General: Minister making courts more accessible

The Department of Justice is planning to establish magisterial districts and District Courts in four provinces to make courts more accessible. A News24 report says Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola gazetted the conversion of particular places for the holding of courts (Branch Courts) and Periodical Courts in the Free State, KZN, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. ‘As a result of the new jurisdictional boundaries at Magistrate's Court level, we will no longer have a situation where people have to travel long distances and, in some instances, go past the courts in their own towns which are closer to where they live, to get to other areas to access the court system and ultimately justice,’ said Lamola. The department said the Magistrate's Courts' boundaries have been rationalized to give effect to the District Development Model (DDM). ‘The DDM embodies an approach by which the three spheres of government and state entities work in unison in an impact-oriented way, and where there is higher performance and accountability for coherent service delivery and development outcomes,’ the department added.

In another matter affecting courts, the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development has appointed a service provider to repair and maintain the recording systems in courts across the country – particularly those hearing GBV cases. A Cape Times report says this comes in the wake of problems experienced with stenograph machines at various courts, resulting in postponement of cases. DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach wrote to Lamola asking what his department was doing to ensure that proper contracts and maintenance plans for the machinery were in place to ensure the optimum use of court time. In his written response, Lamola said the department regretted the inconvenience caused to all victims of crime, and, to victims of GBV and femicide by further subjecting them to trauma because of more postponements. Lamola said: ‘A reputable service provider, that is approved by the manufacturer of our court recording technology, has since been appointed for a period of 12 months to repair and maintain the court recording and sexual offences systems in the courts. The service provider has already commenced with the processes to repair damaged and faulty equipment...’

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