Little confidence in judiciary: survey

By Drum Digital
28 February 2012

Only 31 percent of South Africans say the judiciary is impartial and unbiased, according to a study released by TNS South Africa on Tuesday.

The survey results were released on the same day that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe is scheduled to brief the media on judicial transformation and the role of the judiciary in a developmental state.

According to TNS, the survey found that levels of ignorance about the judiciary were high.

"People simply do not know very much about this arm of the state," said TNS spokesman Neil Higgs.

The study found that 31 percent of South Africans believed the judiciary was biased, while 38 percent did not know.

TNS surveyed 2000 adults in South Africa's seven major metropolitan areas in October and November.

It asked South Africans for their perceptions of the judiciary.

Asked whether judges were biased towards the government, 38 percent agreed while 27 percent disagreed -- while the "don't know" response was high at 36 percent.

The issue of transformation yielded a 42 percent "don't know" response with 34 percent of metro adults feeling there had not been enough transformation in the judiciary and 24 percent feeling that there had.

On the issue of impartiality in general, older people were less confident.

Seventeen percent of those aged 60 years and older felt the judiciary was impartial and unbiased.

Differences in race, gender and wealth had a negligible effect on responses.

"Even on the issue of transformation in the judiciary, there are remarkably few demographic differences," said Higgs.

Older people felt most strongly that there had not been enough transformation, with 23 percent of this group saying transformation was insufficient.

The "don't know" responses were slightly higher among women and much higher amongst older people (over 50 percent).

"The results of this study suggest that... there are high levels of ignorance about key aspects of the judiciary," said Higgs.

"Of particular concern is that under a third of metro adults have any real confidence in the judiciary."

There was room to enhance public confidence in the judicial system, said Higgs.

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