MPs concerned Covid-19 will cause backlog in courts

2020-05-12 20:21
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Members of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services is concerned about the backlog the Covid-19 pandemic will cause in South Africa's high courts.

The Office of the Chief Justice met with the committee on Tuesday.

Several MPs enquired how the pandemic would affect the administering of justice, particularly if it created backlogs in cases before the high courts, which is administered by the Office of the Chief Justice.

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"How are they ensuring access to justice for the public?" DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach asked.

ACDP MP Steve Swart said people were concerned about the increasing backlogs.

"But now, we have massive amounts of people who are, in my view, arrested for trivial offences," Swart added.

ANC MP Jacqueline Mofokeng said addressing backlogs were essential.

Backlogs

Chief Director: Court Administration Nathi Mncube said the backlogs was "something for the chief justice [Mogoeng Mogoeng] to report on".

He added high courts had entered their recess around the same time as the lockdown started, and only opened recently, so there was not much of a backlog and all courts were functioning now, after the high court in Polokwane remained closed for a few days.

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The office's secretary-general, Memme Sejosengwe, said Mogoeng had issued directives which are available on its website.

She added there were several physical distancing measures in place and it had established a committee on Covid-19.

DA MP Werner Horn said he resided in Bloemfontein, and the picture in the presentation they said was the Supreme Court of Appeal, is actually the Free State legislature.

Sejosengwe said she "noted" it, to which committee chairperson Bulelani Magwanishe said it was worrying.

Dissatisfaction

"The argument could be, what else is wrong in your presentation," Magwanishe added.

Sejosengwe said they always checked the text of their presentations before taking it to Parliament.

Breytenbach expressed her dissatisfaction with what she considered a "perfunctory" presentation.

"It's just not good enough," she said.

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Later, the committee heard from the Information Regulator, which told the committee several sections of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) have not been implemented. The committee was unhappy about this.

"We need specific timeframes. Immediately after the budget process of the department and entities has been finalised, the committee will convene a meeting for an update on this matter.

"By then we want to hear that all meetings that need to happen have taken place and that the matter is with the president," Magwanishe said, according to a statement released after the meeting.

"However, fully implementing the act is not enough. The budget of the regulator also needs to be addressed urgently. We cannot give them more responsibilities and the money does not flow to them as well."

Read more on:    coronavirus  |  courts
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