Speech by Minister Jeff Radebe, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, on the occasion of the official opening of the Ashton Magistrates Court
15 May 2012
It is with great pleasure that we are here today in this beautiful municipality of Ashton to officially open the Ashton Magistrates Court. Every year we continue to roll out court precincts and buildings in our country as part of our work to ensure that justice is accessible to all our people, even in the remotest parts of our country.
In doing this, we are fulfilling the spirit and letter of our most supreme law, the Constitution of our Republic, by ensuring that indeed justice is accessible to all our people irrespective of population density, gender, geographical location, race or economic status. It is our view that justice must be the premise of all our social, economic and political relations, irrespective of the default lines that I have here alluded to. The relationship between the farm worker with the farm managers or supervisors or owners as well as with fellow farm workers is no inferior to similar relations in the industrial hubs of our country. In either case, justice must reign supreme, and in pursuing justice as an ideal in all matters of human endeavour, we are breathing life into the text of our Constitution.
As some of you may know about the history of this place, it was initially established as a railway trading post under the name Roodewal, following the creation of railway lines from Worcester into the coastal areas in 1887. And in honour of the railway engineer Job Ashton of the New Cape Central Railways (Ltd), this place was renamed Ashton to this date. Over the years, this place has tremendously grown into a viable community, with agriculture at the centre of economic activities of this town. By 1949, a canning factory was established and by 1956 Ashton was conferred a Municipality status.
This place has continued to thrive over the years, and together with Montagu that is approximately 25 km from here, the combined population of both areas is approximately 26 000 people. Even though there is another court in Montagu, people from either Montagu or Ashton could expend at least R60 to and from either town to receive court services. No doubt, R60 is a lot of money if one has to consider the levels of income of people whose livelihood is mainly based on farm labour. It is for this reason that as government, we deemed it essential that court services must be brought closer to the people. In our view, there is no sensible reason to justify subjecting approximately 26 000 people from accessing our facilities and make them travel an approximately 25 km journey at a high cost of R60 for a return trip. We therefore saw it fitting to bring the two courts closer to the people! This is what we mean when we say we will bring justice closer to the people and ensure access to justice for all! Gone are the days when the people of Ashton only benefitted from periodical courts offering limited services on Family Court, Maintenance, Domestic violence and those of the Office of the Master, while services such as civil action were not catered for at all!
The new court was completed during October 2010 at a cost of R7.6 Million to the Department. The court is now fully utilised and has the following facilities:
- Court Room;
- Cash Hall;
- Office for the Magistrate (direct access from secure parking);
- Office for the Prosecutor;
- Office for the Office Manager;
- Office for the Interpreter;
- Intermediary Room;
- Consultation Room;
- Maintenance Office;
- Security Foyer with metal detector;
- 3 separate holding cells for males, females and juveniles;
- Secure drop-off zone for awaiting trail detainees;
- Sufficient ablution facilities;
- Sufficient storage facilities; and
- Undercover parking behind the building.
Ashton and a periodical court of Montagu resides together with Robertson, McGregor and Bonnievale in the Langeberg Local Municipality. All these courts will be demarcated into a single magisterial district to conform to local government boundaries. The main seat will be Robertson while Montagu and Bonnievale will serve as local seats and Ashton as the Local Circuit Court, within Montagu.
The Ashton Court is now fully functional, with a Magistrate, a Prosecutor, an Office Manager, an Interpreter and six additional staff members helping run the offices.
Currently, one Admin Clerk is located permanently at the Ashton court. Various justice services are rendered on a daily basis. All maintenance files for Ashton have been transferred to Ashton and all new applications, trials, etc are conducted at Ashton. Maintenance Payouts take place by means of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) transactions.
All other justice services with the exception of civil litigation are being rendered at Ashton and therefore in general there is no need for the lower income community of Ashton to commute to the Main Seat located in Montagu to obtain justice services.
The District Court Magistrate and Prosecutor from Montagu are sitting at Ashton on Mondays and Wednesdays. The Regional Court sits at Ashton on Thursdays.
As at the end of July 2011 the outstanding criminal court roll stood at 157 cases. This is evidence that there was need for a court to be built in Ashton, so as to combat such criminal activities that disturb the peace of the community in the area.
As I conclude, allow me to urge you to vigilantly take pride in public facilities as these, as they are paid through the hard earned tax in turn paid by all our people. No matter what grievance that the people of Ashton may ever have, I have confidence that they will not emulate the criminal behaviour that we have seen in some places, where public facilities are burnt down in the name of public protest be it on service delivery or any other public concern. The irony in such instance, is that while asking government to do more, the criminal elements amongst the protestors take opportunity to burn and destroy whatever that has already been done by government such as libraries, and this alone wind back the clock of service delivery.
As government, we will continue to avail ourselves to ensure that as communities such as those of this beautiful area of Ashton make strides in rural development, we too partake to ensure that such development meet at least the basic national norms and standards as prescribed by our Constitution and other laws. I am confident that this court will form integral part of the overall development of this place going into the future. Some of our people around the country may not have heard or known of the place Ashton. But today they will know as the media will report that even in a small town of Ashton, justice is brought to the people!
I also want to urge those officials who work in these facilities, to remember that the overriding aim is access to justice for all and that all our people must feel safe in their neighbourhoods. In doing so, I am confident that all officials including the Magistrate, will be guided by the Batho Pele or people first principles that guide all workers in the public and judiciary service.
Allow me also to thank our sister Department in government, the Department of Public Works, and all those who were in the forefront of ensuring that the workmanship resulting in these court facilities is of a high standard. On the 17th, we will be tabling the Budget Vote of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, and we will also be highlighting some of the court infrastructure projects that we will be focussing on this year and in the couple of years to come. Again the guiding principle is to ensure access to justice by all our people!
Once again, I thank all of you for being here with us today as we officially open these facilities.
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
15 May 2012
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