any vandalism or theft to the police for appropriate criminal prosecution.
It is for this reason that we condemn in the strongest words possible the tendency by some who think that in order to validate their protest actions, they must burn public and other property that lays in their protest path. Recently, we have been astonished by the burning of libraries and other public amenities. It is ironic that a group of people protesting for service delivery can actually destroy whatever delivery that has already been rendered as such action takes back the local municipality and government in general in the effort to deliver on a number of other services to our people.
In order to safeguard these very import assets to the people of Galeshewe, we have taken the first step to secure these premises by installing state-of-the-art security systems. Again these, like all other systems that we install to improve on service delivery to our people, can only work effectively when we the users as the community of Galeshewe ensure that they remain protected.
I am confident that this court will contribute to cutting the travel costs and time to town and also increase tremendously access to justice by our people. Already the court has dealt with over 647 maintenance cases and 1949 domestic violence cases, amongst others. The court also continues to dispense maintenance to over 1800 beneficiaries on a monthly basis. We hope that with the high level of crimes reported in the past in this area, this court will make major impact in helping combat this very detestable social scourge from amongst our people.
The extension of civil jurisdiction to the Regional Courts has brought immense relieve to the community of this province, in particular. The abolishment of the racially-based Divorce Court and the conferment of civil and divorce jurisdiction to the Regional Courts through the Jurisdiction of Regional Court Amendment Act of 2008 which came in to operation on 9 August 2010 remains watershed moment in the transformation of our justice system. The reforms brought by this Act have restored the dignity and self-worth of the community of this province who, in addition to their long stretched provincial landscape, were forced to commute further to King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape.
As some would know, the King Williams Town was established in 1929 as the seat of the Divorce Court, initially for the Africans leaving in the Northern Cape for the purpose of instituting divorce actions and resolving other forms of family disputes. I am aware that the Regional Courts country-wide are grappling with the implementation of these new changes and continue to encounter capacity challenges. The department will continue to provide these courts with administrative support to realise the objective of the new legislative reforms.
Our presence here today is part of our resolve that the principles of justice must reign supreme in every corner of our beautiful land. We could never hold our heads high and claim we have ensured access to justice to all when people such as those of Galeshewe have no such access. It is a programme that we are committed to and for which we will steadfastly prioritise so that the law is seen to reign supreme everywhere in our country.
I am confident that the opening of this court here today will increase job opportunities in line with the Government’s efforts to create more jobs for our people. I am sure that there would be a need to increase the administrative and professional staff incrementally to provide efficient service. Similarly there is a need for establishment of law firms and legal aid clinics in the court neighbourhood to provide legal services to the users of these courts. I am also confident that the Legal Aid South Africa will increase capacity of its Kimberly Justice Center of 52 staff members to further extend services to this court.
As we will continue to unveil the plaque that marks this historical moment, let it be a moment that inspires both those who will work in these premises and those who will benefit from its services, to do so mindful of the fact that we must work hand in hand to build better communities ensuring that justice remains the cornerstone of our democracy and development.
With those words, allow me to thank you all once again for being here today and I believe that working together, indeed we will continue to do more and more!
I thank you!
Source: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
31 May 2011
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