Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha has used Imbizo Focus Week to visit various courts where issues around the provision of justice services were under the spotlight.
Putting his own recent health scare aside, the Minister visited Tembisa Magistrates Court on Friday. He had visited the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday to evaluate compliance with policies regulating court processes, as well as engage with members of the public on their experience of the administration of justice.
In Tembisa, the community raised issues around policing, alleged corruption within the justice system, the land debate as well as youth opportunities and employment.
I prioritised the community of Tembisa because it is one of the largest townships in the country and naturally there are many socio challenges that impact on the justice system.
We also wanted to use the opportunity because there is a state-of-the-art court that was built in 2004 for this community as part of our rationalisation of the justice system and bringing it closer to the people, the Minister told the media after the imbizo, which was attended by officials from partner institutions such as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), SA Police Service (SAPS), the judiciary and social services.
The court, which is named after the late State Security Minister, Steve Tshwete, is one of the 54 courts that the Department of Justice has built throughout the country since 1994. It currently services around 80 areas in the East Rand. According to the head of the court, most cases they deal with relate to domestic violence, estate inheritance, small claims and general crime.
Some community members claimed that the high crime rate in the area was partly due to some corrupt police officers, who are in cahoots with nyaope dealers.
Masutha said structures such as IPID exist to deal with such cases.
Other matters raised related to broken cameras and metal scanners not working in the court, personnel issues and security procedures.
Specialised Commercial Crimes Court
On Thursday, Masutha had visited the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in the inner city of Johannesburg.
I started the Imbizo Week by visiting the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in the inner city of Johannesburg after I noticed there are challenges regarding the handling of accused persons... We felt like we needed to establish what the problems were.
Masutha was referring to the controversy around the shackling of Duduzane Zuma when he appeared in that court on Monday for his corruption case.
The incident has sparked debate on social media, with many arguing it was unwarranted.
According to the Minister, the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court were designed as commercial buildings, as opposed to dedicated criminal courts.
The design of the buildings was not made conducive for the handling of accused persons. For example, in a normal court, the routing is done in a way that the accused is not [in contact] with members of the public in order to reduce the prospects of escape. However, the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court heightened their security due to previous incidents of escape.
With this said, Masutha explained that there is sufficient jurisprudence that governs the handling of accused persons, taking into account security risks, while ensuring their rights are upheld.
Even before I get the full report, it is apparent to me that what transpired in that occasion is not ideal in terms of the jurisprudence that is in place, the Minister said, adding that this might not be an isolated case.
Masutha has put in place a task team to look at the issue holistically, which will also come up with practical solutions for this specific issue.
We are going to be looking holistically at all these issues raised during my interactions. I am glad I came here. This will give the department an opportunity to identify areas that need improvement in its quest to build accessible and equitable justice for all.
Meanwhile, the Minister assured South Africans that he is on the road to recovery.
Two weeks back, Masutha was rushed to hospital after collapsing at MEC Joyce Mashamba's funeral.
I have had my heart condition for the last four years. But with the Imbizo Week, I felt like I needed to break the doctor's rules a bit to engage with the communities, the Minister said.
Source: South African Government News Agency