Chief Justice says judiciary has no full institutional independence

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The South African judiciary does not have full institutional independence and this leads to an array of crises that make it difficult for the judiciary to do its job expeditiously. This is according to Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and several other Judge Presidents who expressed the judiciary’s frustrations at the Judges Conference held at Sun City in Rustenburg in the North West.

The three-day conference has been held under the theme: “Towards a single, effective and fully independent judiciary.”

The judiciary does not have the powers to resolve pertinent challenges that it faces due to having no control over its finances, power to appoint more judges and magistrates and no control over the decision to build more courts. This, despite seeing the glaring need.

“The public knows that the judiciary does not keep the purse. They must ask the executive why are you not creating posts for judges in courts that you have been told about? Why are you not building more court rooms? In other countries enough money is given to the judiciary which has got institutional independence where it is the judges who decide we need more courtrooms and they’ve got money because it’s with them,” Zondo elaborates.

Zondo says it is time that the judiciary gets its full institutional independence.

“But that is not the position in South Africa and that is part of the reason why we insist that there should be full institutional independence in South Africa so that we can handle certain matters ourselves that are presently handled by the executive. Very often we have got to go to the executive and say we need this we need that, it’s like we must go to them and beg. So, we need to have full institutional independence,”

Other Judge Presidents also echoed Zondo’s concerns.

“Conference noted the need for the appointment of more judges and for the capacitation of judges with adequate resources to enable us to do our work efficiently and expeditiously,” says Yasmin Meer, Acting Judge President: Land Claims Court.

“In the district courts we used to deal with only your civil, your criminal and your family was only maintenance. But there has been pieces of the legislation that were enacted and there has not been an improvement on the establishment, so appointment of more magistrates will come in handy,” says Johanna Ikaneng, Chief Magistrate: Mmabatho, North West.

The three-day conference also discussed the needed protection for judges and magistrates, as their lives are often at risk.

Video: Judges Conference – Issues about allegations of judicial capture part of the agenda: