1000 unfilled posts in court system a miscarriage of justice - Glynnis Breytenbach

DA MP says there are 889 vacancies in lower courts, and 163 in the higher courts

1000 unfilled posts in court system a miscarriage of justice

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is deeply concerned about the chronic vacancies present in our court system, totalling over 1000 empty posts, some of which have been left unfilled for over 365 days. In a reply to a DA Parliamentary question, the Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, revealed that vacancies in our lower courts add up to 889 posts, with an additional 163 vacancies present in our Higher Courts.

The chronic vacancies in our Court system have severe implications for South Africans who are seeking justice for crimes committed against them. These vacancies, which include positions of presiding officers and court officials, also translate to a chronic inability for our Judiciary to adequately fulfill its constitutional mandate to the people of South Africa.

There is clearly a blockage within the system, which requires urgent and immediate attention. The Department of Justice is responsible for advertising judicial vacancies, whilst the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), in terms of Section 178 of Constitution, is responsible for interviewing candidates for judicial posts and making recommendations for appointment to the bench. The President appoints Judges upon the recommendations of the JSC.

The DA will therefore write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to request that the Department of Justice, the JSC, and the Presidency appear before the committee in order to get to the bottom of where the blockage lies in appointing Magistrates, Judges and judicial support staff at our Courts.

The DA will also conduct oversight inspections at some of our Lower and Higher Courts to assess what more can be done to ensure South Africans are able to trust and depend on our Judiciary to deliver them the justice they deserve, by holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Lower courts are currently incapacitated with 426 vacant Presiding Officer posts and 463 vacant administration posts. This is compounded by the fact that there are 36 vacancies for presiding officers in the Higher Court, which is also lacking in 130 Court Official positions.

We cannot accept these vacancies while our people, especially our women and children, are being held to ransom on a daily basis due to heinous acts of violent crime. The annual crime statistics report revealed staggering increases in our rape and murder rates – now is not the time for an incapacitated judiciary. Our courts can only hope to hold perpetrators to account if they are functioning at full capacity – and not lacking in hundreds of presiding officers and administrative staff.

Statement issued by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP, DA Shadow Minister of Justice, 22 October 2019